Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Beyond Storytime Successes

Storytime is definitely a bread and butter program almost all libraries offer for preschoolers AND their parents/adult caregivers. But we wanted to explore other types of programs we can do with preschoolers besides storytimes. Here are some of the ideas that the class had:

Stuffed Animal Sleepover
- We invited kids to drop off their stuffed animal on day 1 and then they could return on day 2 to pick up their animal, along with a special souvenir. While the children were away, the animals played. We arranged the animals in groupings of 4-5 and had them play out different scenes like tea party, baseball, copy machine, book drop, etc. We also had all of the animals sit around the story room carpet and listen to a story read by Ms. Jennifer's childhood stuffed animal. We took a ton of pictures and made photo souveniers for each child that including a few scenes for their evening at the library and a group photo at story hour.  Many of the kids returned the next day to pick up their animals and were loving the souvenier booklets. We made sure to put a label on the back that said to like our library facebook page to see all the pictures.  This little tip really worked out because we had over 600 views on our stuffed animal sleepover slide show on Facebook.

-One of our most successful programs beyond storytime was when we did a "Teddy Sleepover" (all stuffed animals were invited).  The drop off time was between 4:00 and 5:00, the kids signed their stuffed animals in, made a nametag for thier animal with contact information, and then were able to play games and read stories with their animal before leaving them at the library for the night.  After the animals were all checked in we posed the animals doing things like having a tea party, playing checkers, watching a video, reading books, making a mess of the children's area, etc.  The children were encouraged to call and check in on their stuffed animal, they did and that was fun, they wished their stuffed animal sweet dreams at the end of the conversation and then it was off to bed for the stuffed animals.  The kids could pick up their animals the next morning when we opened, and also pick up a memory book of what their stuffed animal did on their library sleepover.  The memory book was created with photos of the evening with captions.  These books took time to make, but so worth it when you saw the child's face seeing their stuffed animal have so much fun at the library :)  

1000 Books Before Kindergarten Parties
Since starting 1000 Books Before Kindergarten last January, I have hosted 3 parties, all of which were great! The usual program plan is a super short storytime with one book (since the entire program is about reading) and a song or two to get the wiggles out.  Then the kids break out into different areas to play and work on early literacy skills.  We also had a special guest named Too Tall Torrie, a stilt walker who makes balloon animals that the kids loved (and I got a T-Rex so it was a win-win!).  Last August I had a graduation party and if you want to see the cutest thing ever, have kids walk across the stage to Pomp and Circumstance.  Adorbs!

Early Learning Readiness Program
- We have an Early Learning Readiness program that meets in our space two mornings a week for two hours each time that is designed for children ages 0-5 and their caregivers. It is run by the YMCA. They have a very specific set of guidelines they have to meet for the program, which includes a welcome circle and a closing circle, at least 3 age-appropriate books, and 13 different activity centers that help develop different skills children will need in school. They also provide snacks to the children and caregivers during the program. In our space, we tend to see children between 12 and 20 months of age with just a couple of children under 3. We actually don't currently have any between 3 and 5. The kids open with a 20 minute circle time with songs, finger plays, and 2 books before being released to play. They always get at least an hour to play in the centers, sometimes longer if everyone comes on time. We have 10 minutes of clean up time before we gather for closing circle to sing more songs, read one more book, and do some dancing. I pick out all the books based on the month's theme and lead one of the circle times whenever I can. Because it's run by an outside agency, it uses minimal library resources and staff time. I can work at my desk during the play times and be available to answer any questions parents have or help them find books for their children. The YMCA goals for the program are to enroll 10 children and caregivers for regular attendance. 

Movement Programs
- Our most popular preschool program is Little Wigglers!  We pick a theme for each month (Little Wigglers meets every Tuesday morning at 10:30 am).  We play the same games, sing the same songs, etc for the month and by the end of the month, the kids know the program very well!  We try to incorporate musical instruments, bean bags, scarves, rhythm sticks, balls and the parachute into the songs and games.  We end the program with a story and juice box to "cool down."  I think this program has been so successful because the kids are free to move and have fun!  For some in this age group, it is very hard to sit still for an entire book.  I have had many comments from grateful moms who were embarrassed their child wouldn't sit for a storytime (of course we squelch any worries and encourage them to keep coming for storytime, too!).  My favorite part about Litttle Wigglers is to watch the shy kids who hide behind Mom at first, but then eventually come and stand next to me to help lead the group--awesome!

- I've been presenting Let's Move, a creative movement program for preschoolers and toddlers for about six years. I offer the program on Friday mornings for 18 months and up, although I occasionally get kids who are slightly younger. In story time, I sing all the songs myself, but in this program all but the welcome songs are recorded. I use CDs that I burn myself of all my favorite songs. There are dance songs, shaky eggs songs, scarf songs, drumstick songs, instrument songs, bean bag songs, parachute songs, and wand songs. Each week, I do a variety of dance songs and then pick two of the props to play with that week. I have at least five or six songs in each category and can therefore switch out the music frequently, even when we are doing the same prop. 
This is one of the most popular preschool programs I offer. It routinely gets the largest crowd and everyone really enjoys it. I think they love moving to the music, but they also love the chance to do something different. It doesn't hurt that the music programs in the area for preschoolers are insanely expensive. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Helping Patrons Accept Change

In class we chewed on how to help patrons accept a new program format for preschoolers in place of one storytime session. The ideas and strategies flowed!

I think in general, when you present an idea, and you deliver it with enthusiasm, they will also be enthusiastic. You can give your reasoning as to why you are changing it up and then tell them why they will be excited about it (like, their kids will love the new craft time that will follow story time), etc. I think in general, the parents will accept the change pretty easily. And, I think it is very healthy to introduce children to change! 

Giving the Facts, Jack
I think if you explain the "why" behind a program change, the parents are better able to understand it.  We recently changed the format of our Baby Tots program to include learning a new nursery rhyme each month.  We shared our research with parents and explained the importance of learning nursery rhymes for early literacy success.  While this meant less social play time for the little ones, parents were on board with the change.

I usually start with my core families, let them know that I have something that I think is going to work really well for them and I'm sure that they will want to check it out. I know that your boys are really interested in _________ so you are going to love this!  Then I give everyone involved the the information (usually a flyer) ahead of time so that if the change takes place next week they can get used to the idea and not be shocked coming in.  I alway try to let them know that we have good reasons for the change.  We have your children's best interest in mind.

Keep Things Changing
-I have to say we try things all the time.  My parents like the variety, they just go with the flow, as well as the kids. In fact, the month of March we are not doing story-time, but we are creating book bundles  which will have four books, one take home activity, a list of other books for the theme, and song and fingerplay suggestions.  We are also offering a reading challenge this month (March Madness) can you read 100 books in the month of March (ages preschool-4th grade) and can you read 25 books in the month of March for ages 5th grade and up.  

In my old library, one of the weekly story times I did was a class visit from our local Head Start classroom. The teachers had been in that classroom for many years and were used to their set routines. The first time they came to visit me, which was the first week of school with all-new students, the head teacher yelled at them all to "sit down and shut up, the library is for quiet kids." I was horrified. I had planned 2 stories, a few songs, a felt board, and a craft for them to do. Not a single child sang along or tried to answer any of my questions to the group because they were so scared. Starting the second week, I began my story time by telling them all that the library was for having fun with stories, not for being quiet. I gave them a library tour and we talked about how the library was closed during their visits so the only patrons in the library were from their school. Then I told them that I needed their help in telling some of the stories and singing the songs each week, which got them much more relaxed an interested in participating. 

Smooth Transitions
I feel like the families at my library are just itching for more hands on activities. Craft time is the children's and the parents' favorite part of storytime every week, even if it's just free form coloring. I feel like as soon as I decided to offer something more hands on like a messy art hour or parachute play, they'd be all over it. I think what I'd do is maybe offer a little bit of an overlap. I'd do part storytime, part hands on and totally different. That way I could possibly transition those parents who are a little skeptical of any educational value of a format that doesn't involve lots of storytelling into seeing how great the other programming format could be for them. Sometimes people need to see to believe. I feel like after one program, they and their kids would be all about something different. Changing things up even a little can really make kids excited! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

School Age Steam

Our guest today is Kelsey Bates, a Youth Services Librarian in Fort Myers Florida. She shared a program series on STEAM that had kids really excited.

STEAM into Learning - K- 5th graders

3…2…1… Blast Off Into Space
Book talkHow Do You Burp in Space? : and Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan Goodman. Discuss why you would never want to burp in space (spoiler, without gravity it’s just puking).

Video: astronauts sleeping in space from NASA’s website.

  • Create aliens – I designed a sheet where the kids would decide what planet they are visiting (hot, cold, gas, water, etc) and then draw the aliens based on those specifications.
  • Design a satellite – after discussing what satellites do, I had the kids build one out of random craft materials that we had lying around. This station was so popular that I had to remind the kids that they should move on to other activities.
  • Make paper rockets – using paper and straws, the kids created paper rockets that they could launch.
  • Constellation Tubes – using pushpins, the kids punched out holes in a paper depicting a constellation and then placed it on a toilet paper roll. Looking back, I would have donewithout this station because the most effort on the kids’ parts went into for what was very little payoff.

Tech Tear Down
Video:  Bill Nye the Science Guy discussed electrical circuits. We then looked at a quick slide show I made that had pictures of electrical components that we would be seeing.

The children and their parents (it was very focused on parent involvement) then went to the stations where we had everything from a laptop to beepers to VHS tapes. The kids had a great time taking apart each electronic and the parents enjoyed explaining to their kids why anyone would ever need a beeper.

I originally had a lot of push back from my administration about this program as it was deemed “unsafe” which added a lot of time on my part to really research the safety of each item. The kids had an amazing time though and I heard a lot mothers mention that they wish their husbands had come as well, which is always exciting as we don’t get a lot of fathers in our programs.

Engineer an Attack on the Fort!
This was a program that I pulled from the Show Me Librarian, which made it super easy to reproduce although I did switch the focus from the Trojan War to the castles of the Middle Ages.

Book talk:  books in our collection about castles and sieges.

Video: Trebuchet Siege Artillery from the Discovery channel that shows the children what catapults in the Middle Ages really looked like.

Laying out a lot of random craft materials, I had the children build their forts, making sure to discuss the importance of engineering strong walls and foundations. We then built catapults out of rubber bands and popsicle sticks with bottle caps on the end to hold the pom-poms.

The last 10 minutes of the program was the battle where the kids created a circle and started attacking each other. I was actually surprised by how many almost didn’t want to compete because they were afraid that their forts would become destroyed (they seriously overestimated the power of a pom-pom).

This was the program that I had the most trouble finding an educational opening to. There is very few interesting educational videos for children about castles for some reason. The kids did find the Discovery video very engaging though and really loved creating their own (much safer) version of a catapult.

Mad Scientist Artist
This was the program that I was most proud of since I came up with the idea myself: Creating art using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It was also my most expensive program in the series, using the previous 3 programs’ budgets of $10 plus its own for a total of $40. Also, although I did not book talk any books, I pointed out after each station that there was an entire display of art books to check out.

Science – We started the program outside in our storytime garden (a rare occurrence for our programs) and created exploding rocket art. Using film canisters, paint water and seltzer tabs, the kids popped in a tablet, closed the lid tight and turned it upside down so that when it exploded, it would leave splattered paint behind on the canvas. This was a huge success, even when the rockets didn’t launch.

Technology – This was the most expensive part of the program since I had to buy Dollar Tree electric toothbrushes for every child. They inserted the toothbrush into a decorated pool noodle that had three markers as legs. When the brush was turned on, it would cause the Art Bots to vibrate, creating interesting art work with their markers.

Engineering – This was just a simple sculpture project using marshmallows and toothpicks. I was still really excited to see what interesting things the kids came up with, like a brother duo who created a water pipeline that was a few feet long.

Math – For math, we discussed symmetry and had the children paint only one side of a piece of paper and then fold it in half to create symmetrical artwork.
I think art is always very engaging for children and the parents in the room really like the STEM slant to the program as well.

Game On
The idea for this also originally came from the Show Me Librarian’s Blog to do a life-size version of Chutes and Ladders. I made it my own though, and more math minded, by having the children spend half of the program creating their own game boards.

Chutes and Ladders – A fun game that took about 20 or so minutes to play. Towards the end, I sped it up but overall the kids did an amazing job at waiting their turn and staying engaged.

Game Board – this was my favorite part of the program. I had purchased some Dungeons and Dragons styled dice for the kids so we discussed what different dice would do to the game play (the dice that goes by 10s would need a different board than the regular 1-6 dice). One little girl used her two dice to work on rounding numbers up and down, which was amazing!

This was the only program that I didn’t really push the theme on, as I felt it would be too hard of a sell to get people excited about a Math program. However, we still had good attendance and the kids left very happy with their games, many coming back to tell me later that they played them at home.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this program series and how I was able to incorporate so much of our non-fiction collection into the programs. My coworkers ran a Pre-K version of this STEAM series congruently with mine, which allowed us to get almost all the ages actively involved in fun and educational programming.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Perking Up Programs

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It's easy to get into a rut when programming - doing the same themes or series or events multiple times. The class brainstormed a few ways to add some pep to tired program syndrome.

Animals, anyone?  If it is allowed at your library, (I hope it is!) kids love animals!  We have had sled dogs, baby goats, baby ducks, chicks, bunnies, you name it!  Bringing in animals to tie into your story or program is so thrilling for the kids.  This doesn't have to be an expensive animal expert--just ask around.  Do any staff members have unusal pets or know someone who does?  Does anyone know a farmer?  We had a staff member whose good friend was a veterinarian.  She came and talked to the kids about how to care for pets last summer.  She brought two dogs with her and demonstrated how to teach basic commands.  (Did I mention she did it for free???)  We also had a Hedgehog Advocate come to talk about hedgehogs and let the kids pet the animals at the end.  I've found that programs with animals are some of the most well-attended programs and the kids certainly aren't bored and watching the clock.

Food!  Ah, one of my favorites!  We have made mini pumpkin pies, banana snowmen, Thanksgiving mix, applesauce and pig bagels, to name a few.  If it's not an individual project (like the pig bagels), I've found that making something that allows many helping hands is very popular.  The Thanksgiving mix (picture pretzels, goldfish, raisins, m&ms, etc.) worked very well for this.  We had many ingredients and had two large bowls, so there was plenty of opportunity for everyone to "help."  Kids get the biggest charge out of just pouring something into a bowl!

Bring in someone new!  Sometimes I wonder if the kids grow tired of Ms. Jen.  This year I tried something new. In January, we were very fortunate to have our Friends group sponsor a magic show for the library.  We used this as a "thank you" to all the members of our youth book clubs for participating in our programs.  So instead of  four book club meetings in January, all the clubs met on one day for the magic show/workshop.  The kids loved it! (I loved it, too, because it eased my planning time for the month!)

- Animals are always a hit. Another idea for dogs is if your community has a dog club. There is one in our county and they brought their dogs and they got to "show off" their dogs and the tricks they could do. My neighbor has a corn snake for a pet and she brought it to story time and told all the kids about taking care of it and then she said, "I bet Mrs. Trix would like to hold the snake". What could I do but "suck it up" and take the snake. It was cool- wrapped around my arm and all the kids got to pet it. It was a great hit. Another library patron has a pet rabbit that came to visit us and we learned how she has her own bed ( a doll crib) and how she is litter trained etc. Just a simple little thing but the kids loved it

- I like to keep things fresh and I am always looking outside of the box for new ideas.  So I do make sure that for each school visit we do get that I am trying something new or putting a new spin on an idea that the kids really liked the first time around.  

I think to perk things up and try to get more school visits, I will start by visiting the classrooms more often and working with the teachers.  So I would like to try to gear programs towards certain lesson units that are being studied and coming in as a guest to read a story or do a craft with the class or other fun activities just to be present.  So many times kids super excited when they see me or any of the other staff at the library.  Then they go home and talk to mom and dad about their day and then pretty soon within a week, we see a family we had not seen for awhile visiting the library.  

Other ideas that worked well:  Magic shows, animals presentations, Minecraft days, Splatter Art, and Bubbles were all hits in bringing in school age kids to the library.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Magical Mystery Tours

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We all know the challenge presented by field trips. With schools' shrinking budgets and many other educational destinations, it takes creativity to create an experience that are meaningful, fun and worthwhile to tempt teachers to choose the library. Creating fun components for field trips - and facing some of the challenges - is a topic the class tackled.

We love having school groups come in.  Our local schools only allow the classes one field trip a year so we really have to be a destination for them to choose us.  Our group visits are more likely to be girl scouts, boy scouts and preschools.  When the groups do come we always have a small give away for them (usually something left over from summer reading.)  We have the school age kids do a scavenger hunt that takes them all over the library and when they complete the hunt we give them the gift that we have for them as their reward for a good job. This makes learning where things are a lot of fun, no boring tours here.

I'm very lucky (in lots of ways, but particularly this one) in that I came in to a position that had a built in set of school visits. Every fall, the first grades from my local schools come to visit the library to get their first library cards of their very own. It's already exciting for them and I'm thrilled to have this tradition in place (makes outreach to the first grades super easy!). The visits are wonderful, the kids are excited, the teachers call me when they are ready to come, and the circ desk is ready, willing, and eager to handle the large number of card applications. 

So on the one hand: lucky!

This is the problem (you saw that coming, right?). The visits are such a tradition that there seems to be very little space for change. For example, some schools choose to send all their first grades at once which makes for an assembly-like program, while other schools send them one at a time. This means I can't quite format the program properly for everyone - and my room is too small to hold the large groups anyway (I can't even do a tour properly because we won't have anywhere to walk!).  I've also found that the teachers are so used to doing this that they rarely talk to me directly and barely look at me. Ironically, I am an afterthought in this visit. It makes it hard to really sell them on new library services or programs. I just have to hope that the kids are getting as much as possible out of it!

- I love having the kids come for tours!  We are lucky enough to be within walking distance from our elementary school and a local preschool, so we get requests for tours quite often.  I absolutely agree that the kids get a big kick out of seeing something they normally don't get to see.  We also show them the inside of the bookdrop, and if the weather permits, we send a staff member out to deposit books and movies so the kids can see the different chutes in action.  Very simple, but they love it!   A game I like to play with the class is to ask how many children's books do they think the library owns.  It is so comical to hear some of the guesses!  They are always amazed by the number.

- Years ago I took a tip from Rob Reid and during the tour of the collection I pointed out that the library even has cookbooks for kids but "there is one rule if you check one out-if you make something from it you have to bring the librarian a sample!" The looks on their faces as they totally took me seriously was priceless. We had a run on cookbook check outs for weeks but sadly no one ever brought me a treat.:(

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March Madness - Picture Book Play-offs

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It's March Madness time! It can be a great opportunity to tie in a program for kids and families that builds on the increased interest and publicity surrounding the basketball playoffs. Here is a program, part of our final assignment, shared by one of our librarian-students!

First, I chose 16 picture books from the previous year's "best of" lists, mostly the list compiled by ALSC and the ALA. I paired these books up together based on similar subject/tone/format for our first week. 

Then I created a bulletin board with all these titles on it in a bracket. I also created a sheet that had all the titles on it in their pairs. The instructions encourage patrons to read the books and pick their favorite in the pair. The winners then to on to the second week with 8 titles and 4 match-ups. (I make a new sheet for this week). The voting continues for a week and then we are down to four titles. These battle it out for a week (on a new sheet with only those titles on it) until we reach the finals in the fourth week. The last two books do final battle for a week until one emerges victorious as our favorite book.

I checked out copies of all the books to the Children's Library account and put them with the display so that anyone can read the books and vote. Each book has a little strip of paper wrapped around the cover explaining that it can't be checked out until the match-ups are over. Patrons can vote for just one match up for for all of them. 

The voting sheets are put in a basket as they are completed and then I pick them up periodically during the week to count the votes for each book. 

I picked March for this program to coincide with March Madness so that kids can have fun with brackets as the basketball brackets really take hold. The program is free, since I used books from our collection and all you really need are the books, the signs, and the sheets. 

I picked books from the ALA lists because I find that often books are distinguished or have star reviews and don't necessarily get checked out very frequently. I'm hoping to bring more attention to these titles and hoping that people will take the time to think critically about them - even if it's only to think which one they prefer. I tried to pick books at somewhat different levels, too (Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine and Byron Barton's My Car, for example) so that the books could speak to kids at different ages. I also considered choosing classic books (do you prefer "Good night Moon" or "Brown Bear Brown Bear"?) or really any other type of book. 

I chose picture books because I wanted the program to be all-inclusive in regards to ages, but the program could also run with chapter books. I like that the picture books can be read together while the family is at the library.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Passive is the New Active

The class had some great program ideas to share that incorporated the concepts found in passive or stealth programming (ongoing; kid-powered; encourages lots of engagement and return visits without staff-led activities). They also shared the positives and negatives of their programs.

- My favorite passive program I ever ran (and am getting to do again next month) is March Character Madness, a basketball tournament inspired program where kids can vote for their favorite book characters who would advance every week to the next round.  While it was a bit of work up front (cutting out characters, creating a large tournament board, etc) it was so worth it!  It ran for 4 weeks (most of our passives are weekly, so this was great since we didn't have to think up new things during the entire month of March).  My favorite part was the discussion it caused between us and the patrons and even between parents and children.  We had one boy come back religiously every week to make sure Harry Potter was still advancing (Harry was our big winner overall) and so many parents took the time to vote too  for their favorites since we included classics like Nancy Drew and Cat in the Hat.  Can't wait to get started on it next week!

 -In our 16 library system, we have 14 libraries offering 1000 Books before Kindergarten. 13 of those 14 are offering it in its traditional manner of filling out reading logs and returning them for small prizes at certain increments. One of our libraries is having families take a pledge to read 1000 books before kindergarten. We launched our 1000 books program last January and to date we have 2750 children enrolled, 342 at the mid-point and 83 have finished. Our libraries have really embraced this stealth program that is low-cost and requires a very limited amount of staff time. And in some cases, the libraries have asked their Friends groups to sponsor prizes or the tote bags with our 1000 books logo. Friends of the Library groups just eat this stuff up. 

I was part of the process to get this program county wide and my biggest regret is not encouraging or requiring all of the libraries to offer the program the same way. For instance, we have one library that hands out prizes every 25 books read. We have another that has levels every 200 books and another that gives a prize at 500 and then 1000. This has made it very difficult to collect stats across the county and also to develop a mobile app with achievement levels! We decided to go with unlocking an achievement every 25 books since it is the lowest common denominator. 

- Penguin packs-we have backpacks that we filled with 5 winter themed books and 2 activities (coloring sheets, mazes, paper craft idea, etc.).  We created 20 packs, which all went out throughout the month, and the response was very positive to this program.  The advantage of the Penguin pack (or book bundles) is that they are quick and easy for parents to pick up and take home.  Disadvantage, they take a little staff time and planning--but in the long run, I love this idea for so many reasons.  Parents are taking a variety of books home and sharing them with their children, therefore, building a love of reading and developing those early literacy skills.

In the summer we usually have one or two stations set up at all times in the library for kids to have fun at, such as a Lego station with various of ideas of what to build and then have the opportunity to have their creation displayed for the week.  We have also done the loom magic for kids--they love to create the bracelets and see what else they can do with some of the books we have available for inspiration.  The advantages of setting up stations is that you can have this set up before you open and take it down the next day.  Disadvantage, coming up with fresh ideas that will interest the kids.  Believe me, you find out quickly what is not an interest :)  

- We have a handful of those rainbow band looms for making all sorts of different crafts, and several thousand bands in different colors and patterns. We have them out on Saturday afternoons and they're a huge hit. We used to have some pretty serious behavior issues with our older youth and teens on weekends, but almost all those problems in our space have stopped since getting these for crafting. They aren't the cheapest thing to keep stocked (about $7/1000 bands) but they are the most popular DIY program we have. There are some kids who come in on other days to ask for them!

Over the summer, we bought a bunch of board games to circulate. Those are also a really popular DIY program. Kids can pick any game from the shelf and play at an empty table for as long as they want. We haven't had much loss from in-library play, and for the most part, they clean up after themselves. It's a great rainy day activity!

- For the past year or so, I've had a passive program on Mondays called "preschool craft." (Very imaginative name, right...?) I put out the materials for the first four hours that we are open (10am to 2pm) and then take things down before the afterschool kids get there. It's been relatively successful - I don't get huge numbers, but I do get consistent numbers. I've also had an active program once a month for the afterschool crowd where we make a craft. The attendance here has varied wildly from two to twenty and is entirely unpredictable (even with registrations). 

This semester, I ditched the afterschool craft and instead instituted Maker Mondays (I told you naming wasn't my forte - I totally stole the name from somewhere else). I put out the craft materials all day so that anyone can make our craft all day long.  This has worked much better for me. I don't have to put a lot of work into a program that may or may not get anyone and those who do want to make things have even more opportunities than they did before. 

I have struggled a bit with projects that will span the age groups, but if push comes to shove, I can put out two projects. So far, I've managed to find things that are customizable based on ability. The older kid projects look far more carefully made and the preschool ones tend to focus more on process than product. Which is, I feel, as it should be. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Uncertain Staff Support for Programming

While thinking about doing passive programs, a question came up.  What if other staff in the library aren't supportive of an effort you are involved in like 1000 Books Before Kindergarten or SLP? What happens when you aren't there and it is up to them to promote the program or give out prizes and they are clearly reluctant or just plain won't do it. The class tackled the question and shared experiences..

This is where a strong director who backs up efforts throughout the library and with all staff (no matter what the size of the library) is essential. A director leads a staff and creates a team by making sure everyone is a part of initiatives and is enthusiastic supporters. No youth person should feel responsible for getting everyone on board. That's why I think it's important to keep one's director on board and supportive so they, as managers of the staff, help everyone understand that they are part of - and need to help with - the great youth initiatives that happen. When you have that backing and team building to form a cohesive, supportive group from a director, staffers feel great at supporting youth stuff since it's just part of the job.

We haven't really done too many DIY programs -such as crafts available mostly because of space problems. We do only have a single person on staff but I think if you you make it simple without too many "steps" for the staff to have to deal with your staff can be on board. For example our 1000 books before kindergarten we have everything organized in order- slips for each 100 books labeled and color coded with dots so it is obvious and easy for the staff member to handle. The only problem we have had is because one aspect of our 1000 books is that we take a picture of the child with their book at the end and not every staff member knows how to use the camera. But that too has been easily solved because most of today's parents take a picture with their phone and we just have them email it to us along with permission note to post the picture and I can take care of that when I am at work. 

I ran into that some in my old library. I worked there part time, half days Mon-Thurs. I started with a summer reading program, and noticed quickly that everyone who was involved only came to the library when I was there because the other staff wasn't on board for the program. I made sure to include registering for summer reading and submitting records for prizes as a part of every program I did all summer, so everyone who came could be sure to get anything counted they brought with them. I gave out my email address with all the promotional materials and said parents could email reading logs to me as well. Anyone could leave book logs in the book drop as well, because they would wind up on my desk on the mornings I didn't open the library.

While clearly not an ideal situation, it worked out ok in that community. Everyone learned my schedule and learned that the rest of the staff didn't want to deal with summer reading stuff, so children and families almost exclusively used the library during my hours. I waited to do any prize drawings until 2 weeks after the end of the program so people who couldn't get to the library during my regular hours could still have a chance to win. I had stacks of book logs out on the table in the children's room so kids could pick them up without having to ask a staff member for a new one. I made it work because I thought the kids in that community deserved to have a good summer program. That first summer, I had 20 kids register. Last summer, which was my last summer, I had over 100 kids register and complete their reading goals. Even when you don't have other staff who support your work and programming, it's possible to modify what you offer to support your community.