I work at the main branch of a large library district and my branch is very much a destination branch. Even though other branches have opened since my branch opened, it's the main branch, the largest, and it's a big draw for our community. Add in the fact that the business area around my library has really built up and we have a lot of traffic. A lot of our traffic is toddler and preschool and we get large crowds for our storytimes, especially in the summer. We do six storytimes a week and average around 12-25 kids per storytime. Sometimes it's a lot more, sometimes it's a lot less. So storytime breaks are something we value very much at my branch. We take off the entire month of May (to prep for summer reading and make school visits to talk about summer reading), entire month of December (due to low attendance numbers in this month), and a few weeks in August after summer reading (mostly to give us some catch up time after summer reading to prep for the Fall session of storytime).
I love having planning breaks. They are wonderful refreshers, I have a chance to prep my upcoming programs and storytimes, and I have a chance to evaluate the last session of storytimes and see what I want to continue or change. But no matter how long we've done storytime breaks (for years!) and no matter how much we advertise, there's always someone who comes in for storytime. This happens even when we do have storytime and someone comes in on a non-storytime day or time. Somedays I think I could have a non-stop loop of storytime happening and that would be OK. I might go a bit crazy though! :)
So this December, I was inspired by these two lovely bloggers to try something new. Amy gave me the idea of take home storytime kits. Mine were a bit different, as I didn't advertise the theme on the kit as Amy did, but the idea was the same. My staff and I collected two-three books per bundle (we tried to stick to a theme like jungle, farm, but that wasn't required). We also tried to make sure we had a toddler book, preschool book, and if we could find a good one a non-fiction book to highlight all of our resources. We added one CD per bundle and tied it up in a nice bow. I had cards that said "Take Home Storytime Kit" printed off in nice bright colors that we tied to each bundle. On the front of the cards I included a rhyme or fingerplay and the Racing to Read Skill (our early literacy program at the library) each bundle was focused on. On the back, I wrote down the title and the barcode of each item, so they could take the entire bundle up front to check out without having to untie it.
We had so many compliments and patrons who loved the storytime kits. They really loved the themes and asked if we could keep doing theme bundles (so far I haven't kept it up-I think it will be a special display for off months due to the amount of work it takes to create each bundle and keep up the display). Thanks Amy for the great idea!!
(Our Cookie Club Windows)
From Marge, I borrowed the idea of the Cookie Club. My cookie club has been running since December 1st and will run until the end of February, so I went a bit longer than Marge's club. Kids come to the desk and join the Cookie Club, which is basically receiving a small business card with the information on the front and blank on the back for stamps. Each time a child comes into the library, they get a stamp on their card and can decorate a "cookie" (a brown construction paper circle) and hang it in our window. We have to large windows that look into our workroom and I'm always trying to think of creative ways to decorate them-they look so great with lots of cookies filling the window!
When they get six stamps of their card, they get invited to our super special secret invite only Cookie Club party that is only for members where will we read books, sing songs, and eat cookies! The party will be in March and the goal is to get people into the library as much as possible during the slow months of winter.
So far, the kids have been loving it. They love getting stamps on their cards and they love decorating cookies. And if you tell someone it's a super special secret invite only party-of course they want to be there! It's been a great success and was nice to give the kids something to do (decorate cookies) when we had our storytime break. Thanks Marge for the great idea!!