We’re starting off this month of questions with a hard one! How much is too much? Feel free to chime in on the comments if you have some great tips to offer!
How much is too much? I’m a new librarian and the only youth services librarian at my branch. The teen librarian and a programming librarian do some kid-oriented programs, but mostly for the older elementary kids. Reaching out to kids 0-8 is really my domain.
I’ve given myself six months to settle in and now I have lots of ideas about how I’d like my job to look. There are some unsuccessful programs I plan on discontinuing and holes I’d like to fill, but I’m just one person. I’m worried about stretching myself too thin as much as I am worried about not having enough to do. I also don’t want to overwhelm our patrons with too many new storytime options.
You definitely don’t want to do too much and burn yourself out. Can you establish programs for different ages on the same day? For example, Mondays is for babies, Tuesdays are for toddlers, Wednesdays for K-2, and then one evening All Ages program. That’s four programs a week. If that seems too much, you can narrow it down to three in the beginning and slowly add once you get assimilated into the new position. We’re a department of three and offer usually one program per day and some of them we hire out.
I’m glad you took the time to settle in, become familiar with the workings of your library, and get to know your patrons’ wants and needs! The simple advice would be to ask your patrons what they want and to then start small. Add one program or event at a time, and see how you feel. Start with the areas you feel are the most lacking. If you see TONS of small toddlers and infants, add a storytime for them. If you’re still ready for more after that, take on a preschool storytime. If after that, you’re still saying, “Give it to me, man. I can take it,” then add an after school program like Lego Club once a week for your 5-8 year-olds. (A Lego Club almost runs itself.) While most storytimes are weekly, you can add monthly “special” programs for ages 0-5 and for 5-8 that shouldn’t be as stressful as weekly programs. Depending on your budget, you can also hire performers or the like to lead programs for you, which then takes less preparation on your part. You can also utilize volunteers to help with program prep, if that’s available to you. And remember, take care of yourself first. Add slowly, and don’t be afraid to cut back or ask for help. “Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.”
Basically everything Andrea said! A few things to add:
-I would look at the programming holes you wanted to fill, and maybe tackle 1 or 2 of those programs first. Since they’re already on your radar, you won’t be doing a lot of “reinventing the wheel” in terms of creating a ton of new programming to start off.
-Once you start a program (or programs), be sure to reevaluate them from time to time. I like to review things every three months. It gives you a chance to see what aspects of the program are working and what you may need to change.
-Collaborate when possible. We have a monthly Saturday program (usually craft oriented) for ages 5-11. Perhaps you could try something similar and trade off every other month with the librarian who programs for older children.
-Don’t be afraid to say no. Staff members and patrons can have awesome ideas for programs but it doesn’t mean you have to do them right away. Keep a list of programming suggestions and refer to it for ideas from time to time.
-Take care of yourself!