I’ve been presenting storytimes for over 15 years and I have tried many systems for keeping track of my plans, rhymes, songs, books, and ideas. Binders, Word docs, notecards, file folders…all of them have worked well for awhile but nothing has been perfect. While earlier in my career what I needed most were good ways to find activities to add to my limited repertoire, now that I have more experience, what I need is a way to think of fresh combinations of the activites I love and that I know work well for me. Don’t get me wrong: I still love discovering new ideas, but I also have needed better access to all the great old ideas I’ve stored up along the way.
I was on the verge of starting a storytime Tumblr (why? because it is quick to set up and I wanted to explore tagging the posts) when Andrea mentioned on Twitter that if she were starting her storytime system over, she would use Evernote. I knew about Evernote but had never used it, so I opened an account and tried it out.
Let me tell you, I am IN LOVE.
Here’s the big reasons:
- Clean, simple interface and quick note creation. There is not a lot of clicking around, and you don’t have to open multiple windows to do what you want to do.
- Tagging AND full-text keyword searching. Ahem. FULL TEXT KEYWORD SEARCHING.
- Access. Evernote is cloud-based, so I can get to my notes from my desktop at work, my laptop at home, and my phone while I’m standing in Michael’s wondering if I have all the felt I need for next week’s storytime.
Here’s some of the nitty-gritty of how I’m using Evernote:
I have two types of storytime notes: “plans” notes and “content” notes. The “plans” notes list all the storytime agendas I have on a particular topic, such as “Birds.” The agendas are brief, just enough to remind me what I did.
My “content” notes are each activity, rhyme, song, flannelboard, whatever, written out, like this one for “When Ducks Get Up In the Morning.”
You can tag each note with any number of tags, AND you can add in a URL…this one takes you to Nancy Stewart’s great music site, where I learned this song (thanks Mary for the link!). Never lose track of your sources again!
The reason I decided to do both “plans” notes and “content” notes is that while I wanted to have a record of my agendas, I also wanted to be able to look at activities in different combinations than just what I’ve done in the past.
So that’s where tagging comes in, of course! I tag each “content” post by themes and types of activity. So “When Ducks Get Up In The Morning,” is tagged flannelboard, puppets, and songs, because sometimes I sing it with puppets and sometimes I sing it with flannel pieces. I also tag by a few concepts, like shapes and colors. You could also tag for the 6 skills or the 5 practices, or you could tag for dates or sessions, or types of storytimes (babies, families, bilingual), or venues like certain branches or outreach locations.
I like tagging because it pulls up such clean lists, but remember Evernote is full text keyword searchable. That’s why I type out all the words to the first verses of my activities (as well as key phrases of other verses) even when I already know them by heart. “When Ducks Get Up In the Morning” will come up if I search Ducks and Quack, but also Morning, Moo, Hens, Say, etc.
This allows me to shuffle up the stuff I’ve used over and over and come up with new combinations that work together. This is what happened at Thanksgiving–I was putting together a new “Thanks” storytime (rather than my usual “Food” theme) and I searched in Evernote for “Thank you” –and up came “Where Is Thumbkin!” Of course: you sing “Very well I thank you” at the end of each verse. Never in a million years would I have thought of using Thumbkin for that storytime, but Evernote tossed it at me and it was a perfect thing to add.
This is exactly what I was hoping for! I wanted to be able to think
about some of my favorite content in different ways, and have my archives be
not just a record of what I’ve done, but a brainstorming tool for new storytimes.
I’m still working on entering all my old storytime plans and activities, but
now as I come across new ideas, I’m entering them into Evernote too, even if I
haven’t used them in storytime yet. The next time I search for “Farms” or
“Puppets” or “Songs,” my new ideas will come up right next to my familiar
material and I’ll be ready to mix up a fresh storytime.
I asked Andrea, who tipped me off to Evernote, what she liked about it. She said she liked the saved search feature–so you could save searches you did all the time, such as “Toddlers and songs,” or “Preschool and flannelboards.” Andrea also loves being able to create Evernote notes from just about anything. You could send PUBYAC storytime compilation emails straight to Evernote, or tweets, or websites. Or photos! Evernote takes it all and because everything can be tagged, all different kinds of notes can be kept together and ready for you when you’re ready to plan your next storytime.
What do you do to keep track of your storytimes?
Melissa Depper is a Librarian in the Child and Family Library Services department of the Arapahoe (CO) Library District, where she starts every week off right with baby storytime. She serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee, and is on Twitter, right now probably, at @MelissaZD.
Great post, Mel! I use my blog as my outline repository but this makes a great case for Evernote, particularly for things that aren’t quite ready for prime-time.
Melissa: Are you using evernote instead of your blog for keeping track of your storytimes?
Hi Sharon! This is a great question. Now that I’ve got Evernote going, I will still share plans on Mel’s Desk, but Evernote will be my main tool for personally keeping track of what I’ve done in the past and for planning fresh storytimes. For one thing, I’m finding that it’s much faster to review the hits of my searches in Evernote than in my blog. Thanks!
Thanks for this post, Melissa! I started using Evernote in the last 6 months to store articles and ideas that I want to read late. I like that they are aailable on my phone when I have downtime and need something to read. I will now be moving all my storytime files to this resource now that I’ve seen your carefully laid out plan. I’ve been keeping lots of storytime ideas on pinterest and I like the visual but it doesn’t have the functionality of Evernote.
Andrea, I owe it all to you! I would never have thought of trying Evernote on my own. Don’t forget you can store images and photos in Evernote as well, so some of that visual referencing can work, though not in the same way as Pinterest. You’re also motivating me to try sending more links and emails to Evernote–so far I’ve used it to create notes and haven’t tried saving other files to it. There’s a lot more functionality than I’ve explored so far! Thank you!
Great ideas, Mel! I have used Evernote, but not for storytime stuff. I still just keep word docs, but edit them every time I have a new book or activity. I like your idea of being able to keep all your iterations of a theme, and mix-and-match!
Thanks Mary! Part of my problem was I lazily using bits and pieces of several systems at once–my blog, my Word docs, a paper file, yikes! I’m not saying Evernote is the best (or only) system for everyone, but for me it is such a relief to have one place for ALL THE THINGS.
Okay, so right now our storytime plans from years past are in big red binders that no one ever looks at or updates. For the past couple of years, we have been keeping programming files (when we remember to update them…), which, again, no one ever looks at. I’ve been trying to figure out how we can transfer all that paper to something that will be easier to use so that my staff (and I!) will actually use it, and this may just fit the bill. I just emailed my staff a link to this post so they can check it out and we’ll see if they think they will use it! THANK YOU for this post, Mel!!!!
Going to play with this today. This post came at the perfect time-I was just brainstorming ways to organize my storytime ideas better than on my blog. This sounds much easier and more searchable. Thanks, Mel!
Hi Abby! This sounds like a cool group project! One thing to look into with Evernote is that you can make a note, or a folder of notes, public, which might be one way to offer access to a group. Of course, you could also just create an account that everyone on your staff has the login for. Also, you could set up joint folders of notes for the things you want to share, of course, but it might also be helpful for each person to have their own folder where they could store their “in-progress” things or “ideas to work on.” Have fun–I would love to hear what you guys wind up choosing to do!
Kendra–I know nothing’s perfect, but this is working well for me so far. And I *love* the searching. It’s quick, and the results all show up in the same window, so you don’t have to click around, or even scroll too much if your list isn’t that long.
Lisa @ Shelf-employed
I recently started using Evernote, too. They have a tablet app, and I’ve used it to take notes at meetings or jot down things I don’t want to forget. All of my storytimes are currently on Google docs (now Google Drive), but Evernote is probably a better place for them. As with any cloud-based storage, be wary of what you store there. Evernote, like many other companies and sites, was recently the victim of a hacking attempt and users had to change passwords.
Inspired by you, I’ve been playing around with story time info in Evernote for a few weeks now. I’m loving how easy it is to search. Now to get myself into the habit of regularly putting in my data!
Lisa, this is such an excellent point. We should all investigate how to download our cloud data and create regular back ups. Thank you for the reminder!
Rachel–I’ve been slowly entering my data since last summer!!! Luckily, the more I get in, the more rewarding it is to use, so my motivation is still high, even if my date entry is SLOW. 🙂
Many thanks! I’ve been trying to find ways to organize story times written on loose sheets and this app looks like a great solution. I’ve also been studying cloud technology. I will give Evernote a try.
Lisa Mulvenna (@ Libraryland)
Thanks Mel. I have tried keeping track of my story time notes, but hadn’t found an ideal product (Excel for tagging and Word for plans). This sounds great!
Ann–You’re welcome! I think even when a platform/app doesn’t turn out to be the right fit for me, I learn a lot more about what I *am* looking for and what I *do* want in the process. Good luck!
Lisa–Excel is about the one method I *hadn’t* tried so far! 🙂 Let me know how it works for you…I’m always ready to pick up new tips!
Great idea. I use evernote for meeting and workshop notes. You can also take pictures while taking notes on your phone, ipad or ipod to save an example of your art project you make.
Hi, Melissa, I’ve found this post really interesting. I want to start using Evernote but was unsure how to start. Reading through the comments has made me realise that I don’t have to make something up but add contents that I’m already using and stored else where. My new project is to get my lesson plans and ideas loaded up. Do you know if you can download power points?
Hi Elizabeth! I didn’t know anything about Evernote and PowerPoint, so I looked to see if there were any threads in the Evernote Forum. Here’s a recent discussion that had some good information: http://discussion.evernote.com/topic/33931-evernote-and-powerpoints/
and then this article, which talks about PowerPoint towards the end: http://laddriggers.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Use-Evernote-to-Keep-Superbly-Organized-Class-Notes
One of the short answers is, you can save each slide as an image like a jpg, and then you can view the image within Evernote. Otherwise, you can save the .ppt as an attachment, but you’ll need to open it with Powerpoint when you want to view the contents of the note.
Good luck! Let us know how it goes!
This looks great! I’ve started using Evernote, but have gotten a message that I’ve used my allotment and it sent me to a page for downloading Evernote Premium. Do you use the premium service? Just curious.
Thanks for the great idea.
Hi Melisa–I wish I had remembered to mention the monthly limits in this post! The basic, free service does have limits, but they reset every month. So you’ll have to decide whether you can pace yourself and if that’s going to be enough. And it might be, especially once you get past the initial set-up phases of your project. However, I do use the premium. Part of it is I don’t want to worry about running into usage limits, but part of it also is that philosophically I am really happy to financially support platforms and apps that provide me with a great service. I pay for premium service for my RSS reader (Newsblur) and will go pro soon for Diigo, too.
Your blog post inspired me to try Evernote – especially since we are changing our computer storage software at the library. Rather than migrating my existing plans to the new software, I will put them into Evernote. Do you have your content notes and plan notes in different notebooks?
Penny–wow, am I sorry I missed your comment! I do not have them in different notebooks, and that seems to be working OK for me so far. We’ll see how it goes as my content continues to grow!
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