Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Consider the Parents. Please!

In our discussions of school age programming, the class wrestled with ways to program during the school year in a way that didn't put added pressure on already busy families. One thread of the discussion dealt with the pressure parents feel and whether afterschool programs can work in every community. Michelle shared her own experience as a working parent:

As a full-time working parent of a kindergartener, I honestly have no desire to pick my child up from school and haul him to the library for an after-school program.

Before you have my head on a pole, hear me out. I drop my child off at school around 7:45 am. I then get my youngest child to Grandma's house by 8, next stop work. I'm working from 8:30-5, then make the drive again to get the kids. My kindergartener is in after school care until 5:45 pm. He's hungry (eats lunch at 11am!, crappy snack after school), he's tired of following directions, tired of using his inside voice, and just plain tired.

Even if I was gung-ho about bringing him to a wonderful program (I'm tired too!), he would not be up for it. I can't imagine adding extracurriculars into the mix...I think my head will explode.

However, we love coming to the library. He loves to play on the computers, to check out giant stacks of books, and to do DIY activities that are in the children's room for the taking. He loved coming to the "big kid" programs during the summer, since he was energetic and not schooled-out, so to speak. I think this is where the "balance" in stealth/DIY/passive programming becomes really important. K-6 is the sweet spot to branch out and allow activities for every walk of life.

I think school age programs are important, but we have to be realistic about the parent's role. Just because parents can't get their kids to a program, doesn't mean that they don't value the library. I freaking LOVE the library, as do my kids. I think the parents' attitude towards the library is key. If the library is just a place for parents to pick up tax forms, the library isn't going to mean squat to their kids.

Image: 'High-Octane Villain'  Found on


  1. So then, what's the happy medium? I'm sure on Saturdays there's the usual agendas--errands, birthday parties, family time & REST--therefore, what's the ideal time, aside from summer? I personally feel the work week should be Mon-Thurs, 8-6 pm w/Friday being a Family Literature Day (FLD) at the Library! Capitalism/Lack of Perspective/Greed (you name it) has sucked our families dry b/c they're constantly in the hamster wheel of rush, rush, RUSH! We need perspective, a reality check & to READ together more. 60 yrs ago, Americans didn't work as hard and libraries where protected! I know we've had technological advances (i.e. TV, I-pads, video games, smartphones) but are we as a community so much better off? Perhaps I should rename my new FLD day to "Unplug Me Day!"

  2. I think it's important to balance knowledge of your community with the understanding that not everyone will be able - or willing - to attend programs. My community has quite a large population of stay at home moms, so we have well-attended morning storytimes. I make my after school clubs as casual and open as possible - we have a lot of people who drop off their kids and go to get a sibling, kids who come with grandma/friend, and kids who just wander in on their own (I don't ask). We also offer evening and weekend programs and a LOT of summer programs. However, there are still a lot of people with a schedule similar to yours that simply can't attend, or people that can only attend at off times when we don't have a program and I simply don't have the resources to offer programs 24/7. That's ok - the library it's just about programs. Like I always tell people when we have an off session, the play area is still here, the books are still here, the friendly librarians are still here, and you can still enjoy the library even if you can't make it to a program.

  3. When I wrote my response, I was being honest about my own personal family life, but was also playing Devil's Advocate. I have noticed many librarians who plan school age programs throwing their hands up in defeat/disgust when there isn't a huge turnout to programs. I don't think there should be active programs offered every day, nor do I want to convey that feeling. I believe in balance between what the community needs and what the library is able to provide. At my own library, my goal is to have activity stations for all ages at all times, for those people who, like me, have kids who love the library but just don't want to go after a full day of school. And like Jennifer said, there's still all the other awesomeness of the library even when there aren't active programs!

    1. Oh, I totally agree with you - just reinforcing that, in my community at least, casual works well. And I sometimes freak out because I am not reaching EVERYONE and then I have to remind myself that a program is still successful even if it is not bursting at the seams. (and also that my family never attended library programs at all while I was growing up - but we were still avid library users!)