Managing Troops of Groups

Summer is an extra busy time because the library is a destination not only for our families but also daycares and organizations that care for kids during the summer.  We are thrilled when we see people respond to our PR push for summer library use. But it is easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer number of groups and daycares that come en masse into the Youth Department.

Often the groups and daycares come in with summer-job, college-aged staff who lack skills in managing room behavior.  There are always some staffers who space out, text or chat together, hoping library staff will intervene to keep kids on the right track. While I understand the challenges of working with kids for hours on end daily, we want the caregivers to be actively engaged.

After a few years of chaos, our team put our heads together and figured out a strategy to try to make these visits successful for all. The results have really made a difference.

We reach out in May/June to directors of the groups who are regulars to ask what days and times they plan to drop by. If another group is already coming then, we recommend they choose another time.

We share the behavior guidelines we expect the organization's staff to actively enforce while their kids are with us. We ask for active engagement of the center's staff with the kids in their care at all times during library visits.

We explain our  simplified "group SLP" option - a poster and stickers plus a prize that we send out to the location so kids who read can be in an SLP remotely. We offer this as an alternative to trying to get all the kids signed up for our main SLP program on visits.

Finally, we let them know that on their first visit we will do a lightning orientation with the kids. This is absolutely a key element.

When the group comes in, we either take them into our program room or gather them in a quiet spot and welcome them. Then in a brief two-minute orientation, we give the kids the information they need to use the room successfully:
  • Qustions and help can be found by asking the librarians at the desk who are happy to help them.
  • The location of browsing sticks and blue bins to put books they use in the room but don't check out.
  • Walking feet please.
  • The boat is for reading only.
  • Voices at 1 or 1.5 please.
Care-staff and kids hear the same message. We have seen much better use of the room, especially since we started the mini-orientation this year. This also helps us when we need to remind care staff subsequently if they start getting drifty in their responsibilities - and keeps communication respectful and open.

Being pro-active in laying out the parameters of how to use the library is just one part of room management that keeps the busy summer time more manageable for staff. And the results benefit not just the kids in care but everyone using the library at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

1 comment: