Are Traditional SLP Schools Visits Worth It?

There has been an interesting discussion among a few tweeps about the efficacy of school visits to promote SLP.

One of our colleagues just can't find enough hours in the day to do them. She's at a small library with a small staff and responsibility for all services from birth through teen, plus hiring and training responsibilities and other administrative work as assistant director. Her experience and statistics show that the SLP participation has stayed about the same whether she does visits or not.

I am pretty much on the fence about it. If going to the schools in May is the only time that the library staff gets into the schools, I don't think it is particularly helpful. When I first started working, we would visit 2800 kids and get 400-500 in our program. A dismal return on our efforts. We plunged from one school to another, all squeezed into a few weeks in May. Face-to-face time with the kids was great but was that twenty minutes effective?

As the years have rolled on,  we have tried to add a couple of substantive stops into each school, each year, beyond SLP promotions. My goal is for staff to see the majority of kids at least two other times - or more if we can. Strategies we've used include offering a free storytelling event; doing booktalks; running mock Caldecotts; doing Dr. Seuss programs; attending before school and after school and evening literacy nights, book fairs and other events bringing children and parents out; Kindergarten registrations; parent teacher conferences...like that. The more we offer, the more times we are taken up on our offers.  Even though I've only been at my present job a little over three years, we are already seeing more buy-in from the schools for this.

It helps to build the kids' familiarity with library staff and stretches out the good connections over a longer period.  Though I'm not quite ready to give up our SLP visits, I think it is indeed a possibility.  Using our time better (and that includes my various rants here and here about creating more breaks in in-house programming to accomodate more outreach) means more opportunities. It sure has got me thinking.  What about you?

Image - you got me. Found it on a Facebook meme. Somebody..is it yours? May I please use it?


  1. Such an intriguing post, especially after the day I've had. Last year, one of our largest elementary schools didn't have us come. Honestly, there was not a significant impact on the participation from that school. They're not having us again this year (I called three times and no one would return my calls to schedule a visit). We've already pared down our visits a TON from what the previous long-term department manager had done. She planned these elaborate skits with props and costumes that they would perform at the schools. We pop in for 15 minutes or so at their morning assemblies.

    This has definitely got me thinking... I'm not sure our Board and director would like the idea of skipping the school visits, but I might be very intrigued to try it...

  2. I've never understood how people could do those elaborate skits! I visit three elementary schools, sixth grade (approx. 200 students) and two small parochial schools. I have anywhere from 10 minutes per grade to 45 minutes with 100 sixth graders. Some places I can set my stuff up and the kids come in, some places I go class to class. I just do a quick, upbeat spiel on the summer reading program, then have the kids tell me which of the books I've displayed they want to hear about and booktalk those.

    This year one of the parochial schools didn't ask me back and I'm not sure if they just haven't gotten around to it or they're still offended over one of the titles I booktalked last year (ok, in retrospect Calume's Swim the Fly wasn't ideal, but it was a 7th/8th grade class and the principal was telling them all how much he enjoyed reading Twilight and it's a really easy booktalk and went over great at the public school...) but I'm not pushing them to have me.

    I get a lot of kids saying "I saw you at my school!" but I don't feel that I've really gotten any new registrants. I'm hoping that might change this year, as we're going to a SRP that's a modified version of Marge's bookmarks and I'm going to hand out the first week's bookmarks in the school.

    The most new/non regular library user sign-ups I ever got was when I did summer reading registration outside the big local supermarket on their family fun day one summer!

  3. I have never had the opportunity to visit the schools to promote the SLP. Maybe next year. Just a short school wide 20-30 minute thing (each campus houses three grades and the high school four).
    This year we are taking a bookmobile to summer school. Maybe that three week exposure will generate some attendance.
    Transportation to the library is our children's biggest challenge.

  4. First, as an elementary school librarian, let me thank all the public library children's librarians who visit schools in addition to their already demanding schedule. I appreciate you! I recognize you could spend that valuable time a lot of other ways than to stop by the schools, but please know, I think it is valuable and important work that you do by visiting schools. Here's why. I'm in a small town. We have a county library in our town consisting of a main library and one branch about 20 miles away. This library is worn out; it needs repairs, updates and badly needs expansion and renovation. While I love our library dearly, they don't really do much outreach to the community. They hold a summer reading program for the kids during the summer, and they come to our school in May to promote that. But not a whole lot of anything else. So, it doesn't really surprise me that the levy on the ballot last Tuesday to increase taxes specifically to fund renovations to the library didn't pass. There's not a whole lot of positive PR going on for the library. Perhaps reaching out to the community more, showing them the valuable FREE resources available to them through the library is a partial solution. Visiting schools equals building relationships with your future voters. I have no statistics to prove that, but it makes sense to me. So, keep building those relationships any way you can. I think they will pay off in the future for our libraries!

  5. I really appreciate your comments and you hit the nail on the head. Outreach into the community is vital. If we don't get out and promote what we do, we won't get support. And I do think getting out all year long is vital. Thanks for sharing your experience. It will be a clarion call to lots of readers!

  6. I have experience as a school librarian and a public librarian. I have worked in elementary, middle school and high school. Here are my thoughts: 1. Schools/teachers barely have time for school librarians to do anything with their classes (due to testing). 2. Next year we hope to set up a table during lunch time promoting our programs (middle/high)--hoping to not only get teens, but teachers as well. 3. If you put on a skit/play--I'm wondering if the kids just think it's a cultural arts program? I'm wondering if we as public librarians can promote ourselves in PTA newsletters? It's a thought.......