Category Archives: Ask a Storytime Ninja

Announcing: a virtual Guerrilla Storytime for Social Justice

By now, I hope you have read our Storytime for Social Justice Kit and started thinking about the Social Justice Blog challenge. Today we are thrilled to announce our next virtual Guerrilla Storytime to go alone with our Social Justice Challenge. On Friday, January 6, we will be posting Guerrilla Storytime for Social Justice questions all day long on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #StorytimeJusticeWarrior.




Follow along, share your answers with our community, and learn a great new resource or tip to help you with your own Storytime for Social Justice challenge. Not sure what a question means or why it is an issue? Just ask!


After the event, we’ll be posting a roundup of all the questions here, so check back to make sure you don’t miss anything great!


From the Archives- storytime behavior

Maybe you’re having some issues with storytime behavior. Or maybe you are new to the Storytime Underground Community. (Welcome! We’re so happy you’re here!) Either way, today I’m going to highlight some of the great content from our archives that you can use!


You know about our Ask a Storytime Ninja posts, right? Check it out, there’s great stuff there!

Lately, I’ve been reading and learning from all the amazing ninja advice about behavior in storytime. First up, how do you set expectations and explain the rules? Our awesome ninjas address rules!

And what about parents who don’t follow the rules? You know, the ones who chat or play on their phones or treat you like a babysitter? Check out some ninja advice!

Got a question for our ninjas? Ask it here!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Overcrowded Storytimes

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for this week which is a bit longer but a tough one:




The Question:


“My library has an attendance problem at story time…. we have WAY too many people at story times that we are regularly far exceeding the fire code for our storytime room (we’re consistently getting 60 – 80 people at several of our storytimes). We’ve talked about a variety of options. We’re spreading our storytimes out over the week (and adding one new time slot) hoping that we will no longer get families who come for the first of the day and stay for all three sessions. But we are really at capacity for the number of storytimes we can offer. We’re also discussing shutting the door and not allowing late arrivals. Which helps cut the numbers down, but still not really enough. We would like to avoid advanced registration or tickets (as neighboring libraries do this and it is big bone of contention among our families and the biggest comment we got on a recent parent survey was thanking us for not doing this) but it is not off the table entirely. Does anyone have any suggestions for other things we may not be thinking of?
And a follow up: does anyone have or seen a sign they particularly like the language of about no late admittance to storytime? I want something positive and upbeat, but that gets the point across. And keeps the parent from pounding on the door trying to get someone to let them in. Thanks!”


The Answers:


From Michelle M.:


I know sometimes advanced registration or tickets seems really discouraging but it is a necessary evil. That is great that you really want to accommodate your patrons and their children, but it comes to a point where it may not be feasible or when it is, it poses too much stress on the staff. I would not allow families to attend more than one session of storytime, due to overcrowding and I make that clear in the summer before anyone starts to register that is the case. Anyhow we do the same thing each program, so I can’t imagine that they would want to do it over, but who knows, maybe some don’t mind??

In my situation, I am the sole children’s librarian at my library. I’m not sure how it is where you work, but it appears that if you have multiple storytimes, it is a possibility that you could have more than one librarian. Anyhow, there is a good possibility due to limited staff that we would not have anyone to downstairs in the children’s room to discourage late arrivals. We could put up a sign but even though we have had a few late arrivals, we had not gotten to the point where we have too many people in the room. In the summer, where there are more kids, I have two programs and that works for me. I guess you may be in a community with a large population, perhaps a lot bigger than mine.

If you are able to have multiple sessions and each family could only attend one, that would be a big help for you all. I know it makes you all the bad guy but they have to understand that many people poses a safety hazard and poses a lot of stress on the staff.


From Eve P.:


Wow, what a great problem to have! There are only 3 choices that I can see. 1. Change venues; 2. Add more programming; 3. Limit attendance by requiring pre-registration.

Changing venues: If some of the participants are attending as groups, could you go to them as outreach and/or have them alternate which performances to attend? Is there another area of the library which might accommodate more people?

Adding more Programming: From the information presented, it sounds as though the programs being offered are all unique. Because you have stated that you cannot add more programs, have you considered cutting one or more of the unique programs? You could then offer the same program 2 weeks running, and ask that families only attend one of the two repeat performances. Or, you could cut a program entirely and then offer back-to-back presentations of your more popular programs.
Have you thought about contracting out some of your storytimes as a way of adding additional programming, or have you lobbied the library board for additional staffing to meet the demands of your community?

Requiring Pre-registration: You have stated that you do not wish to do this, but if you are regularly exceeding fire code regulations you may have no choice. Because there are always families that register but then don’t show up, a 5 minute rule can be handy. If the person is more that 5 minutes late their spot is forfeit and another might take their place.

Congratulations on this fabulous problem – may we all be so afflicted!

From Soraya S. (@vivalosbooks):


That is a tough choice to make. I’ve worked in a branch where we were so excited to have even just five families for storytime and am now in one where we average 40-50+ every single program so it goes against my personal beliefs to ever turn someone away. However, we were finding at my new branch, with the introduction to a month Mad Science Club, that our school age programs were now averaging 100+ which went way above our room capacity. After a lot of discussion and brainstorming to try to come up with other alternatives, we actually found the easiest way to manage the crowd with our limited supplies and staff was to unfortunately do tickets. And once we ran out of tickets, that was all we could let in, no exceptions. There was a bit of pushback for the first couple of months but it’s been two years since we’ve implemented it and it’s worked wonders. 99% of parents are pretty understanding but every now and then we do get that one irate parent who demands their child be let in but by having those ground rules explicitly stated on all of our materials, it’s quite easy to deny them access.


The only other alternative I could think of is reaaally stressing to your parents that if the storytimes continue to be overcapacity, that you will have to start limiting attendance. But, if they want to avoid that, they can help by ONLY coming to one program a day and that you may be able to avoid tickets happening. It may be inevitable though sadly and you certainly don’t want to be over fire code. Our calendars and program flyers all have this stated somewhere to advertise our limitations: “Please note: space is limited in all school age programs and tickets are required to attend. They are free and available after 3 p.m. on the day of the program on a first come first serve basis. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!” I hope that helps!


Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Summer Reading Challenges?

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for this week which we’ve had a lot of responses for so this one’s a tid bit longer than most:




The Question:


“I run the Summer Reading Program at our library. We are in a small community but have always had a HUGE success with participants in our summer program. I have a number of children who blow through our program every year and are looking for more to do. I’m contemplating creating a second, more challenging aspect next year for those kids that breeze through the original program, though I’m not sure what I should do. Do you have any suggestions?”


The Answers:


From Ann S.:


Our library doesn’t set a completion goal for the children that participle in our summer reading program. They are encouraged to read as many books as they can in six weeks. We do however offer bragging badges for every ten books read. The children decorate these any way they like, put there names on them, and we hang them on our wall of fame. We also offer weekly pizza slice coupons for a free slice of pizza from the local pizza parlour. They donate the coupons as well as an end of summer reading pizza party. If someone manages to read 100 books they get a free book to keep. These are gathered from donations throughout the year.


From Meg S. (@theemegnificent,


In order to avoid children completing the program and having no reason to be involved with the library we have summer reading passports. The kids keep these for the whole summer and once a week when the come in they get a stamp on their passport and get to add a sticker to our wall (this year it is hero city). There are also 4 bonus challenges they can complete to earn more stamps and a small prize. Our bonus challenges this summer are, ‘check out a nonfiction book’, ‘be a hero for someone else and tell us about it’, ‘draw a picture of yourself as a superhero’, and ‘attend a summer reading event’. The passport has been great for engaging them throughout the summer and the kids have a lot of fun doing the challenges!


From Tess P. (@tess1144,


I think it would be really fun to do a book review blogging workshop series for kids. They can read whatever they want and if they don’t know already, they can learn how to set up a blog, learn how to write reviews and promote their blogs, share and follow each other’s blogs etc. If you have access to kids’ book ARCs, perfect, then let them read and review those too. I would bet that lots of kids in fifth, sixth and seventh grade already know how to blog – lots of classrooms have blogs so I don’t think it a big stretch for kids who love books to do this for fun. While you would probably need to make sure the kids had their parents’ permission to start their own blogs, I think blogging is great way to get kids reading, writing and discussing books. BTW, my eleven year old niece has been blogging about books since the age of 8 with minimal help from her mom.


Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Ask a Storytime Ninja: Lightning Round – Roving School Librarian

Here’s our newest Lightning Round question! These questions are posed to all of our ninjas instead of just our featured monthly ones and are meant to be quick and efficient responses to some interesting inquiries. Here’s our question for this week which we’ve had a lot of responses for so this one’s a tid bit longer than most:




The Question:


“Hi everyone. I am facing an unusual challenge next school year. I will be teaching my K-5 library lessons from a mobile cart that I will roll into each classroom. There will be no library that the students can visit. I will be doing lessons, checking in, checking out and doing story time from a cart. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the very thought. Has anyone out there done this? Have any tips? Thank you!”


The Answers:


From Abby J. (@abbylibrarian,


I haven’t done this in a school librarian capacity, but as a public librarian when we do outreach, we’re often visiting multiple classrooms with just the stuff we’re carrying. What helps me keep everything straight is going in with a plan (usually written down) for each classroom and keeping my materials in the order that I’ll use them. We usually bring bags of books, props, etc. around with us, so I’ll try to arrange it so the book I need first is on top and I can just go through the bag in order. If I’m repeating the same storytime for multiple classrooms, it gets easier with each repetition. If I’m presenting different materials for each classroom, it really helps me to have a separate tote bag for each classroom so I can go straight for what I need without having to dig around too much. This could maybe translate into separate sections or shelves on your cart, or if your cart is full of books the kids can check out, you might think about using tote bags or rolling crates to keep your storytime/lesson materials separate and easily accessible.


From Soraya S. (@vivalosbooks):

I’m a Youth Services Librarian in a public library so I haven’t been in that situation before but I do go to schools regularly throughout the week and have done classroom to classroom visits. On days when I know I’m visiting more than one class, I bring a rolling cart separated by which materials I’m using for which classroom. So my storytimes are catered for each specific age group and I’m sure to separate the materials appropriately. That is such an interesting design and a challenge! I definitely think it’s manageable though as long as you know each day what grades/classes you’ll be at and can set up your cart to easily transition as you changes rooms. Organization is key and you’ll be fantastic!


Thanks for all the great responses everyone! Do you have any of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!