Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Impromptu Programming

Children’s librarians are experts at many things as we recently learned. But I know a major skill that’s tested almost daily on the floor is flexibility.

I was a brand-new library paraprofessional when the first day of spring break descended upon my branch…along with every preschooler-third grader in a 10-mile radius. Or so it seemed. However, they weren’t the only people at the library. There were a lot of adult patrons using the computer banks who were not happy with the noise level. I’m sure you’ve had this happen where you work—it’s not like any one person was inappropriately loud. The amount of (young) people in the building was just causing a lot of noise to build, and customers were looking sideways at each other…and at the staff. Well, as the only children’s staff member present at the time, to be fair, they were looking at me!

So, I did what I saw my supervisor do on another occasion: I started an impromptu storytime. I gathered some books and fun props and announced it to the library at large. Children streamed into the story room. I did a 30-minute off-the-cuff Family storytime. The kids enjoyed it. The parents appreciated the structure. The other adult customers were relieved by the relative silence. And I felt like I had accomplished something and made a lot of people happy.

child's hand covered in slug slime
Slug slime, photo by Amy Koester

Programming at a moment’s notice can be tricky, but it can yield wonderful results. A more recent example was one school evening when our internet access went down. We had a group of kids who, luckily, didn’t seem to be doing homework for which they needed the web; however, they seemed bored out of their mind and didn’t know what to do without computer gaming. Several tween boys were, I kid you not, just sitting there playing the offline dinosaur game in Google Chrome. For a half hour. At that point, my coworker and I decided to grab leftover slime-making materials from a previous program and let the kids have at it. Seventeen tweens made slime on the floor (as we didn’t have any additional coverage). Honestly? It wasn’t even a mess! They were so excited to have something to do that they were need, helpful, and grateful for the fun.

Have you had any successes with impromptu programming? Please share!


This post addresses the core competency of Programming Skills.

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