Saturday, June 21, 2014

Story Time Outreach is Awesome!

Are you hiding from outreach in your community because of time or extra effort?  Perhaps you just don't know where to start, or you don't see the value in it.  Outreach however, in the form of visits to care centers, preschools, or even nursing homes, can be really valuable to the library and to you as a librarian.

I love to do outreach.  I really enjoy taking my show on the road and giving the community a taste of what I do every week in the library.

  • make connections in the community.  I love getting 'hellos' from teachers and aides, and being recognized by the kids.
  • Teachers get to know you and what other services you can provide.  By offering teacher collections and the library calendar, you may see an increase in your attendance and circulation numbers.
  • Speaking of attendance, my program attendance is up! I invite care centers over to attend some programs, and even help them out by having a program or two during school breaks, when they are busier.
  • Instant field trip.  One care center didn't want me to go to them, so why not come over before the library is open for a private story time?
  • Monthly reports - it looks great on your report that you have been out in the community - so why not?
  • Minimal planning, maximum impact. I'm doing story times anyway!
  • The kids LOVE it!  

  • Scheduling - I am not always available on the third Wednesday of the month, for example. 
  • Time - ?  Less than an hour, once a month, isn't too taxing is it?
  • Mindset change - tell us WHY we can't just come to your regular story times again?

Here are some tips for outreach success:
  1. Find out your contact person by checking out the website of the care center and give the director a call.  They will probably be too busy to talk, but at least they have heard your name and you have planted the seed.
  2. Send a followup email with some (SHORT) information.  "I would love to come once a month!  These dates, times are good for me, but we can work out other times too."
  3. If they are slow to respond, talk to the teachers when they come in to the library.  Really sell it. You are providing a personalized service to the teachers, and promoting early literacy with their kids. If they like it, try the director again. "I talked to your teachers, Jack and Ashley, and it sounds like we could really make this work."
  4. Ask questions!  Then really listen.  If they want 15 minute story times, stick to it.  Usually they are on a schedule themselves.  Everyone gets squirrelley when you run into snack or free-play time!
  5. Have a plan.  15 minute story time is 2 books and a flannel board for me. I pull these items from my weekly story time so there is no additional prep.  
  6. Be ready if your plan falls flat.  I bring an extra book, flannel, or puppet. Just-in-case!
  7. If you want a flannel board, CD player, or whatever else you may need, bring it.  You don't know what you will find or what kind of room you will be in. I made my own travel flannel board using a donated canvas, a 1/2 yard of plain flannel on sale, and a staple gun.
  8. Be on time and be patient.
  9. Let the teachers teach.  If there something happening with one of the students, the teacher should be able to take care of it.
  10. Be the reason they are excited for the librarian to come that day.  Have fun and do stories you love to tell.  Sometimes I bring my own 'show and tell' to them.  They can't wait to see what is in my bag.
I have done outreach where I did 7 classrooms in one center visit, or where I visit a preschool in the morning, then back for a multi-generational story time with the preschool and the elders.  I have also encouraged in-house visits.   Really almost all of the work is up front in scoring that regular time.  There is no planning involved outside of my normal story times, and I get a chance to practice my books and flannels one more time.  If you have a rough start, or the outreach isn't working, try something else (another time or day?  What about an in-house visit or off hours?).

Stay positive and enjoy it!  Thanks for dropping by!

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