My library has seven storytimes a week and we typically see around 30 kids at each storytime. We’re also the headquarters branch with the most traffic and additional programs, so I think it’s vital for my staff to take breaks during the year to regroup and refresh and plan for our next round of storytimes. We take off the months of May (to help us promote, prepare for, and kick off the Summer Reading Program) and the month of December (typically we have lower traffic in the branch and we noticed that between iffy weather and so much being packed into patron’s schedules, our attendance is much lower).
I’ve learned to present these storytime breaks to our storytime families by telling them that we are taking a break to get ready for our next round of storytimes and we want to plan and prepare the best programs for them. I also let them know that while we won’t be hosting weekly activities, we still will have things happening in the library and that they are always welcome to visit the library! I found that in presenting it this way is a great approach and our patrons feel like we care about them and want to provide the best we can. I even have several patrons comment on how we work so hard that we deserve a break, which is nice!
We want to make sure we do still have various activities going on, so we use the months we’re off from storytime to focus on a lot of passive programming as well as a few special programs throughout the month. Here’s what we have going on during our storytime break this month:
-Cookie Club-We kick off our Cookie Club Winter Reader’s Club in December. I got this idea from Marge Louch-Waters from Tiny Tips for Library Fun and adapted it for my library. In our club, the kids get a card to get stamped each time they visit the library. They are also invited to decorate a cookie (a brown circle) and place it in our workroom window. If the kids get six stamps by the end of February, they get a special invite to our invite only Cookie Club party in March. At the party we read books about cookies, play cookie games, make cookie crafts and of course eat cookies! The parents and the kids get excited about this. This is our third year doing the Cookie Club and I had a family say “Oh yes! The Cookie Club is back!”
-Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award Voting-The Missouri Library Association sponsors The Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award that is voted on the kids of Missouri birth-Kindergarten. I spend all of my Fall storytimes reading the nominees and the kids can vote during the month of December. We have a voting box and a poster of all the nominees as well as ballots out on display. When the kids vote for their favorite, they get an “I voted” sticker to celebrate. Each week during December we’ve been rotating passive activities based on the nominees from mustache making for Mustache Baby to an elephant finger puppet for Little Nelly’s Big Book. The kids have loved it!
-Special Movie Marathon Days-Once the kids are out of school, our phones start ringing non-stop with the question “what does the library have going on today?” To help offer something for families that doesn’t take up a lot of staff time and planning, we host several movie marathons in our auditorium. We show double features of popular movies like Cars and Cars 2 or a princess theme with Tangled and Sofia the First. We also will occasionally set up simple crafts or trivia to go along with the movies. Our patrons love the chance to take a break and watch a favorite movie on a large screen.
-Crafterspace & Builderspace-This year we’re hosting an afternoon of crafting and an afternoon of building. These programs were also designed to be lighter in planning and staff time and are very easy to set up. For the craft afternoon, we clean out of craft supply closet and let the kids create whatever they can come up with. For the building program, we put out Legos, giant foam blocks, wooden blocks-any block we can find and let the kids build. These are programs that are easy to gather supplies for, easy to set up, and great for families to spend an afternoon together.
We found that providing a lot of passive family activities during our storytime breaks offered the perfect balance between still offering programs and giving staff a break.
Do you take storytime breaks? And if so, any tips for providing activities for your patrons while on break?