Story Time Superhero
Librarian, Child and Family Library Services
Arapahoe Library District, Centennial, CO
MSLS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1995
Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy
Photo by Carrie Wigglesworth
Melissa Depper has been a children’s librarian in the Arapahoe Library District for ten years, “cheerfully and astutely advocating for libraries, families, and early literacy with remarkable gusto and impact every day,” says Lori Romero, her supervisor in Child and Family Library Services. That cheerful advocacy translates into broad influence, whether by sharing insights on her blog, Mel’s Desk, or championing early literacy more officially as a cofounder of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL), an advisory group to the Colorado State Library that Depper and other Colorado librarians launched five years ago.
CLEL worked, says Depper, “because we were all willing to jump in and take on a piece.” Significant CLEL initiatives include Storyblocks, an online video collection for parents and caregivers featuring songs and rhymes for young children in English and Spanish, supported by a $22,200 Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) grant. Depper led the team responsible for the website design. Storyblocks won the Jean Maio Award for Excellence in Adult Literacy from the Colorado Association of Libraries in 2010. Another CLEL project, aided by nearly $18,000 from LSTA, involved training staff in ten small and rural Colorado libraries in Every Child Ready To Read tools.
On the ground, Depper is known for her superb story time training skills that focus on literacy outcomes, with strategies like handing out Spark Activity Cards to foster parent-child engagement and creating a set of “best practices for story time from a provider’s individual, creative, personal style,” she says. Depper’s work at her own library, says Romero, developing “detailed story time competencies, an ongoing multilevel training plan, and useful evaluation tools for library supervisors, peers, and providers” not only gave Arapahoe libraries a comprehensive agenda but gave other libraries a model. (Depper shared her program in a 2012 Association for Library Service to Children National Institute presentation, “Raising the Bar: Storytime Competencies, Training, and Evaluation.”) Depper says she plans to take the model online, with self-paced story time training classes.
Depper has already “created a vibrant and active online community that helps children’s librarians share new ideas, techniques, and tools,” says Gretchen Caserotti, newly appointed director, Meridian Library District, ID, and a 2010 LJ Mover. Flannel Fridays, launched in 2011, is a popular weekly online event in which participants share ideas for flannelboard, puppet, or other story time activity props. The projects are shared through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Depper not only “set a terrific cross-platform social media project in motion,” says Caserotti, she’s leading children’s librarians to be confident users of technology.