Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How Much is Too Much?

A couple of weeks out on the Twitterverse, Melissa (of Mel's Desk fame) tossed out a question asking how many story times we all did each week with how many staff.  In addition to answering her, I asked the additional question of what's your minimum number of programs that you do weekly?  We started a conversation, which turned into an online questionnaire, and now we have results.

As a newer manager, I have recently been asking a lot of questions. 
  • How much programming should we be doing?  
  • Does this include story times?  
  • Is there a minimum number of programs that staff should be doing? 
  • Is there a maximum?  
  • At what point does burnout occur and can we prevent it?
  • Should every staff member have to do programs?
If it were up to our public, I have a feeling that we would be doing programming 24 hours, 7 days a week, but that just isn't possible with our other librarian tasks.  My goal is to find a happy balance.

Number of non-story time programs in an average week

All I can say about this chart is "Wow".  As professional librarians, we recognize that story time isn't our entire programming repertoire.  This makes me really happy because it gives me data to take back to my staff.  I would love it if we could coordinate at least one non-story time program per week at my location.  I am a big believer that you need to get kids in while they are young, keep them as they grow (like with great programs and books), and eventually they will be both parents bringing their own kids and taxpayers supporting us.

Surveys are great tools, but you shouldn't interpret their results in a vacuum.  What I mean by this is that it is important to go out and ask other people in similar positions questions so you have more information to better interpret the results.  Luckily last week I attended the PLA 2014 Conference.  You may recognize me as that person who quizzed you about your programming methods.  What I found is that there is no standard answer.  You need to do what is best for your community.  I found that in a significant portion of public libraries that all YS staff program in some way.  This includes libraries who split up their librarians with fancy titles, such as School Services Librarian or Preschool Services Librarian.  On the other hand, many people brought up the Baltimore model where a select group of professionals run all of the story times and do it really well.

So what does this all mean?  You could say, "Half of the respondents do 1 or less non-story time programs a week."  With this thought you don't need to add more because you are just too busy or some other excuse.  Otherwise, you can say, "Half of the respondents do at least 2 non-story time programs a week!  I wish we could find a way to add at least 1 to our programming line-up."  With this attitude, first, I as a manager would LOVE you.  Then I would help you to make this work.  There are a lot of great ideas out there in blogland,  Pinterest, and the passive programming world.  Make it work for you and your community.  This is one of those areas that they don't teach in library school.

Look for more great survey results coming soon to both Libraryland and Mel's Desk.


  1. Great work. I just finished teaching a six week course on programming and one of my BIGGEST surprises was how little programming outside of storytime during the school year was done by the class. Our week focused on school -age programming was fraught. So many participants felt inadequate and as if they weren't doing anything and couldn't do anything. It was eye-opening and a little sad. Blog post from me ahead I bet. Thank you for this - it confirms that difficulty I saw anecdotally as well!

    1. Thanks! I love that it supported what I was thinking. Plus, some people think of programming as a SCARY thing. It doesn't have to be-there are great passive programming ideas out there now.

  2. does anyone else out there get short of breath when delivering 15 minutes of baby/toddler songs and rhymes? I don't remember feeling so winded before, and now I'm wondering if that's normal. Perhaps I am just projecting my voice more because the crowds have been larger.


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