Blogger Amy Steinbauer

The Art of Being a Trash-y Library Person

When I was a children’s librarian, I really loved trash. It was a vibe. Despite working for one of the wealthiest areas of my city, there was no funding for my programming. I did it all on my own, and I had to be frugal. I had to look at all my trash and find new purpose for it all, so that I didn’t have to spend too much of my hard-earned money on supplies. If you were to ask me now about it, I would insist that this was the wrong move. I shouldn’t have been spending my own money on this, but I had a zest for this and you couldn’t have stopped me.

However, there was a lot of positives for reusing all this trash, including:

  • Recycling– save the planet
  • Kept the program accessible for patrons to recreate on their own
  • Let kids use their imagination more, more curiosity and more possibility!
  • Saving money!

When I recently went back to my old location, and I was speaking to the current staff about all the trash that was still at that location, and I want to share some of the best with you. Keep in mind that this stuff has lasted over 5 years and is still be used!

Trash to look out for:

  • Mochi or macaron plastic trays
    • Can be reused as ice molds or paint holders
  • Yogurt cups
    • Can be used for water cups for painting or digging tools
  • Ice cream containers with lids
    • Can be storage for smaller pieces, or water cups
  • Old sponges or brushes
    • Can be used for dirt/scrubbing stations
  • Foam hair rollers
    • The foam piece can be used as a foam paint brush (by sticking a popsicle stick in it), the plastic pieces can be stencils
  • Broken calculators/ Keyboards
    • Can be used as a number of play pieces like a cash register or space station
  • Empty food boxes/print ads
    • Can be used as play objects for pretend store
  • Packaging material like styrofoam pieces or bubble wrap
    • Can be used for sensory bins and jumping sensory stations
  • Nature
    • Flowers, leaves, and twigs can be used for natural sensory bins

What kind of trash do you reuse at your library? Share some answers below!

One comment

  1. Julia Nephew

    I created a take home craft kit during the first year of the pandemic called “DIY Cardboard Castle.” I included an instruction sheet and repurposed supplies such as: cardboard boxes or lids, cardboard boxes that could be used for buildings inside the castle, paper tubes to serve as towers, paper roofs, paper or cardboard characters, etc. Patrons sent in photos of the castles they made. This could be an in-house program. It could be paired with books about castle life or that take place in a castle. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts is basically a castle. This kind of project can be done to create a park or a school, a house. I would be happy to share my instruction sheet.

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