Storytime Basics: Staff & Training

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!

This week I’ve talked about Scheduling, Registration, and our storytime Philosophy. I’m wrapping up the week with today’s post on Staff and Training.

Who Provides Storytime?

At our district, storytime is offered primarily by paraprofessionals. We have between 30 and 40 staff who provide storytime on a regular basis. Some of them have been doing storytime for 20 years, some just for a few months!

Required Training

All of them, regardless of experience levels, have taken our required one-time full-day training in storytime techniques, philosophy, and early literacy skills. This class was developed in-house by experienced storytime staff and our literacy librarian. We offer it three times a year, so that supervisors always have an opportunity to train any staff new to storytime before the next trimester begins. (Read more about how we schedule storytimes.)

Ongoing Optional Training

We also offer ongoing training to our storytime providers three times a year. These “practicums” are 2 hours long and are divided into two sections. For the first 45 minutes or so, we offer a short training session on some aspect of storytime. Once we discussed techniques for making up your own words to familiar tunes; once we did a quick tutorial on manipulating clip art images to personalize flannelboards. Then we highlight a few great new books for storytime and take a quick break. When we return, we spend the rest of our time together sharing ideas for storytime: new songs, fun books, sure-fire group activities, whatever staff have discovered to be enjoyable in their storytimes.

These are great sessions! Because the content changes, staff are encouraged to attend as often as their schedules and supervisors can permit. It’s a wonderful way to elevate everyone’s motivation and energy and provide peer-to-peer coaching and networking.

Once or twice a year, we also offer a 2-hour class on Baby Storytimes. These storytimes can be very different than those for older kids, and we can provide tips and tricks for group management, book selection, storytime planning, and adapting early literacy tips for this age group.

Observations

We also have begun annual observations of all storytime providers. Once a year, one of our youth librarians observes one storytime from each provider. This gives us a chance to see a snapshot of how storytimes look across the district, as well as offers each provider a chance to receive some one-on-one feedback and to offer us input from the floor.

Who does storytime at your library: librarians, paraprofessional staff, or volunteers? What kind of training do you have for your storytime staff? What training do you wish you could have?

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9 Responses to Storytime Basics: Staff & Training

  1. Becky says:

    That’s really interesting to me. At my small library, we just have one children’s librarian (me) who does everything, including storytimes. But even at my old library, which was very large, most of the storytimes were done by librarians, with just a few done by the children’s assistants.

    Being one-branch, we have no training, but our regional library organization offers some great classes, occasionally dealing with storytime.

    It sure would be great to be able to meet with other children’s librarians and brainstorm. I think that’s what I’d wish for more than even a class–a chance to meet (in person) others and discuss problems and techniques and books and anything else.

  2. Amy Greenland says:

    You guys need to write a book on this so the rest of us can share. Or do a national preconference workshop 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    Hi Becky! Our library has so many more para staff than librarians, and offers so many storytimes every week, there is no way storytime could be primarily offered by the librarians. But the youth librarians do observe and mentor and stay involved in the conversations. I’m glad you have access to regional training; it’s definitely an advantage larger systems have, to be able to offer training in-house. The sharing and networking is so valuable! That’s why half of our practicums are for peer-to-peer sharing. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the support Amy!! One of the best parts of my job right now is working to figure out how to offer the best training and support of our staff.

  5. Abby says:

    We just have one MLS children’s librarian (me), and I do storytimes sometimes, but our library assistants also do storytimes. For our fall and spring storytime sessions, we plan 6-8 weeks, so each of the five of us plans at least one week and then we pull the books, felts, props, and craft materials for everyone to use that week. We all try to pull a selection of alternate books in case anyone doesn’t like one of the books we chose. We all meet together the week before and go over the materials with whoever planned the storytime so she can demonstrate songs, activities, etc. So, though we don’t do formal training very often (whenever the state library offers something, we send people), we quite often exchange tips and techniques informally. There are just six of us in the entire department and we all share one office, so that’s not too hard. 😉

  6. Melissa says:

    Abby, what a cool mix of sharing the load and learning from each other. Staff at some of our larger branches take turns pulling materials for storytimes as you guys do, but I don’t think they have the chance to meet and run through songs and flannels and stuff together. Larger systems often have more resources and formal training, but smaller libraries often make up for that in flexibility and on-the-spot support and mentoring.

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  8. Melissa says:

    Thanks for the link! I love seeing how different libraries approach storytimes.

  9. Karen says:

    One of my goals for the coming year is to do some training for our staff. I would love more information about the topics and types of training you do at your library. How many staff members participate in the training. I think sharing and discussion help us keep our skills sharp, recharge the creative batteries and keep up the enthusiasm for storytimes. Unfortunately, it seems that these days time and money for training are not available.
    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all the great tips.

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