We’re on a storytime break at my library (something I believe is critical for a variety of reasons, but that’s another post…) and as I have been tasked with developing storytime training/standards/evaluations, I thought it would be helpful for our storytime providers to get outside our organization and take our new-still-a-working-document peer evaluation form out for a spin.
In my perfect world, where early literacy is a priority for public libraries and staff is plentiful as is time for ongoing learning, observing and evaluating storytimes and early literacy programs would be not only part of introductory training, but also ongoing professional development. In reality, I know how lucky we were to be able to leave the building for 3 1/2 hours to do this.
We were able to observe a toddler and a family storytime, a definite selling point to my supervisor when I asked if we could go. I emailed the youth services department a few weeks in advance to ask permission and they were more than happy to have us.
I learned a lot. I learned I needed something to take notes on in addition to the peer evaluation form. The form is really more for reflection. I learned I have been entirely too timid when it comes to “mess” during my process art program. I learned my prep can most likely be cut in half. I learned a wonderful primary color nesting boxes activity I’m going to start doing with toddlers this summer. I learned there are about…well…how many people in the world provide storytime at a library or in an early childhood learning environment…let’s say countless ways to “do” storytime.
I actually already knew that but observing strangers with two completely different styles back to back was really striking.
Not only did our hosts allow us to observe, they made time for us to ask questions after both storytimes. I am someone who asks lots of questions. Not only the “What song was that?! I loved it!” variety, but also the “Does your library have storytime training for new employees? Are you required to include early literacy tips? How much freedom do you have with content?” variety.
As I’ve been working my way through creating these evaluations and trainings, I’ve been surprised at how many libraries don’t seem to have a training program in place for storytime providers. At first I assumed this was something you are taught when you get your MLS/MLIS but my very informal poll tells me that’s not the case. I’ve also been surprised at how many people seem to feel training would be too restrictive.
Good training informs an employee how storytime supports your organization’s mission. Good training gives providers common language. Good training empowers staff.
I hope you bear with me as I work my way through this process of storytime training. I suspect it will come up on here a fair amount in one way or another in upcoming posts. And I welcome all comments and opinions. From what I’ve gathered, there are quite a few people who believe storytime training is unnecessary.
At the very least, I encourage you to reach out to your storytime neighbors and learn from each other in real life, if you are able. I can almost guarantee you will learn something!