For my first Extended Play Storytime Posts, I am just going to talk about the basics of how we do storytime at my library district. Every library is different, but each library often has the same types of problems (registration, arranging space, prep time, etc), and it’s always good to look around and see other ways of resolving those issues. I hope you will share in the comments your thoughts and experience!
Yesterday’s post covered our schedule. Today I’ll talk about how we register for storytime.
Parents and caregivers are asked to sign up their kids every week for storytime. Adults are required to stay with their children for Baby, Toddler, and Family storytime, and strongly encouraged to stay for Preschool storytime.
For Baby, Toddler, and Preschool storytime, though, we only register the child who is attending. For Family storytime, we register everyone who attends: parents, grandparents, whoever, and each child.
How We Register
We have eVanced at our district, and families can sign up for storytime in 3 different ways. They can sign up online, themselves, through our programs calendar. They can call our call center, and ask one of the staff to sign them up. Or they can ask for help from a staff member in the library.
When We Register
Registration for each storytime opens up one week prior to storytime, and closes just before that storytime begins. Families can only register ahead one week, but they can register for as many open storytimes that week as they’d like.
Why We Register
We try to maintain storytime limits at 15 babies, 20 toddlers, and 25 preschoolers in each storytime. For Family storytimes, our limit is 40 people, adults and children combined. We like these limits because we feel we can offer a better storytime experience if there are controlled group sizes. Also, some of our storytime areas just aren’t that big! Registration helps keep our attendance on a more even keel.
But it’s sometimes hard to be consistent across our whole district. Some branches don’t attract the numbers that make registration a necessity, so “enforcement” of registration can be a little lax. At branches that do attract larger crowds, some staff feel very comfortable enforcing the limits, and turn families away if storytime is full. Other staff don’t feel comfortable doing that, and occasionally or even frequently let drop-in families attend, even if it puts them over their attendance limits.
It’s a tough question: which is the better customer service? Not turning anyone away, or restricting access to ensure the best quality storytime?
Do you register families for storytime? What kind of system do you use if you do? What do you feel is the best customer service for your families?