Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Give Me a Break

For those who are just tuning in, back in early March, a survey popped up on Mel's desk based on a Twitter discussion.  We were curious about what all of us were doing-how many story times, how many staff, how many programs, etc.  The first set of results appeared here and discussed non-story time programming.  Today's post will focus on story time breaks.

At my library, breaks are extremely important.  Not only do they allow you to reenergize before the next story time session, but this is when I fit in professional development, weeding, special projects, and those thousand tasks that I just don't have time for during a story time week.  We run our story times in 5-6 week sessions and have a 3 week break afterwards.  This isn't exact-sometimes around the holidays, the break ends up a bit longer.  In 2014, we will have story time for 30 weeks (6 5 week sessions) and will be on break for 22 weeks.  We've tried different methods of breaking up the sessions, but this is what works for us and our community.

Below shows the results of us asking, "Do you take breaks in between sessions, or weeks off from regular weekly story times?"

Do you have a story time break?

It surprised me that the "No" category is so high.  Let's talk about possible reasons that I have heard in the past.

Story time is my favorite part of my job!
I get that.  I love story time too.  I am really excited when it starts.  It allows me to meet all of the families at a young age.  I also love coming up with new ways to promote early literacy. On the other hand, isn't there anything else that you would like to try?  My breaks are when I can pull out dance parties, toddler crafts, and iPad programming.  These are the things that don't fit in the regular schedule, but I still love to do them.

If I stop doing story time, the families won't come back.
I get it.  This is a legitimate concern, especially for smaller libraries.   We have always been lucky and breaks have figured into our schedule, but we have fiddled with lengths.  One year we had month-long breaks (one month on and one month off).  I thought our parents were going to throw a fit.  By the time you remember to come to story time again, the session is over.  We went back to three week breaks because that is how long most of our books circulate.  Also, we are able to remind parents in the last week that they are able to register for the next session in another week.

For those libraries who just aren't ready to try a break yet, why don't you do a couple of weeks of traditional story time, then a week of early literacy stations, followed by a week of toddler crafts?  Keep it at the same time, but change it up a bit.  Story times are extremely important for early literacy and libraries, but so are crafts where kids can work on fine motor skills which will prepare them to write or early literacy stations that show parents how to replicate the effort at home.

Keep in mind, though, that these are just my thoughts and opinions.  You will have to do what is best for both you and your community.  You know what you can handle on a given week and what will or will not work.


  1. My colleague works for the school district, not the library, so she is not available when school is not in session. I don't have any backup - not for programs, desk time, or anything else in my department - so if I don't schedule breaks I would be working year-round with no time off! If I had more people in my department I might do shorter breaks, but you still need time to regroup, work on projects, plan programs, and clean out the storage room...

  2. So glad to see you addressing the issue of breaks. I have seen alot of trepidation (mentioned in the survey no-break-takers) and tradition that keeps people from building in time for re-energizing, CE, conferences, service to other age groups,vacations, introduction of new types of early literacy programs etc. Once people start to take breaks, most see that their concerns were unfounded. Patrons do return. If storytimes are to entertain, than fear of losing the audience might be real. If storytimes are to model and help provide parents with the early lit support they need to be their child's first teacher, it seems that breaks are easily incorporated since parents have the tools that you provided to keep modeling awesome early lit work with their kids!

  3. Thanks Lisa! Another argument I have heard is for continuity of service for storytime families. Not worried that they won't come back if there's a break, but knowing that schedules are hectic and if parents and caregivers know that there is always going to be a storytime at 10 on Tuesdays, when they have that time free they can come and not worry about if there will be a session or not when they get there. I am in favor of breaks for many reasons, but I am sympathetic to this argument as well. However, I also think that there are things we can do to provide "special treats" during breaks, such as unique toys set out, or passive activity stations, so that if families do come expecting storytime, there will still be something a little out of the ordinary for them to do during their visit.


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