Many public libraries can identify with the challenge of providing weekend programming to their patrons. We know that weekends are an ideal time to provide programs for patrons who are unable to attend programming during the traditional weekday storytime sessions, yet we are often so leanly staffed on the weekends that adding the responsibility of presenting programs to our staff workload is next to impossible. Through grant funding and partnerships with a wide range of talented presenters my library system is now able to provide Saturday family programming through our “Saturday Stories & Songs” series in order to meet this critical need.
What is Saturday Stories & Songs?
Saturday Stories & Songs is a special library series presented nine months out of the year (no programs are scheduled during the months of May, August, and December when attendance for all library storytimes typically declines). The programs presented as part of the series vary, from traditional storytimes, to musical performances, to yoga sessions. Each program is presented by an outside presenter hired by the library rather than a library staff member.
Saturday Stories & Songs began in 2010 when the Knox County (TN) Public Library received two one-time grants that were specifically earmarked for arts programming for children. The committee of children’s librarians charged with administering the grant quickly identified the need for weekend programming that would serve families with working parents in our community as our number one priority. When the initial two-year run of programs proved successful, our library director then identified ongoing funding sources to keep the program going after this initial grant funding ran out. One source is a general library foundation fund that can be spent as the director sees fit, the other is a library fund named for a longtime children’s librarian in the system that is specifically designated for use for children’s services. All the funding for the series goes to paying the artists who present the programs.
Our solution for having limited staffing on the weekends has been to hire outside presenters for these programs. We began with a set of musicians and storytellers that the library had previously worked with for other events, such as special summer and holiday programming and library festivals. Our roster has now expanded to include current and retired school librarians and teachers, as well as our local Kindermusik presenter and yoga instructors. Each presenter is vetted by the children’s services committee (references and videos must be provided).
The number of programs and library locations has changed over the years based on patron as determined through surveys and attendance numbers. We began with programs at seven locations, some in the morning and some in the afternoon. Our current sessions take place at two library locations (on opposite ends of the county) at 11:00 am each Saturday as this is where we’ve identified the best response to the programs overall.
Through partnering with outside presenters, our library has successfully filled a need for weekend programming for families in our community. These partnerships have been mutually beneficial to the library and our presenters. The library has gained new patrons through this expanded programming, and the presenters have reached new audiences. In order to start a similar partnership, look at grant funding, particularly related to connecting children with the arts, and keep in mind that some presenters may be willing to provide programs at a discounted rate in exchange for the increased exposure they’ll receive through working with the library.
Erin Nguyen is the Children’s Services Manager at the Knox County Public Library and currently serves on the ALSC Building Partnerships Committee.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.