- Know your audience.
- Know what you can handle (this includes how many kids).
- Know what you are trying to accomplish.
We started using nametags in Fall 2008 because we had to start registration for all of our programs. At our location, we hold story time in a large meeting room with a maximum capacity of 100 people. We were getting 60 kids, plus siblings and parents for some of our story times. It was chaos-we didn't have enough props for all of the kids (shakers, scarves, etc.) and the room was too loud for the kids to hear the stories. This was not a meaningful experience for anyone (me included).
For our next set of sessions, we started registration. We told all of the parents ahead of time. Those who had attended one of our 60+ kid sessions understood the reasoning behind registration. After all, we were after the best possible experience for their children. Since this was the first time that we started registration, we didn't enforce it. We wanted to see if it worked and to get people used to the whole registration process. We made it as easy as possible-we use the Evanced Events calendar so people can register in person, over the phone, or on their own computer.
The next step:
If you have registration, you need a way to keep attendance. Otherwise, why would people bother to register? Are the people attending who should? Our events calendar automatically sends reminder emails. If people don't attend for 2 or more weeks, we contact them to see if they are still interested in the program. Do you have a lot of people sneaking in? We had a lot of this in the beginning. By using nametags that all look alike, we were able to easily identify those people who snuck into programs. Then we could explain our registration policy after the program and hand them a calendar of events.
No matter what you do, there will always be issues. Our biggest problem was that nonresidents would fill all of the spaces in the first 30 minutes of registration. This made our residents, who are taxpayers (and basically pay my salary), upset. Our solution for this is to offer priority registration for our residents 2 weeks ahead of time. We open up all of our program registrations 1 week ahead of time for everyone.
In addition, all of your librarians (or people who deal with the public) should be on the same page and have the same answers. If someone isn't registered for a program, will you let them in? If you have a mom telling their child that the mean librarian will not let them in, will you stand firm?
We are fortunate enough to have an AccuCut die cutting machine at our Main Library with some basic dies. We are also close to our local Intermediate School District who has a wide assortment of dies. Each session gets a set of die cut nametags in a specific shape and color (for example-green frogs, red apples, white sheep, etc.). We have a 3M Heat Free Laminator in the building and all of the shapes are run through the laminator and cut out. For our 2 year old, preschool, and school age sessions, we string the nametags with yarn. For the baby sessions, we use packing tape on the back of the nametag for the parents to stick to the baby's back (or the adult's front).
Since we do take attendance, we use stickers on the nametags to mark who attends each week. The kids love the stickers!
For us, premade nametags work. It may not be the same for you. At our location, we run 9 story times a week, 8 of which are in the mornings. With a 30-minute program, we have under 30 minutes in between programs to get people out, reset the room, and let people start coming in. This is where knowing what you can handle comes into play.
For one-time programs (pretty much everything other than story time), we use Avery 5163 labels. They are large enough that you can add some clip art to fit your program and type in the child's name, but small enough that they will still fit on a child's shirt.
The early literacy connection:
I like to be in the program room 5-10 minutes ahead of time because the kids who get there early love to talk. Here are some of the fun things that you can talk about using their nametags:
- What does your nametag say? Mine says something different. It says Mrs. Lisa. Do you see any of the same letters?
- What shape is your nametag? What does a frog say?
- What color is your nametag? What is your favorite color? Do you see anything green around the room?
Random nametag fun:
- Kids love taking their nametags home after the last class in a session. I have heard of kids playing story time at home and making their stuffed animals wear the nametags. I have also had kids come back with their nametags from every session throughout a year around their neck (just like fancy necklaces).
- Last week in our 2 year old story time session, the kids were using their cow nametags to talk to each other. None of them used words-I just heard a lot of mooing.