Storytime Hiatus

Beginning January 1,  we are on a ten week storytime break. "What?!?!?!", you may ask. Yep, a ten week break.

It's no secret that I believe that is perfectly fine to take breaks rather than run storytimes year round. I believe we have finite hours in the day. I believe we have finite staff. I believe it is important to do planning and library work on paid time at work. I believe that we serve more than one age or one demographic. I believe the programs we do outside the library are as vital as those we do within. I believe we need to balance our commitment to all our services, not just the flashy ones the public notices but the mundane, hidden services (collection development, staff development, stats and reporting, collaboration within our libraries with outer departments, planning, recovering our mojo after tough patron interactions).

For staff, our usual 3-4 week break is full of attendance at conferences, CE, planning, vacations and time off for staff (22 weeks worth annually), working on developing new services and iniatiatives, like that. For patrons, we are usually running a stealth program (Lego Tower Build, Spy Club, No Place Like Gnome) or a special event like Toddler Drive in, Halloween Party of Toddler Dance Party during our breaks. And of course, 1000 Books Before Kindergarten and Baby Book Bees are great in-between storytime literacy affairs for families.

This particular break is so radical, though, that it makes me nervous to even write about it. It happened because of last year....well, and the year before.

Two years ago we invited every 2nd grade class in for a field trip adventure beginning in January. We tried booking these tours while running our seven weekly storytimes. It took a solid four months to get all the field trip adventures booked in, often with staff working split shifts, longer-than-8 hour shifts and coming in on days off to get those adventures accomplished at the same time as our full storytime schedule. Staffers were game but burnt out.  That was nasty.

Last year, we had our long-time early literacy librarian retire at the bright dawn of January 2, 2013. We knew we would still be in the process of hiring our new early literacy librarian through at least the end of February. And we still had 2nd grade tours. So we took the radical step of delaying storytimes until March- it was a three month break. Being short-staffed, this seemed like the only solution.

It worked swell. We were able to book in the 2nd grade tours when it was convenient for the teachers and despite being down a woman, we did it in a way that made it far easier on staff. It was a revelation. And best of all, many of our storytime families kept coming into the library regularly during this time and flocked back to storytimes once they returned in March. It was a big risk. But the reality was a pleasant surprise.

This year, the 2nd graders are again coming...and they are joined by all the kindergarten kids in the district for our brand new Library Sneakers field trip adventure.

So we scheduled a few stealth activities (Book Bundles and Smart Cookie Club featuring Pete the Cat); a few preschool programs (Dance Party; 1000 Books Graduation Party) and are widely advertising an early literacy monthly calendar developed by our  state library association's Youth Services Section (thanks to the ever inventive Amy over at Show Me Librarian).

The next ten weeks are dedicated to our 22 separate tours scheduling in and discovering the wonder of the library. They are dedicated to staff attending PLA and ALA. They are dedicated to a massive weed before our records are dumped into our new ILS system. And they are dedicated to still serving our preschool friends with awesome stealth programs and special events. Win win win win!

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay


  1. This was the first year I ended spring programs on Mother's Day, instead of going all the way to the end of May. It was a huge relief - even though I threw a week-long Scholastic book fair in on top of all my belated summer planning (we were out a librarian since February and covering for her took most of my planning time) and had all my school visits. Our circulation actually went up, nobody said they hated us and were never coming back, and everyone was excited and pleased when programs resumed.

  2. I am possibly lucky that when I started at my current library, I inherited a somewhat infrequent schedule of storytimes. We really only did 2 8-week sessions of preschool storytime a year. As we've grown our programs, we've been able to build in breaks organically (and we're still offering WAY more than we were when I started, even with the breaks!).

    1. You are lucky! It seems like lots of folks start at libraries with endless storytime cycles (it's traditional; the patrons want it) and people feel nervous about introducing change. Because we allow the time, I have seen the level of service and staff energy and ideas really take a leap for the better. I wish all libraries could see the difference introducing breaks and time for planning makes!

  3. I think this is great too! Especially since those of us in the northern states are having such a brutal winter! It's frustrating to plan a great storytime and then have a huge winter storm that means no one comes to the library.

  4. I take similar breaks because I'm a one woman department. I just always let parents know that I'm busy with craft prep, professional development, collaboration efforts, etc and they appreciate it.