Barnyard animals enliven library’s storytime
Most library patrons don’t expect to be met at the checkout by a clucking chicken or a braying lamb. But at the Rossburn Regional Library, that’s exactly what they’re likely to encounter thanks to a head librarian with a passion for farm animals.
Alicia Grassinger has been busy these last few months. As head librarian at the Rossburn Regional Library, located 145 kilometres northwest of Brandon, she has been overseeing some big changes to the library, as renovations are underway to make it more open concept and user-friendly. The library is set to reopen this June, and in the interim, has been operating out of the adjoining seniors’ drop-in centre.
The library’s temporary relocation hasn’t stopped Grassinger from making storytime — held at the library for children and their caregivers, often in conjunction with Services for Seniors — as memorable as possible.
Recently, the librarian brought in some feathered friends as a special surprise for her storytime attendees.
“About six years ago, we got chickens. My mom literally dropped them off when we were at a wedding,” Grassinger said. “She dropped off four chickens.”
It wasn’t until the library was sent a copy of Sandy Asher’s “Chicken Storytime” book that Grassinger had the idea of actually bringing her chickens, which were gentle and friendly due to being raised as pets, to the library.
“The book is so wonderful. It’s a silly take on library storytime. So, I had people in my office putting chickens out as I went on with the story,” she said. “In the story, each week more and more chickens came to chicken storytime at the library.”
The children who attended had no idea what they were in for, but their surprise quickly turned to delight as the hens wandered among them, happy to be cuddled and pet.
“We had newspaper all over the floor, and they were kind of like, ‘What’s going on?’” Grassinger said. “And then the chickens just started coming out. I took about 15 chickens. They just had a blast.”
After storytime ended, the children had a chance to play with the chickens and feed them popcorn.
“It was amazing,” Grassinger said.
Since the first chicken storytime was such a success, Grassinger was then asked to bring her friendly hens to daycares, the nursery school and schools in the area.
“I would load them up and get a good chicken story and head on out to wherever they called me to.”
Lambs have also starred at the Rossburn Regional Library. Grassinger’s daughter brought the animals in, clad in diapers to ensure any accidents wouldn’t cause undue mess, for coffee and teatime with seniors. The animals also took part in a storytime for children.
“It was just so much fun,” Grassinger said. “We had these little girls running back and forth throughout the entire library with these lambs, just playing and jumping and running and having so much fun.”
Even when one lamb had a diaper malfunction, the children didn’t shy away from the animals, but were quick to offer help, Grassinger added.
Seeing the way the chickens and lambs brought out a sense of wonder and curiosity in patrons of all ages, but especially in the children, was rewarding for the librarian. It’s important for kids to have positive associations with libraries, which can turn them into lifelong patrons, Grassinger said.
“Kids get to know me through the silliness thing, and then that creates a sense that they know me, so the library is a safe place for them to come and be who they are.”
When Grassinger first began her career as a librarian 10 years ago, she didn’t expect to love the job as much as she does. Now, she has discovered that not only is it her job, but her passion.
“I would quit everything else before I quit the library. It’s in my heart, and I absolutely love my job,” she said. “I’m a very lucky person.”
Grassinger also feels lucky to be the librarian in such a small community, where bringing barnyard animals into the library is welcomed.
“I don’t know if the Winnipeg library would allow chickens,” she said.
The next animal Grassinger is looking forward to bringing to the library is a lovable pug, to go along with Aaron Blabey’s “Pig the Pug” series. The event will also feature pug cookies and pug crafts.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun