Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson

Back to Basics

My branch manager has challenged us over the next few months to get back to basics. Things like picking up messes, straightening books, push in  chairs, roving the department. So often when we get caught up in programs and other things, we forget these basic tasks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this can work in Youth Services as far as programming. I always struggle with providing programming for everyone and having options during the day as well as evening and weekends. Yet no matter what we try, we don’t get an audience for evening and weekend programs unless it’s something really big (Star Wars Reads Day, Meet Pete the Cat). I’ve tried Saturday morning storytimes out in the department for the past year and while it’s nice to offer, the crowds are small and the people that come aren’t at the Library for storytime,  but stop by because they are already here. After brainstorming some ideas with my staff, we’ve come up with a few ways we’re going to get back to basics in  our programming:

  • More Impromptu Storytimes-We want to offer storytimes for as many people as we can and we want to reach those patrons who can’t attend our daytime stortyimes. So we’ve decided to host more impromptu storytimes. When the department is busy and we notice lots of families hanging out and we have a quick moment to step away from the desk, we’re going to try impromptu storytimes. These will be in the department, we’ll use our early literacy toys as activities, and whatever passive activity we have out as a craft if possible. We’ve done this a bit in the past and we think it will be a fun way to engage families and let them know about what we offer and tell them about other programs that are happening.
  • Surprise Saturdays-This is another old program we’ve decided to bring back. It doesn’t seem to matter what we offer on weekends, we just don’t draw a large crowd. And the people that do come are mostly people who just happen to be in the department and are happy to have something to do. Surprise Saturday is a drop in program where we put out games,  puzzles, crafts, and activities-you never know what it will be! But if you stop by on a Surprise Saturday, you know there will be something happening at the library just for kids.
  • More Passive Activities in Department-Our passive activities this year have gone over very well. So we’ve decided to keep these up and do more.  A lot of times we have kids coming in to study and do homework, so they don’t have time to attend a long program, but they have time to stop and take a quick break to make an origami dog, build Lego letters, write a letter for the mailbox, look in the magnifying glass at pictures, or play with Tangrams. We’re already planning on our passive activities for next year and planning things for our younger patrons as well as our tweens to engage them while they’re visiting the library. We’re also planning on hosting programs that are easy to run like Scavenger Hunt Day-we set up scavenger hunts all around the branch for the kids to complete. We’ve also brainstormed having more games out-simple games that we can teach if we need to in five minutes that the kids can then play on their own. Things like Checkers, Connect Four, Uno and Sushi Go are great for this.
  • Work on Large Event Programming-Large events and programs are what are bringing our patrons in. They like brands, popular characters, and names. The most success we have with programs is when we tie it with something they recognize and have a large event. We’re hoping to host more costume characters, have giant sized storytimes (read big books, use the projector to show iPad stories on the big screen), “drive in” movies, family dance parties.

I’m hoping that by offering programs that are fun for patrons and easy for staff to implement will help us take a step back and look at what we really want to provide. I also think by spending a lot of our time and effort on large programs once a program period (every three months) we won’t be wearing ourselves thin with programming.

How do you program? Any ideas for getting back to basics?

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