Beyond the Shelf: Creature power at the La Jolla Library

Beyond the Shelf logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Beyond the Shelf is a monthly column about the activities and people at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

I’m just going to come out and say it — there are hermit crabs, a turtle and a coyote at the La Jolla/Riford Library. And in the children’s area no less! But please don’t be alarmed. The creatures all get along and are quite friendly. Plus, they champion reading.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s start with the pet hermit crabs, which joined the branch last fall. There are two, and they inhabit the terrarium on the youth desk. After reviewing dozens of names submitted by the public via a suggestion box and the @lajollalibrary Instagram page, La Jolla High School student Julia Olfe selected their names: Clawde and Shelldon. (Get it?)

The crabs garner a lot of attention. Hermit crab trivia is at the ready, so many a visitor comes away knowing how the creatures are nocturnal, rather social and thrive on a varied diet. There’s even a portrait a child drew of the duo on display.

Clawde and Shelldon are the La Jolla/Riford Library's pet hermit crabs.
(Courtesy of La Jolla/Riford Library)

“The hermit crabs are awesome!” said Maryam Izadpanah. The mother of two elementary-schoolers frequents the chapter book section and appreciates new series recommendations for her daughters. Families like hers inspired Clawde and Shelldon’s compilation of book recommendations.

The binder, dubbed “Get Out of Your Shell,” contains reading lists for youths of all ages. The lists are based on commonly asked reference questions. There’s a list of classic picture books, another of chapter book series for emergent readers, an “anytime” reading list for teens, one just on books involving dragons, and more. Parents and youths alike are encouraged to sift through the binder at their leisure.

The beauty of the binder is that it is regularly updated. Patron feedback goes a long way, too. “I put three books on hold just based on this binder,” one father of three told me. “And thank you for adding the graphic novel list!”

Now about the turtle. His name is Tipster and he offers early-literacy tips at Seaside Storytime at Scripps Park on Wednesdays and Preschool Storytime in the library Community Room on Thursdays.

His tips come from the principles of Every Child Ready to Read, a parent education initiative. After all, caregivers should know the method behind the story time madness. Why do we sing so much? Why do I sometimes write out the words that kids throw out, ask questions about the story and promote play?

Lillian Lowenthal, 4, is a fan of the La Jolla/Riford Library's not-so-real turtle, Tipster.
Lillian Lowenthal, 4, is a fan of the La Jolla/Riford Library’s not-so-real turtle, Tipster.
(Courtesy of La Jolla/Riford Library)

Four-year-old Lillian Lowenthal loves the color green, loves turtles and loves attending story time with her brother Matthew. I was beyond touched when she gave me a drawing of her favorite not-so-real turtle, and it is proudly displayed behind my desk on the shelf where Tipster sits.

Last but certainly not least in this column’s creature lineup is the San Diego Public Library’s new mascot, Odi the Coyote. Odi is named after the vision of the San Diego Public Library system — opportunity, discovery and inspiration.

Odi the Coyote is the San Diego Public Library system’s new mascot.
Odi the Coyote is the San Diego Public Library system’s new mascot; thus his book and plush version have a spot at the La Jolla/Riford Library branch.
(Courtesy of La Jolla/Riford Library)

Odi has a prime spot on the front of the new My First Library Card. The program offers children up to age 5 their own library card and an “Odi’s Library Day” book. A limited quantity of Odi plush animals also are available for My First Library Card holders ages 3-5.

All My First Library Card holders have an opportunity to commemorate getting their first library card by taking a photo with a special Odi frame.

At story time, we often say that anything can happen in a story and anything can happen in the library. Stories and public libraries are meant to connect you with the world, with ideas, with your community, with yourself and, of course, with a love of reading.

So there you have it. “Creature power,” as PBS’ “Wild Kratts” would say. And creature power at the La Jolla/Riford Library has its charms. Howl if you agree.

La Jolla/Riford Library story time schedule

• Baby Storytime: noon Mondays

• Toddler Storytime: noon Tuesdays

• Bilingual Storytime: 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays

• Seaside Storytime at Scripps Park: 4 p.m. Wednesdays

• Preschool Storytime: 10:30 a.m. Thursdays

• Peaceful in PJs Storytime: 6 p.m. second Tuesday of each month

Katia Graham is the youth services librarian at the La Jolla/Riford Library. She presents story times in English and Spanish and coordinates programming for children and teenagers. For more information, email her at or visit .