First exercise! (See this post for more info)
Write a mission statement for storytimes at your library.
Because we can’t make effective changes to improve our programs and services unless we know where we’re trying to go and what we want to achieve. Also because wow I bet in the coming year we are all going to have to make even more difficult choices than we’re used to about resources, time, and staff, and we’ll be better prepared to make better decisions with a clear road map.
I know you may not be the supervisor, director, or decision-maker about storytimes at your library. You may not be in a place to write a mission statement “for real.” That’s OK. If your bosses are supportive, share your work with them. If they are not, you can still use this exercise to clarify your thinking and to focus your own storytime planning and delivery efforts.
I’ll share some questions and ideas to get you started, then at the end I’ll share the goals statement that we developed at my library.
Choose one or more of the following prompts and just write things down, don’t overthink this part or try to craft your language yet:
A. What is the mission statement for your library as a whole? Find it and write it down.
(If your library doesn’t have a formal mission statement, what can you infer about your director’s values and priorities from your existing programs, collections, services, and facilities? Or look up some other library’s mission statements. What words and concepts do you feel match your library’s approach?)
What do the phrases and ideas in this mission statement (or values/concepts) look like in storytime? eg: lifelong learning is a common phrase in library mission statements. What does learning look like in storytime, or what would you WANT it to look like? Does it have to do with building a knowledge of excellent children’s books and stories? Does it have to do with early literacy concepts and skills?
Another way to think about this is: How does storytime help move the needle on those big ideas in the overall mission statement for my community? eg: if we really mean lifelong, we don’t just mean adult education after school & college, we mean from the very beginning of life, by offering babies a warm supportive environment and lots of oral language exposure.
B. Think about your community:
What are some pressing needs for local families? How do these needs intersect with the role of the library?
What are other community organizations offering to young families? What is the library duplicating or not duplicating?
What questions do I get asked over and over by parents and by educators? How can storytime help them answer these questions?
C. Ask yourself some questions:
What do I wish parents and caregivers knew about storytime?
If kids could graduate from my storytimes with 3 skills/accomplishments/experiences/memories what would they be?
What is it about storytime that gives me energy to squeeze it in to all the other things I have to do?
What else do I wish I could do with my storytime program and why?
What can libraries do with storytimes that other agencies/organizations/businesses can’t do with theirs?
If I never could do storytime again, what would I miss the most?
If I never could do storytime again, what would our families miss the most?
Once you do some noodling around, look at what you’ve written. What themes and ideas rise to the top? These are the components that you can play with in crafting a mission statement for your storytimes. We all want storytime to do and be everything for everybody, but we have to prioritize and focus our efforts. A mission statement can help you articulate what needs are most important to you and your community, and then give you something to refer to in the future that will help you decide if you’re meeting those needs, or if there are ways you can tweak what you’re doing to be more effective.
Remember, just like there’s a thousand library mission statements, there is no single “right” mission statement for all storytimes. Your mission statement should serve your library.
Now that you’ve done some thinking and writing, here’s our storytime goals statement.
“In order to help families build early literacy skills, storytimes provide a welcoming, engaging and age-appropriate learning experience that encourages positive interactions between children and caregivers.”
Bonus: Did you get one drafted? Share it with us!
Keep going: Write a mission or goals statement for your other programs for other age groups. Write an overall mission or goals statement for your department.
Apply your learning: Keep your mission statement in front of you the next time you plan a storytime. How is each part of your storytime helping you with these goals? What are you doing in your storytime practice that you can let go of? What could you add to better address your mission?
Shout out: To my boss Lori Romero and my colleague Jessica Fredrickson, whose expertise and wisdom are very much a part of my thinking on the importance of storytime mission statements! We took part of this work to Power Up last year!