Ask a Storytime Ninja: Low Storytime Attendance

A round of applause for our fabulous December ninjas! What a great set of women to end the year on. This question is all about attendance and what to do when it seems to be getting smaller. As always, chime in on the comments if you have any suggestions for our question asker.


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The Question: 

Over the last two years, attendance in my storytimes have dropped significantly. Before it was 8-12 kids per week, and now we’re lucky to get two. Has anyone else experienced this in their storytimes? I am in a small town (about 1500 people), but I don’t know what else I can do to get more preschoolers into the library.


The Answers:


Alyssa says: 

We’ve run into that from time to time at my library and some of our branches. We seem to get a good core group of 8-12 and within a few years, they move onto Kindergarten, and we have to start over.

Our Storytime numbers have also dwindled because we have lots of parents/grandparents may have been bringing in the little ones in the past, but now have to work. I think this is an issues lots of libraries are running into. I second Natalie’s suggestion of trying evening and weekend storytimes. One of our branches hosts a weekend storytime once a month and it has worked out very well for many parents.

Don’t forget about advertising programs outside of the library (I am guilty of this). Talk to local business and see if you can hang up the library’s monthly schedule. Ask your local WIC office if you can leave fliers for parents to take.


Natalie says: 

We’ve experienced that as well. Are they attending preschool? If so, when? You may want to move around the times or days you offer storytimes and see what happens. You can also coordinate with your local preschool and run a storytime just for them on an evening. You can also offer all ages storytimes on the weekend and evenings for the working parents.


Also, do you offer other programs for preschoolers that aren’t storytimes? Maybe look into doing a movement class or a sensory play. I just ran an adorable drive in movie using cardboard boxes that I found by looking at what other libraries are doing.


Andrea says: 

I think fluctuation to a point is normal. You could always try switching the days or times that you hold storytime to see if that brings in more kids. Maybe you have a lot of parents who work, and a weekend or evening storytime would be more popular. (Plus, if you hold storytime in the evening, you get the excuse to wear pajamas at work, which is always fun.) You could also try an after school family style storytime to see if that brings the hordes back to the library.


Since you mentioned you were in a small town, I’m going to assume that you don’t have a separate outreach department. (Shame on me for assuming, if that is not the case, but I am going to run with it.) That means it’s up to you to bring the library to where the kiddos are! Start with your local childcare centers and preschools. See if they would like to host a library storytime monthly or weekly or whatever your schedule allows. Type up the list of books you read and the songs and rhymes you use so that each child can take a paper home. Be sure to include the library logo and information on that sheet of paper so that when a parent sees it, he or she can look up the library for more information. You can include a calendar of events for the upcoming week or month on that sheet, as well. (Be sure to mention that events are FREE!)


After you cover the childcares, if you still have time and energy, try your local pediatrician’s office. They may let you leave information about the library in their waiting rooms. During nice weather, your local park may let the library hold outdoor storytime events. Is there a favorite local hangout for moms, like an ice cream parlor? See if they want a storytime held there! Get outside the library, and sniff those kids (and maybe some ice cream too, while you’re at it) out!


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