Concerned that whatever I try I have low program turnout - how to justify that at interviews

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Book Lady in Grand Rapids, Michigan

64 months ago

As a children's librarian my job WOULD be fulfilling if only people would come to my story times and book-talks. Lately I've had to leave off book-related activities in favor of an open period in which I do games and simple crafts with whatever kids show up twice a week. That's been moderately successful, with usually 6-8 kids coming and going over a 2-hour period in our town of 12,000 (of whom about 2,000 are under 18), but I'm worried this still isn't very good turnout.

The real self-confidence problem is that I have low-to-NO turnout for storytimes and other book-related activities, which are staples of children's library service, so I feel like this is going to be a problem if I interview for other library jobs and that I can never move up. The thought that jobs are very transient is what scares me - what if I get laid off and have to take a new job, or if I need to get a second job (this job is part-time)

I've tried everything I can think of to recruit young families to storytime: fliers, newspaper and cable tv announcements, etc. We just aren't very cohesive as a community, which means there isn't much word of mouth, nor do we have a Friends of the Library group. (If we had a Friends group we could start a newsletter, but at the present time we can't afford it) My supervisor thinks I've done all I can and then some. She says this is a very hard community to reach - but how can I explain my lack of storytime turnout if I ever have to interview for another job (p.s. I do go do storytime at the local Head Start and day care centers as often as I can, but this only amounts to a couple times a year). Please, some advice on how to handle questions about my lack of storytime turnout if interviewers bring it up?

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Maria Wolff in Rochester Hills, Michigan

64 months ago

How very frustrating! Kudos to you for thinking of going into the local daycare centers, that's a great start! Have you approached your local schools? (Kindergarten through K2?) That might be an option.

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frallen2002@yahoo.com in Northville, Michigan

64 months ago

Maria Wolff in Rochester Hills, Michigan said: How very frustrating! Kudos to you for thinking of going into the local daycare centers, that's a great start! Have you approached your local schools? (Kindergarten through K2?) That might be an option.

Hi. That's a good idea, except that since I can only have one storytime, I really need to target preschoolers as a priority. Still, I'll ask about doing storytime in the K-1 classrooms at our local school in the fall. Thanks for your moral support.

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Kathy in Green Bay, Wisconsin

64 months ago

You're probably also got working parents who can't come during the day.... might want to do an evening storyhour - for parents and siblings....

Have you thought of making Story Time into a club..... Use your 6-8 preschoolers and make a big poster with their name on it. Get some stars and give them a star for every week they bring a new friend.... (after say 3 times, the new friend becomes a member and doesn't count anymore) Really promote the first kick off and give a book prize to the first person who comes in the door and brings a friend and have their picture taken for the newspaper. Give out other prizes to the others who bring their first friend too. Occassionally give bookmark prizes, posters, pencils, coupons and giftcertificates (what you can get free).

Make special Club buttons with their name on them to wear during storytime.

Have attendance boards with other stickers on them...

Preschoolers can be real hams.... get a video of them talking about their favorite book they read and put it on the web.... another camera sticker for each video....

Have a Bring Grandma/Grandpa day (most caregivers are now the grandparents!) and use the Mercer Mayer book Grandma and me! or Grandpa and me! You could probably find clipart to make stickers of Grandma and Grandpa. As stupid as it may seem, maybe one day go to the senior center when they have a special event (flu shots?) and offer your services to tell stories (have a nurse cap or doctor bag sticker)

Crafts are great, but make sure there are books sitting out that relate to the theme that they can check out (probably you're already doing that!)

Whatever you do, don't give up! These are the readers of the future!

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Brandy in Tremonton, Utah

59 months ago

Has your storytime turnout gotten better?

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Brandy in Tremonton, Utah

59 months ago

We send fliers out to all the elementary schools, actually deliver them in person. We also put ads in the local paper, and put posters in laundry mats and grocery stores. It really helps.

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Kelli in Los Angeles, California

55 months ago

I'm in the same position as the OP. Children just don't come to storytime much anymore (and mine is held in the afternoon). I've also switched to a general arts/crafts program instead of the traditional storytime readings, songs, etc. There is just too much competition for the parents' and childrens' time -they choose computers, afterschool activities, and tutoring over storytime. Which is understandable .. storytime is a dying thing- it's not modern enough. As far as moving up or interviewing - there is no reason anyone needs to know what your storytime attendance is during in an interview - it's enough to let them know you do it.

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Brandy in Tremonton, Utah

55 months ago

Do the grade schools in your area have an early out day? We have found that if we have storytimes a half hour after early out, we get a bigger turn out. Also, we have approached day cares and preschools. Tremonton City Library does a story time on Friday mornings specifically for a daycare nearby. It works very well. A couple times a year we take flyers to all the schools, preschools and bigger daycare centers, as well as posting them at local grocery stores and laundrymats. Also, we have worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs. DON'T GIVE UP. I have created a blog to help too: wwww.storytimecrafts.org

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gladeslibrarian in West Palm Beach, Florida

55 months ago

just fyi ... your link has 4 W's in it.

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mary in Tampa, Florida

55 months ago

How much advertising do you do for Story Hour? There should be a set of Flyers on the counter (nice simple black and white), made fun looking, telling about story hour, dates and hours, who will handle it.

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Brandy in Tremonton, Utah

55 months ago

gladeslibrarian in West Palm Beach, Florida said: just fyi ... your link has 4 W's in it.

Hahaha, what a dork I'm sorry. Thanks for pointing it out.

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Suzanne in Tulsa, Oklahoma

47 months ago

Kathy in Green Bay, Wisconsin said: You're probably also got working parents who can't come during the day.... might want to do an evening storyhour - for parents and siblings....

Have you thought of making Story Time into a club..... Use your 6-8 preschoolers and make a big poster with their name on it. Get some stars and give them a star for every week they bring a new friend.... (after say 3 times, the new friend becomes a member and doesn't count anymore) Really promote the first kick off and give a book prize to the first person who comes in the door and brings a friend and have their picture taken for the newspaper. Give out other prizes to the others who bring their first friend too. Occassionally give bookmark prizes, posters, pencils, coupons and giftcertificates (what you can get free).

Make special Club buttons with their name on them to wear during storytime.

Have attendance boards with other stickers on them...

Preschoolers can be real hams.... get a video of them talking about their favorite book they read and put it on the web.... another camera sticker for each video....

Have a Bring Grandma/Grandpa day (most caregivers are now the grandparents!) and use the Mercer Mayer book Grandma and me! or Grandpa and me! You could probably find clipart to make stickers of Grandma and Grandpa. As stupid as it may seem, maybe one day go to the senior center when they have a special event (flu shots?) and offer your services to tell stories (have a nurse cap or doctor bag sticker)

Crafts are great, but make sure there are books sitting out that relate to the theme that they can check out (probably you're already doing that!)

Whatever you do, don't give up! These are the readers of the future!

Re: Rewards...
So the children who didn't successfully market for you can feel inadequate because theirs names are not written on the board with big glossy stars like the other children? Rewards/prizes for this is not a good idea.

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Suzanne in Tulsa, Oklahoma

47 months ago

I don't think rewards or prizes should be used as motivators.

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Book Lady in Northville, Michigan

47 months ago

Hi, It's me, the orginal poster back again. I want to thank everyone who gave me advice about story time turnout, but the problem is bigger than that - it's about community AND administration AND co-worker committment to the library as a whole. I didn't want to come right out and say that before, but that's the real issue - most people are trying to just take care of their own survival here in the metro Detroit area, and they don't see the library as a useful part of the community, but yet the library stays because of unions, government bureaucracy, etc. I'm trying not to be elitist (that's why I didn't want to post this before) but I want my job to be more than about survival - I want it to be about making a difference in the community I serve. People seem to think this is an elitist way to think because I have the "luxury" of thinking beyond my immediate survival, and thinking about my life having purpose. Should I feel guilty that I have this "luxury" when much of the community I serve is just worried about making the rent? I am fully aware that at any moment I myself could be in the same situation!!!

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brandy in Tremonton, Utah

47 months ago

Suzanne in Tulsa, Oklahoma said: I don't think rewards or prizes should be used as motivators.

what would you use for a motivator then?

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Book Lady in Northville, Michigan

47 months ago

Hi, It's Book Lady, the O.P. again. I agree that prizes are overused in todays' world. One partial success I've had in the time since first posting the topic is that I have soft foam blocks which the kids could play with after listening to the story. (I already have had kids of all ages clamor to play with the blocks during my multi-age program "Hang Out with the Youth Librarian" which is a 2-hour weekly after school program in which all ages can join me for informal playtime (building-appropriate games, crafts and other activities).

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ardentanglophile in Redmond, Washington

46 months ago

You originally posted because you were concerned about justifying low turn of your programming out during interviews. I wondered if you have been interviewing? I am trying to find a children's librarian job, but I do not get responses because of my lack of experience. I have volunteer experience as storytime reader, working in an elementary school library, and tutoring elementary school students in reading, but that does not generate interest for employers.

Book Lady, since you are employed...what advice do you have for potential job seekers? Do you think employers favor a younger labor pool? I am 46 and I still want to work in this industry.

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Book Lady in Northville, Michigan

46 months ago

Hi. I want so much to be able to offer you advice, but unfortunately am in the same situation myself. As I come up with ideas, I'll surely share them with you, but for now all I can say is to try to focus on 1.) riding out this miserable economy (hopefully you have some other job that's helping pay the bills) 2.) Get career counseling or informational interviewing from someone who has been more successful in the field than I have. 3.) Develop any skills, whether or not for this particular line of work, which will boost both your marketable skills and maintain/bolster your self-confidence (see the book "A Class with [Peter] Drucker" by William Cohen for an excellent chapter about how successful leaders apply this).

I will say that I don't think age is the issue. I too am in my mid-forties, and see many people enter the field who are in this age-range. It is a matter of both having the right experience (which you seem to) and "that piece of paper" known as the MLS. From the times when I have gotten interviews (rarer in the past couple years probably due to the economy) I get the feeling that supervisory or grant-writing experience are beneficial. I myself will seek a grant-writing course in January.

Good luck, and please let me know if I can be helpful at all.

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ardentanglophile in Redmond, Washington

46 months ago

Thanks Book lady for your prompt response. That is encouraging to hear about the age issue. I am torn between returning to school in order to get a school librarian position. I love students and my friend who is in the field told me that some districts will add a bonus for employment! Somehow I think it might garner more job offer.

I had thought of starting a blog about my odyssey of unemployment and volunteer jobs, and all the steps necessary to get a job, and still be unemployed. My blog would not be limited to continuing to read the fabulous young adult/children's literature out there. I even thought that I could post pictures of an event I am thinking of hosting at my apartment complex (I am currently employed as a leasing supervisor) where I advertise that we will be having a kid event: making gingerbread houses...
Say goodbye to your typical job hunt and sitting isolated at home typing cover letters. I think it is more and more "show me what you can do and how it is different from everyone else!"

Book lady, at least you are in an enviable position....you are employed in the field!!!

Did you have any coursework in college for running children's programs? I see "programming" experience is a big requirement for even getting an interview!

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mabehm in Des Moines, Iowa

42 months ago

Our community is much larger and sometimes we only get 5 or 6 people and there are times where we get no one. In small towns it can be harder depending on the types of jobs mom and dad have, the importance of reading and the library to the family, as well as the number of school activities going on. 6-8 to a program doesn't sound bad to me. Do the same kids return to the programs or do you get new people? Focus on the quality of your programs and how they affect those that attend. If you have done all the promotion possible, and the attendees have a great time, don't get down about the attendance. I look at success as a librarian by gauging the difference I make in an individual's life one day at a time.

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