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Second Generation Librarian.

I think that I’ve mentioned MPL’s “out in the open” policy with regard to storytimes before: namely, all of our storytimes are to be delivered in open space in the library, rather than behind closed doors, in order to promote our services to newcomers, new users, and customers who are otherwise unaware of programs provided by the library. This has been met with a good deal of success so far, actually, one of the main problems is that we sometimes have more people than the open space in the children’s department can accommodate!

In addition to this change in our storytime philosophy, we’ve also started offering “Storytimes On Demand.” Quite literally, going out and offering storytimes to the people as they’re in the library. We’ve been offering story times on-demand since the beginning of 2009, so this is more or less still a relatively new service for us and I find we’re still trying to work out best practices in terms of delivery: a several stories or just one? 15 minutes or five? In its inception, I provided these services when there we had reached “critical mass” in the children’s department, sometimes giving a storytime on the fly to more than 30 people. And subsequently, the spontaneous story times were a bit longer (about 15 minutes) to compensate for the time it took to gather a decent sized crowd in one location and get all of the kids settled.

One issue we’ve come across is competition from the toy collection that we’ve recently added to each branch at MPL. Being the sort of library diva that I am, storytimes on demand usually fed my need to be centre-stage and to make babies happy, etc. but it was a little nerve-wracking to walk around to the groups of children who were happily running up and down the ramp, jumping around our story nook, playing with cars and legos, and savagely beating each other with cloth blocks and try to peddle books as a more worthwhile activity.

Imagine this if you will: It’s Saturday afternoon, the children’s department is so busy it’s become a sentient, writhing being in its own right. I grab some books and slowly shuffle up to a group of kids gleefully destroying MPL property and their oblivious parents. “Uhm, hey kids – do you want to listen to a story?” (no response.) “Hey, uh… HEYYY YOU GUYYYYSSSS.” (everyone freezes. I’m painfully reminded of my nerd-dom as a zygote). <breathes through mouth and reflexively pushes now non-existent glasses up nose> “Who … uh… who wants to read stories with me? It’ll be fun! Storytime! C’mon!”

At this point, a couple of things can happen:

1) The parents think that I will be putting on a storytime and am asking them to move out of the way and they’re confused and sometimes upset. Or the parents think that I’m asking them if they’ve come for a storytime, and they’re confused. By the time I finish explaining what it is that I’m doing and start the actual storytime, I’ve probably screwed up the break schedule back on desk.

2) The parents are absent and the kids throw blocks at me and say “NOOOOOOOO that’s BOOOORRRRRING!”

3) The parents are enthusiastic and present, but the kids are having a better time playing so they throw blocks at me and say “NOOOOOOOO that’s BOOOORRRRRING!” and then either their parents politely say “Thanks, but no thanks,” or their parents force them to listen and they cry.

4) Everyone is delighted and on board and we have a really awesome time. 😀

Once everyone is settled, (I usually try to collect as many kinder as possible), I read one to three books and do like a “greatest hits” rhyme/song set list and say “goodbye.”

Say goodbye with your feet,

Say goodbye with your knees

Say goodbye with your bottom

Say goodbye with your tummy

Say goodbye with your elbows

Say goodbye with your hair

And say goodbye with your hands! Bye, bye, bye!

(Continued in Part 2…)

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