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 your thoughts and experience in the comments!
As I got going on this, I realized I had a lot to talk about, so I’ve divided it up into several posts I’ll share over the course of the week. Today I’ll talk about our schedule.
Types of Storytimes
We offer 4 types of storytimes:
Baby (0-2 years)
Toddler (2-3 years)
Preschool (4-6 years)
Family (all ages, but geared to 3-5 year olds)
There’s some overlap in age between Baby and Toddler storytime, so caregivers can choose when their kids are ready to move on to the toddler group. Some little ones are ready for longer stories and more time sitting still right when they turn 2, but many others need a few more months in Baby Storytime before they move on successfully.
I would love to be able to offer both Crawler and Walker storytimes, to further divide up the Baby group developmentally, but we don’t have the staff time, or in some cases the time in the branch schedules, to do so at this point.
Number of Storytimes
We have 8 branches in our system, and hold about 50 storytimes a week all together. Our branches, however, are of varying sizes and serve different types of communities. As a result, not every branch offers all 4 types of storytime, nor do they each hold the same number of storytimes. One of our larger metro branches holds over 15 storytimes a week, while our smaller rural locations hold just 2.
We’re always keeping an eye on attendance at each branch, to make sure we try to offer what the community needs. We publish a storytime schedule 3 times a year, for fall, winter/spring, and summer, so when we make adjustments, we wait until the start of the next trimester to do so.
Schedule for Storytimes
Most of our storytimes are offered during weekday mornings. We do have a few scheduled in the evenings, and on weekends during the days. I feel very strongly that libraries should offer alternatives to families who work 9-5 during the week, and am happy that we do! The reality is though that our attendance is much lower in evening and weekend storytimes, and it is always necessary balance to our desire to offer those storytimes with the lower attendance and with our need to have staff out on the floor.
Our storytimes run weekly; we don’t run sessions. I love this system because it allows us to offer weekly registration to our patrons. They can come as often or as little as they want, without getting locked out of storytime for a couple of months due to a full session. I know there are benefits to running sessions, though, including more time to get to know each family! Sessions can also foster a feeling that storytime is extra-special; signing up for a multi-week session can encourage more committment and participation than just attending week-by-week.
But weekly storytimes don’t mean we have 52 weeks of storytime a year! We take August off, which lets us recuperate from Summer Reading and get organized for the school year. We take a couple of weeks off at the end of the year for the holidays. Most of our branches also take May off, which helps them schedule staff for Summer Reading visits to the schools. Also, our smallest branches don’t offer storytime over the summer; they’ve discovered attendance is just too low to justify it.
How do you guys create your storytime schedule? Do you use sessions? Have you been successful with evening and weekend storytimes? How do you divide up your ages–or do you divide them up at all? Let me know what it looks like for you, and check back for more Storytime Basics posts this week!