Show Me the Awesome!

Logo by John LeMasney!

Logo by John LeMasney!

Today, I’m participating in the amazing series, “Show Me the Awesome!” that was started by Kelly, Liz, & Sophie. For more AWESOME, please check over at their sites for the official link-up. Also, don’t forget to tag your related posts with #30awesome on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and/or Instagram if you’re liking what you’re reading and want to talk about it!

This is Part One of a five part series about how I grew my storytime attendance. In the past three years since I took over storytime, I’ve increased our program attendance by 61% compared to the last successful season. (For the statistics nerds out there, I’m comparing Summer 2009 from before I took over to Winter 2012/2013.) And I promise that these are simple measures that almost every library can do, regardless of budget.

Part One: Parents Are Busy

Of course, we all know that our storytime parents are running all over town often balancing kids, work, school, home, and all those activities and fun things. But after a session of storytime that had 20 sign-ups, but literally ONLY one child and caregiver showed the whole six weeks that we were scheduled, I had to re-evaluate how to help my busy families.

1. I started doing reminder calls the night before a program. Simple, about a twenty minute process that my paraprofessional staff does on Wednesday nights. It’s a quick speech, “Hi, this is the library calling to remind Sophia that she is signed up for storytime tomorrow, May 2nd, beginning at 10:00 am. Hope to see her there!” When a parent signs up for storytime, I explain our reminder calls are a courtesy since families have tons of activities to keep track of on their schedules.

2. Since I knew that parents were worried about being late, I pushed back the start of storytime, but only in actuality! All of our publicity states that storytime begins at 10:00 am, but I do not take anyone into the storytime room until 10:05 am. This gives parents a five-minute cushion for when their child doesn’t want to put their coat on or if the baby decides to spit-up on themselves the minute they’re put in the car seat.

3. Roll-over sign-ups. If a family has been regularly attending storytime in the Winter session, I will automatically sign them up for the Spring session. My families love this, though I know it’s not always possible for every library. But there are tons of ways to make sign-up easier for families, I’ll help you brainstorm if you’re stuck!

storytimereminders4. Reminder cards for the breaks between sessions. At the last session of storytime, I pass out these cards so parents can stick them on the fridge and have a visual reminder about when the next storytime session will be starting. Hopefully it doesn’t get lost with all the storytime crafts displayed next to it!

5. And as for attendance, I do not require families to attend every week of the session they’ve signed up for. I don’t use strikes or count it against them if they can’t make it. Parents who miss every session do not qualify for roll-over sign-ups, but they always have a chance to re-register, as long as the program is open.

That brings me to the end of Part One! I think the biggest tip I can give with regards to parents and families is to be transparent. Occasionally I’ll have a new mom asking me why we’re not going into the storytime room right away, and once I explain about my five-minute cushion, I get the slow head nod of approval.

By answering questions honestly, and explaining to parents and caregivers the benefits of the rule for *them,* storytime becomes an activity that takes their busy lives into consideration instead of another thing to fit in on the schedule.

11 comments on “Show Me the Awesome!

  1. Jennie
    May 2, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    LOVE the reminder card idea! I’m stealing that!

    Why do you do sign-ups instead of drop-in?

    • Katie
      May 2, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      Drop-in, when I’ve tried it, has not worked here. No one shows up and I have to make the sad storytime face.

      Also, since we’ve got so many neighboring libraries, a lot of them do not do drop-in so they can prove residency at registration. (We don’t, and I have had patrons from other libraries at my storytimes.) From what I’ve seen, it’s not too common around here. (Note: “around here” is the six closest libraries to us.)

  2. Melissa Depper (@MelissaZD)
    May 3, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I love process and rationale posts about storytime and I can’t WAIT to read the rest of this series! You ARE awesome! Taking your quote about being transparent to a storytime training on Monday. Thank you!

    • Katie
      May 11, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      Thank you!

      How did your meeting go?

  3. readingrachel
    May 3, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Have you thought about offering email reminders? I do this for the teachers and find it much quicker to shoot out an email (that can be edited easily from week to week and BCC different participants) instead of making phone calls. Depends on your community needs whether phone or email works better, of course.

    • Katie
      May 11, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      I would love to switch to email reminders. We’re seeing more and more smart phones with our community, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with being able to stop phoning. A lot of our parents still do not have email!

  4. lochwouters
    May 5, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I love it that you answer questions honestly. So many times I have seen library staffers frightened of simply explaining to folks why we are doing what we’re doing in some aspect of service. When we do, we almost always get parent -and kid! -support.

    • Katie
      May 11, 2013 at 11:27 am #

      I believe honesty is beyond important. Instead of saying, “No, your three-year-old can’t go to the craft program because they’re not in kindergarten,” a simple “No, your three-year-old can’t go to the craft program because we’re using scissors and hot glue” puts the library in a caring light instead of a limiting one.

  5. Elaine Melvin
    August 13, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

    I don’t take signups for my storytimes, but I do like to try and have something to mark attendance. So I have two ideas I have used. One is a blank shape (like a Bulletin Board cutout or a notepad page that the kids put their names on. After the name is written, they can tape it onto the wall. Each week I have them add a sticker to their “name tag” on the wall, and the last week they can take it home. Another idea I have used is a progressive piece of art. This was done over 6-8 week session. I chose a theme (like farms, for instance) and the first week they put their names on a paper and added something (like a barn or a tree) that they made as part of their craft time. They glued it to their farm page. Then each week we added another part of the “picture” so at the end they had a farm scene that they had created.

    • Katie
      September 16, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

      Awesome idea!


  1. Librarian Bloggers Launch “Show Me the Awesome” Campaign | School Library Journal - May 30, 2013

    […] librarian Katie Saylo’s five-part entry, “Show me the Awesome: How I Grew Storytime attendance by 61 Percent,” explains how she managed to pull off this impressive feat. “She has a clear specialty, […]

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