Thursday, May 08, 2014

Guidelines (Rules) for Storytime

Recently we've been tightening up on some of our storytime procedures and it has led to confusion from the patrons. We're using signs outside the storytime areas when necessary and we are adding guidelines to the back of our storytime flier.

Our storytime flier is a quarter sheet/post-card sized flier that lists every storytime in the system. Each location has slightly different challenges and rules so we needed to be generic enough to apply universally. At our main location, people coming late can be extremely disruptive because the only way into the room is to walk directly between the audience and the storyteller. Thus the door is closed and there is only one "late admittance" window during the songs after the first book. Also we sometimes hit firecode maximums and have to close programs due to being full. All programs are first come first served, no reservations. Other locations have entrances in the back and less stress on space and are able to allow parents to come and go freely.

I'm verbose (no kidding) but we wanted to keep the guidelines on the shorter side. It was also important to focus on reinforcing positive behaviors rather than listing "don'ts". That is why we are calling them Tips or Guidelines and talking about making storytime successful. I wanted to start with a bolded action statement and then an explanation. Of course all language is gender-neutral, but I also wanted it relationship-neutral. All sorts of caregivers bring children to storytime so we avoided the "your child" phrasing.

Number three is the one we debated the most. I started with the phrase "overly emotional" which another librarian pointed out was too formal and "bad day" was better. We left in disruptive as well as bad day because some kids are having great, happy, exuberant days that are just as disruptive to storytime as a child having a meltdown. They just hit the other end of the scale and are too happy/excited to sit during stories.

Naturally we reinforce all these things verbally at the start of every storytime. But, especially with the latecomers issue, it can be helpful to parents to have advance warning about those expectations. I've had some very disappointed parents when they couldn't get into a storytime that was full/already started. And if you've never been to a storytime, it can be good to get a sense of expectations. Anchorage is a very diverse community with a large immigrant population who might not have a cultural tradition of library storytime.

Why yes, I did rather overthink this. And the thing is, I'm sure I'm not done overthinking it. I bet I'll edit again before the year is out. But for now, here is what we have.

Tips for a Successful Storytime
  1. Sit, sing, & listen to stories together. The more you participate in storytime, the more children will participate, enjoy, and learn from storytime.
  2. Please be timely. Storytimes are short and every minute is full of fun and learning opportunities. At some locations, we may not be able to accommodate late comers or have size limits.
  3. Don't be afraid to leave. Some days children aren't in the right mood for storytime. If a child is having a bad day or becomes disruptive, please feel free to take a break and try again.
  4. Please enjoy your food, toys, and cell phones after storytime.
We're working on putting these on a sign outside our storytime door as well. I'm interested in hearing what everyone else is using as storytime rules/guidelines/tips, parent expectations!