Storytime Basics: Schedule

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!

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6 Responses to Storytime Basics: Schedule

  1. Abby says:

    We do weekly storytimes for babies (0-2) and toddlers (2-3). They each meet twice a week, no registration required. We have tried to do a weekly preschool storytime (3-5), but it has not had good attendance. Our library traditionally only offered preschool storytime for 6-8 weeks in the fall and 6-8 weeks in the spring and I think that’s what we’ll go back to in the spring. For the registered sessions, we’ll offer at least 4 different times including an evening session. Our evening session is usually much smaller than our morning sessions. We also offer a Saturday all-ages storytime once a month.

  2. Melissa says:

    Abby, thanks for sharing how it works at your library! I think lots of preschoolers are, well, in preschool, or going to tumbling class or parents’ day out or whatever. I know we really can’t compare one library to another because situations are unique, but I love talking about it and comparing notes. Thanks!

  3. Abby says:

    You’re absolutely right – a lot of preschoolers already have other activities going on. Plus, I think in my community, the fall and spring sessions are, like, a time-honored tradition. That’s what people know and what they expect, so that’s where we get people signing up and attending.

  4. Melissa says:

    That’s what I love about libraries–there’s no single right answer for everyone! If you’re meeting your communities’ needs and expectations, it’s a win, no matter what the next library over is doing.

  5. Anne says:

    It is so interesting that your smaller branches struggle with attendance during summer storytime. It has been my experience at the two libraries where I have worked that we get by far the highest turnouts in the summer. We get anywhere from 30-60 people in the summer here and at my old library, which was in a much smaller town, it was the same thing. I wonder if their storytimes are scheduled the same time as swimming lessons (in my experience the ONE thing that parents are most worried about, but then again this is Michigan and we have water everywhere).

  6. Melissa says:

    Hi Anne! Thanks for stopping by! Our smaller branches are in REALLY small rural communities, so I don’t know if that is what makes the difference or not. Sometimes just one family going on vacation can make a huge impact in attendance! You’re right though that it’s critical to find the right times for storytimes and programs in general; it’s our responsibility to do the research into what’s going on in our areas. Isn’t it interesting how differently the same service can play out at different libraries?

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