Welcome to the first Ask a Storytime Ninja for our Featured July Ninjas! They did a fabulous job, but if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments!
I recently had a baby storytime that two grandparents attended without bringing a baby along with them. Never having had this happen, I wasn’t sure what to do. They pulled up chairs and sat in. However, because I tried to make sure they got something out of it, and was a bit flustered, the only actual baby got pretty restless, and the other caregiver seemed a bit puzzled.
Has this ever happened to you? How did/would you handle it? I hesitate to just ask them to leave, since they were genuinely interested, and since baby storytimes are largely for caregivers.
From Natasha: Although it doesn’t happen often, I have had random people come in to storytime without a child before, just sitting to watch and enjoy being around the little ones. Provided they aren’t disruptive, my usual strategy is to just do storytime as usual, focusing on the families and including the watcher with any comments directed at the adults. I figure the observer will either continue watching/participating or will leave if they realize it’s not what they thought.
I also usually try to chat with them if I can catch them, just to give them a quick spiel about what storytimes “do”, and to find out more about their interest so I can guide them towards times they can attend with a child or direct them towards volunteer opportunities if that’s appropriate.
From Michelle: I have had guests arrive in storytime unannounced as well. It can feel a little awkward when it happens. Ideally people would ask if they can observe and state their intentions before the storytime, but that usually doesn’t happen. During these times, I just continue with the storytime as planned. In this particular situation, I can see how it would feel even more awkward since it is a smaller crowd in the baby storytime. I think what I would have done in that situation, I would have maybe done some introductions. That way the guests could maybe establish why they are observing, and then the regular attendees wouldn’t feel as awkward. However, sometimes guests show up later. If that is the case, I always try and catch them at the end and talk to them a little bit about what the storytime is all about.
From Ingrid: I work for a juggernaut of a library system, and to deal with the largeness of our institution, the powers that be have created a lot of policies. Sometimes the policies feel overreaching and unnecessary, but, other times, they come in handy. The majority of our childless storytime attendees are library school students who need to observe a program in order to satisfy a component of their studies. According to our current policy (and I couldn’t tell you if anyone follows it or not), when these students want to attend a class, they need to make an appointment. This way, in the “If You See Something, Say Something” capital of the country, where many of us tend to skew on the side of suspicious, if a childless person is going to attend class, we know who they are before-hand. Their intentions are obvious and there are no surprises. I can’t say that I’ve seen a childless person attend a storytime who wasn’t a student, but I think a policy like this could cover people like the aforementioned grandparents. It could prevent any sort of awkward situation for you and the other storytime participants. As Youth Services librarians, we tend to be awfully protective of “our children” and I think this is a good thing. I think it’s great that we remain aware of who is in our classes and for what reasons. Policies like this are there to support us and to protect our patrons. As long as we’re all consistent, they can be a great help to us.