Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson

Programming Over Breaks

This past week was our local schools Spring Break. We always see a spike in attendance and interest in programs during school breaks, so this year we decided to have something happening every day of the week. I focused on having things that were a balance of passive and come and go programs, regularly scheduled things as well as a couple that were more staff intensive. Our week looked like this:

Monday: Lego Movie Build-a-long (we watched The Lego Movie and built with Legos)

Tuesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Super Smash Brothers Tournament for teens

Wednesday-Storytimes (regularly scheduled programs), Scavenger Hunt Afternoon (a come and go event that featured various scavenger hunts throughout the library)

Thursday-Crafternoon-(one for kids, one for teens, both come and go events where we put out various craft supplies and let the kids make whatever they want)

Friday-Fairy Tale Bash (a more staff intensive program with lots of stories and activities)

Saturday-Storytime (regularly scheduled program), Pi Day Party (another drop in event but it was a bit more staff intensive with prep and planning)

Throughout the week we had a steady attendance and the library itself was busy. But as the the week went out, the attendance for the programs also waned. It was a mix of people being busy, programs not happening at a time that worked for people, and competing against the first wave of warm and sunny weather.

While I think it’s important to provide programs for our patrons, I also spent the week wondering if we were doing too much. Throughout the week we received call after call about what we had going on, so I know the interest was there. But I also struggle with how much to offer. How much staff time do I spend to make sure patrons have something to do over a school break? And does it really matter?

I’ve been struggling recently with how much do we really need to provide as far as programming. We’ve started doing more passive activities in the department, we have a play and learn center in the department for the younger set, and  we’re putting out STEM related activities for the school age crowd. We have books, games, computers, magazines, and toys, yet I always seem to hear those patrons asking “but what else do you have?” How much do we really need to have? Do we need to program something every day during a school break? Do our summers need to be filled with programs happening all the time? Or can we step back, take a break, and say we have the library when they ask “but what else?”

I’d love to know-how much do you program around school breaks?


  1. Sunnie

    We change our programming over Spring Break, but we actually do fewer programs than usual. During our storytime sessions (4 per year, with 3 week breaks in between) we offer 7 storytimes per week for ages 0 – 5, but we noticed that attendance was miniscule during the break because either parents found it hard to drag older siblings along and/or they scheduled vacations during that week. Instead, this year we suspended our regular storytimes and are planning 3 special activities that should appeal to a larger age range. We’re doing a Reading to Rover program for K – 3, a pj storytime for ages 3 and up, and a baby/toddler dance party for all ages. A little something for everyone! We offer tons of programming over the summer, in addition to the reading challenge to win prizes and a summer reading game. No matter how much you do though, there will always be people who want more. I think we have to be careful to not let the quality of our programs diminish or our staff members get burned out. I feel like we are at the max right now, so when parents bemoan that they didn’t get into one of our programs I let them know that we’ll offer more if/when we’re ever able to hire another Librarian.

  2. Ariel Cummins

    We also struggle with how much programming to do during breaks! I decided this year to combine Teen Tech Week and Spring Break, so we offered a couple of additional programs because of that. We also brought in a performer, which is something pretty new for us. We’re on Spring Break right now, so we’ll see how much interest there is in him and what the turnout will be. I think doing a good amount of passive programming is genius, because people tend to be lax about getting places at a certain time during vacations.

  3. Ashley Pickett

    We too run into the exact same problem! We get call after call, but when push comes to shove most people don’t attend. We’ve tried a variety of things–from movies to crafts to games–but people just don’t attend. The one exception we had was a massive Frozen party, but it was extremely staff and time intensive. I think we were able to ride the wave of popularity! Unfortunately we aren’t always that lucky enough to have something so popular at the time of a break. I’m planning to debut some passive programs this summer, and if all goes well continue them throughout the year. Fingers crossed!

  4. Abby Johnson

    When I first started, we used to take storytime breaks during school breaks, but now we continue our normal schedule of six weekly programs. We have a lot of parents who are teachers and the only time they can bring their little ones to morning storytimes is during school breaks, so our attendance is usually good at those.

    We, too, struggle to find a balance with the school age programs. We typically will offer 3-4 spring break programs, one of which is our annual Egg Decorating Workshop, which has been going on at the library for the past 30 years. That is well attended because it’s a tradition and lots of families look out for it (plus, we put the eggs up all around our room, which reminds people that it’s time!).

    It’s also been tricky for us to plan because our schools have gone to a balanced schedule, which means they should get 2 weeks off for spring break, but this year and last year we’ve had so many snow days that they’ve used that entire second week for snow make up! So I tend to plan heavier on the week that’s not snow make up and we’ll maybe plan to do a game day or something easy on prep work for the second week so that if we have to cancel it due to the kids being in school, not a lot of work has been wasted.

    [This is the longest comment ever – sorry!]

    This year, we’re having a local teacher (one of the ones we’ve been booktalking to!) bring in her dalmatians to talk about dog care and demonstrate some of their agility jumps, we’re offering our first bi-lingual (Spanish/English) puppet show now that we have an in-house puppet stage), and a Genealogy for Kids workshop led by one of our Indiana Room staff. Plus the Egg Decorating Workshop and our regular storytimes. I think it’s a good balance between offering a selection for folks, but nothing too incredibly staff intensive or expensive.

    1. Abby Johnson

      (The dogs are not going to talk about dog care. The teacher will talk about dog care. 🙂

  5. Kelly Doolittle

    Hee, hee, Abby! Arf! We also have a “Sit, Stay, Read!” program where dogs come in and “read” with the kids, (in other words, listen to the kids read!) and I almost always have to stop and think of how to word my explanation of the program when people call and ask about it! But back to the breaks:)
    We also have regular, staff lead programming on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays which we keep in place. We find that not only do most of the younger set still attend, but they often bring their older siblings (who are frequently “alumni” :)) so I try to have an older-kid-friendly craft at the end of these storytimes. This seems to work well. Then we fill in the other days of the week with a simple special on each day. We had our first Dance Party over winter break and it was a huge success and sooo much fun (if exhausting:)) so we’re going to do that again. That leaves just Monday and Thursday and we traditionally have Family movie days on Monday holidays, so we’ll do that and we’ve had a volunteer-lead Spanish Storytime on Thursdays. Fill in the gaps with some fun and easy passive programming and you have a busy, but do-able Spring Break!
    Thanks for sharing this topic – it’s so great to hear what other libraries are doing -especially acknowledging that libraries don’t necessarily have to be the be-all/end-all in family entertainment during these breaks! And if folks ask, “But what else?” We can always say “How about reading a good book? Have you read ____ yet?” I think I’ll pull some new pop-up books from our office ref collection and have them ready to share with the little ones, along with a staff picks display for middle grades…..oh, yeah! Reading!

  6. Julie

    Our break programming schedule depends on the break. In December we do only one or two low prep drop in programs, Grab Bag crafts are a favorite because it gives us a chance to clean out the cupboards on a regular basis. We still have both a February and April vacation week so in February we plan a full week including one splashy professional program like a magic show and in April we just do a couple of things since the weather is better and people want to be outside.

  7. Jennifer

    I get constant calls before every break “what programs do you have over break?” and….nobody. ever. comes. Sometimes we’ll get decent turnout at the beginning of a long break, like Spring Break. Lots of people come into the library, but usually to stock up on books and movies, not to attend programs. Invite them and they’re always late for another event/errand/meal/whatever. I think people just like to think there was something they could attend if they felt like it…

    So, I rarely offer programs over breaks. I do one big program at the beginning of Spring Break (annual spring break t-shirt party) and a really simple, easy reading program over winter break. That’s it! And I take Spring Break off. Everybody needs a break sometimes!

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