We’ve all had that moment where we know we’ve planned the perfect storytime.
Hordes of littles and their grown-ups queuing to land a spot in your coveted storytime. The roar of tiny voices chanting your name. Singing your welcome song.
You land a cover story on the pages of SLJ, or an ALSC blog post. You’re invited to speak at conferences, which may land you on the front stage of ALSC Institute.
C’mon, we’ve all had that fantasy and the sudden crash that lands us solidly back in reality when
No fears because a little bit of focused storytime planning will save library workers time, money, frustration, and a bit of our pride. The perfect storytime is with in your reach. Before you dust off your superhero librarian cape, ask yourself or your staff these questions.
This may be the most straightforward question to answer but take your time with conclusions. There is a disconnect between what we think the community needs and what the community actually needs. It is good to have a starting point, so make a list of staff’s observations of potential needs. Is there one storytime that is too full? An age group you don’t have a dedicated program for? Compile these observations and then ask the customers who visit your space what they need. After collecting data, you will know what the community needs and hopefully reduce the I-built-it-but-no one-showed-up problem we often face.
Not all spaces are equal. Small rooms limit the number of participants, but it keeps the storytime a manageable and a more interactive program. Larger rooms allow for many people, but you lose the element of interaction and your voice! If it is a large room, what are the acoustics like? Is there a sound system? Do you need technology for power points so parents can sing along? Considering these components beforehand will guide your decisions on space selection, how many attendees per session, and how many sessions to offer.
The library is open only so many hours. Many children’s and youth services staff are balancing outreach, reference desk duties, collection development, library initiatives, computer help, teen centers, and in charge duties. When choosing a time of day, consider the number of staff and other critical tasks before selecting a time.
Will you use a ticketing system? This allows people to show up with minimal planning but it could result in long lines, angry toddlers, or fewer participants. There are no perfect solutions, but I appreciate the number of alternatives available to adjust to a library’s particular population and unique needs.
Requiring registration will allow you to plan for the correct number of people, have enough supplies (and shaky eggs), and be as close as possible to a library programming guarantee. The downsides could be families needing access to a computer, people signing up and forgetting, or people getting shut out of sessions.
The unicorn of library storytime planning is not requiring ticketing OR registration and just hoping the universe is kind and you have enough people….but not too many. If you are that brave, I commend you.
The below article from the ALSC Blog archives has a lot of great ideas when debating whether or not to have registration. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2015/12/storytime-schedules/
Our time, energy, and staffing are not limitless. The best ideas often come from periods of rest. At the same time, as soon as the library pauses programming, the families might find a different library or fills that storytime slot with another activity. What is a librarian to do?
If you have the staff, one option is to create a rotation. That way, each staff member can lead storytimes; others will have time to rest those creative juices. If you need more staff, build in more regular, short breaks. Follow the local school calendar or holidays celebrated in your community. This could lead to confusion about when storytime is held, so make sure schedules are posted, and staff is letting parents know when upcoming breaks will occur.
When launching a new storytime there isn’t a slam-dunk formula that guarantees success. BUT–you can plan the perfect storytime for your audience when you keep the above questions in mind.
What other questions do you ask yourself when planning new storytime programs?
Nice read, I am an 11-year-old girl.
Breaks are vital to avoid burnout, especially when you do multiple storytimes each week. We usually take a break from the week of thanksgiving until the new year, again during the month of May, and then 3-4 weeks from mid August until after Labor Day.