Gimme a Break - Creating Storytime Break Fun
At an idea exchange at Midwinter in Dallas this past year, a focus group of children's librarians and managers chatted about early literacy initiatives and programs. The hesitation that some of the participants (from both large and small libraries) had about having breaks in storytime sessions was expressed.
But those librarians who had weeks-long and sometimes months-long breaks between sessions were pretty sanguine. Many shared long experiences with ways to have breaks for patrons, staff and kids that still resulted in healthy storytime attendance and more balanced and less stressed staff members. One of the librarians who oversaw all storytimes at two libraries in her career confided that she had done storytimes break-less and with breaks and found that patrons and staff actually loved the breaks and everyone was refreshed and ready.
There are lots of ways to structure storytimes to allow for breaks. Some libraries offer storytime on alternating months (September/November/January/March/May/July). Some libraries offer two sets of 5-6 weeks storytimes in the fall and two in the spring plus one session in the summer. Some run a long 8-10 week session in the middle of fall and spring. All of these methods allow 2-4 weeks between sessions - and sometimes longer.
These non-storytime weeks provide staff vacation time; staff time to attend conferences (both state, regional and national); time to serve other age groups (yes, during the school year, elementary-aged children are still our clientele); time to plan, weed, catch up on reviews and replacement buying and a chance to dream big about extending service to many populations besides the families that come to storytime.
And those families certainly aren't abandoned. Here we provide passive programs to entice them to visit us often, check out materials and visit beloved storytime hosts (here, here and here). We also schedule a few special "active" events like Toddler Drive in movie; Toddler Box Town; Toddler dance parties and Halloween and picture book character parties. Amy at The Show-Me Librarian supports the families by providing "Take Home Storytime" kits.
All these stealth (or passive) and active "special events" program methods let our patrons know that despite the lack of a treasured storytime session, we have them - and the literacy needs of their children- high on our priority list.
Image: 'Wish I was here' http://www.flickr.com/photos/90055788@N00/99912570 Found on flickrcc.net