A four-year-old in a sparkly dress and tiara. Patrons loudly hammering on leather strips. Sleepy faces peering up from sleeping bags. Teens geeking out over Sherlock and anime characters. Llamas peeing on the carpet.

Wait. What? Llamas in the library? Surely not. Who would bring llamas in the library?

That would be me. And it’s just one of the many things I’ve learned over the years about youth programs, good, bad, and ugly. Let’s start with the good.

Probably number one on the adorable scale is our annual Royal Tea Party. We invite children to dress in their finest and have the chance to meet the “Queen.” The first year we did this, my mother played that part, and she relished every one of the curtsies and bows she received as the children walked down the royal red carpet. Now we have library staff who volunteer to play the part. After the greeting, everyone sits at linen-covered tables and is served juice, cheese cubes, and cookies. The cutlery is plastic, but the serving dishes are silver and china, donated by library staff for the event. There is brief entertainment: a story at the beginning and gentle recorded harp music in the background during tea. Patrons must pre-register, and we’re always full.

What did we learn? Read on to find out.

Author Biography

Heather McNeil has been the Youth Services Manager at Deschutes Public Library for 19 years. She is the recipient of OLA’s 2014 Librarian of the Year and the 2017 Evelyn Sibley Lampman Award, and she served on the 2005 Newbery and 2018 Caldecott Committees. She says that the best part of her week is Toddlin’ Tales, when she sings, reads, and acts silly with a room full of curious and adorable toddlers. Heather lives in Bend with two very weird cats and looks forward to visits from her daughter, who is at Pacific Lutheran University. She just finished reading Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore and thought it was absolutely gorgeous!

Copyright statement

© 2018 Heather McNeil



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