Celebrity Storytime

My library doesn’t believe in storytime breaks, nor do we do registration for storytime.  Storytime is presented in some shape or form every week of the year, and it’s available to every child who wishes to attend.

During our annual Summer Reading Program, our storytime numbers skyrocket from ~25 children to ~100 children!  The age range of the children also increases.  During the school year, the storytime crowd typically consists of 3 to 5-year-olds with the occasional toddler thrown in.  During the summer, the age range goes from babies all the way up to 8 or 9 years.

A massive amount of children who range in age from the very young to the early elementary level can be tricky for one person to handle.  Add in a children’s librarian who loves storytime but has been planning and presenting storytime every week for the past ten months, and things get even trickier.  This could lead to a massive Summer Reading disaster, but it doesn’t.

How do we keep things under control?  Two words:  Celebrity Storytime.

Celebrity Storytime is an old tradition at my library.  It started back before I even considered becoming a librarian, and it has continued, without fail, ever since.  Celebrity Storytime is exactly what it sounds:  we invite local celebrities (such as police officers, firemen, doctors, dentists, TV newscasters, etc.) to come into the library to read a few books to the children.  With another person reading the stories to the children, I am free to do crowd control and to make sure things don’t get out hand with 100+ people in the room (today we had 120 – most of them children).

It’s not a complete break from storytime for me.  I’m the one who schedules the Celebrity Storytime readers (I start asking around in February).  I also select the books.  However, I give up the themes during the summer, and I instead pick storytime favorites and books that work well.  I try to throw in books that deal with the Celebrity Storytime reader’s occupation; however, I do not make the storytime exclusively about that occupation.  For example, last week we had a police officer come in.  She read Officer Buckle and Gloria, but she also read Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Little Mouse’s Big Secret, and The Sunflower Sword.

Like all things, Celebrity storytime has both pros and cons.

Pros:

  • It gives the children’s librarian a break from storytime without actually stopping storytime
  • It allows us to keep storytime open to any child who wishes to attend
  • It brings community leaders into the library and promotes outreach
  • It allows us to have someone devoted to crowd control during storytime without pulling another employee off of the desk

Cons:

  • While most of our celebrity readers have been excellent, we do get the occasional few who are unsure of how to read to children
  • We keep the storytime strictly limited to books, which means no flannelboards or puppet shows or songs
  • Scheduling conflicts occur every year, which means I’m scrambling to find a replacement or switch at the last minute

While I admit that I miss presenting storytime during the summer, it does leave me refreshed and excited to start planning and presenting storytime again when Summer Reading ends.

P.S.  This summer we also have some wonderful sign language interpreters coming in to sign during storytime for the hearing impaired children of the community.

Project Back to School

This past weekend my supervisor and I attended Project Back to School, which is a program that provides free school supplies, immunizations and hearing/vision tests to lower income students.  In order to get these freebies, however, students and their families must first visit a number of booths staffed by local organizations, and we were there to represent the library.  Not only was this a great outreach opportunity (we handed out a lot of library applications), but it was also a great networking opportunity for us, seeing as there were a good number of exhibitors, from AT&T to United Way.

To the younger children, we handed out Target bags full of coloring books, pencils, and library card applications, and to the older kids, we handed out pencils, erasers and key chains along with the applications.  Our most popular giveaway, however, were library pencil bags that were filled with school supplies, bookmarks, and gift certificates to Applebees, Pizza Hut, and Whataburger.   These were given to everyone 18 years of age or under until we ran out (which took about 15 minutes).

All in all, it was definitely a productive day:  We got to smooze with other organizations (the local beauty school gave us free shampoo and conditioner!), get library card applications into the hands of some future patrons, and even say hi to a few of our regulars.  We will definitely be doing this again next year!