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.:(

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