Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Storytime in the Wild

Over the past year or so, we've been putting a fair amount of intention behind the partitioning of our youth department into spaces designated for specific age ranges. Part of the impetus for this delineation of space is to ensure that all ages of youth who visit have an area to go to that is suited to their developmental needs and has materials and other items that are appropriate to them. One prime example is the Little Learners area, which is designated for youth ages 4-7--prime early and emerging literacy years. I've written before about the themed pocket collections we've developed for this space, and major programs we've hosted have often had elements take place in this area, too (think our Family Science Expo and Curious George Birthday Party, both huge events). This summer we've started doing something else in the space on the regular: storytimes.

I like to call this kind of initiative going out "in the wild" of the library--those spaces where people are every single day, but don't often have a formal mode of interacting with the space. It's our goal that, in offering age-specific programming in these age-delineated spaces, we're helping patrons develop a level of familiarity with the areas we're tailoring to them. It's a work in progress, but we're seeing these types of repeated program offerings reinforcing the models of use we optimally want to see.

When it comes to offering storytime in our Little Learners area, it means making slight furniture adjustments within the somewhat-partitioned area we've already got. The space is generally blocked off from the main thoroughfare of the library by a set of zig-zag shelves (on which we display our Little Learners take-home backpacks on one side, and most wanted picture books and readers on the other); there's still plenty of room to accessibly get into the space, but there is a visual sense of distinction. There's also one of the themed bins that helps create a lane along an architectural wall. Usually, there are two tables with kid-sized chairs in the space; for storytime, we orient those tables and chairs so they're facing a set of display shelves beneath a colorful mural--a perfect backdrop for a storytime leader. Kids have plenty of space to sit on the carpet in the front, and there are chairs for caregivers. Anecdotally, I think that caregiver participation is perhaps higher than we see in larger storytime spaces simply because the area is so cozy. The end result is a storytime that is engaging and inviting--anyone walking by can see and join if they want--while also introducing families to a space created specifically for their use with their kids ages 4-7.

We've been making other experiments in bringing programming into the wild in the past few months, too, with particular adventures this summer. I'll report back with more later on!

Until then, I'm curious: how do you think about taking programs into the wilds of the library, if you do so at all? Have you found it works better with certain programs with others? Certain ages?

And in case you're mostly curious about my storytime...

We read:
  • The Crocodile and the Scorpion by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
  • There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
  • Mix It Up! by HervĂ© Tullet
  • That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
We sang:
  • "Open, Shut Them"
  • "Herman the Worm"
  • "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree"
  • "If You're Happy and You Know It"

3 comments:

  1. Advantage to having storytimes in the Children's Area (where the books are): you gather in families that didn't know there's a storytime. Disadvantage: since there are no walls, sound travels and can bother other patrons in the library if there are too many kids.

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  2. Do you have age specific signage in your different areas? We have recently tried to define a space for elementary ages and still have little ones who have a lot of interest in the area.

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    1. Lisa, we have a mixture of signage at this point. The Little Learners area that I reference in particular in this post has the most recently-revised signage, and it's purposefully very colorful and ties back to the five early literacy practices (you can see a bit of it in the upper right corner of the storytime picture). I think we have the goal of similar tailored signage in other areas of the youth department, but want to figure out the best wording, design, and word treatment for each space. I'll keep folks posted on the blog!

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