I am super excited to have connected with Ms. Stephanie, a children's librarian working in the Pheonix, library. Her vision of expanding literacy beyond the walls of the library is creative, effective and inspiring. Read what she has to say as my guest-blogger and be sure to scroll down for a sample of her "one-sheet" story times!
Maximizing Story Time - One-sheet at a Time!
Children's librarian and avid reader, Stephanie enjoys good bookin' children's picture books!
While I am new to the role as a children’s librarian, I’ve been around the block when it comes to marketing and customer service. I’ve worn those hats and many more after co-owning a children’s clothing boutique and learned through experience what’s effective and what’s not. When I decided jump the track and enter the world of public libraries to promote literacy to children, I found that my sales and marketing skills were just as handy here as they were promoting high end onesies and wooden toys. To be a public librarian means to serve the public, understand their needs and deliver. We also need to reach the nonuser. More than ever before, librarians must prepare to come to the table wearing a few more hats.
We can all understand the value and importance of great customer service in a library setting- to engage our patrons, make them feel as a guest, help meet their needs, thank them for coming to our programs and using our services, treating each individual with respect and to be empathetic. To always serve is my motto and it applies to all areas of my life. Whether or not we are on the same page, we can all understand that in order to have successful programs, we need people to attend them and hopefully, we want to provide consistent, relevant and quality programming every time.
I love presenting story times. I really, really love it! I love interacting with little ones and connecting with parents and caregivers. During my work as an Early Literacy Outreach Specialist for the _Phoenix Public Library, I would spend a lot of time conducting parent workshops educating them and raising awareness on the importance of early literacy. I also conducted many story times packed with songs, books, and information like parenting tips, upcoming events and other resources offered at the library. I’d spend a significant amount of time preparing and pulling books from shelves to share with my attendees. I had fun doing it! But at the end of each story time or workshop, I wondered how much parents and caregivers were actually taking away besides a fun-filled 30 minutes and a craft. I’d also feel deflated when attendees would breeze past the carefully selected books that fit the theme of the day. Hey! That took some time! Are you not in the least bit interested in taking a book home and revisiting today’s theme with your child? Children love repetition and they love story time! Hey! Come back! Please!?
It got me thinking, what can I do differently? What do I want to accomplish with this program? What outcomes are important here? I knew I wanted my patrons to walk away feeling inspired, wanting to come to the next story time, not only for the social aspect, but to learn more and feel like they (the parent) are learning something and that story time isn’t just for their children. It’s a parent program as much as anything. So how to begin? I started by looking at my neglected book display and thought, how about a printed bibliography of suggested titles to check out? From there, it all came tumbling forth: If I have a printed sheet, I can include the Parent Tips of the Week…ooh, and the Letter of the Week…oh my goodness! I can advertise for the upcoming events! And gee, (why didn’t I think of this earlier?) the songs we sang and the books we read!? I felt like I’d discovered the wheel. Okay, not a revolutionary discovery, but I discovered the power of the “one-sheet”.
So, what is a one-sheet? It’s a single document (a poster or a flyer) carefully designed to provide a powerful punch of information you’d like to convey to your targeted viewer. It is visually pleasing and its goal is spark interest what is being advertised. In my case, I wanted to create something that had all the information in one tidy page and also conveyed the message “Story Time on the Go” or DIY Story Time. Hey Parents! Now you can have the resources at your fingertips to create your own story time at home! Not only that, here are some helpful early literacy and parenting tips to know! And look! There are so many fantastic upcoming events you will know about on this one-sheet!
Designing a one-sheet takes some time, thought and your marketing/graphic design hat (on top of your programming hat and whatever other many hats you’re wearing that day). It can be simple, but it has to be something that parents and caregivers will want to take home and use. First, ask yourself, what is the message I want to get across? How can I best serve the parents and caregivers that attend my story time with their children? What resources and information might benefit them that they might not think to ask about? How can I package early literacy and parenting tips in a fun and visually exciting way? For me, upcoming events, book suggestions and the parenting tips are the most important items on my one-sheet because these are the things that educate and keep them coming back to the library.
Another hat to consider is the sales hat. Patrons are our customers (their tax dollars pay our salaries and keep our doors open). Their “business” with us matters. We work hard to offer relevant programming, services and resources they will use, value and talk about with others. Getting the word out requires marketing and selling them on why they should use the library. I apply this notion to the one-sheet in story time. Just creating a great document isn’t enough. I’ve taken to handing them out at the beginning of story time as well as displaying a color copy in a stand for reference. Today’s One Sheet included 4 illustrations of sign language, so I wanted to be sure the parents had something to refer to when I covered it during class.
At the beginning of story time, I introduce it, sometimes as the parents activity sheet or their “homework” or I’ll say, “I’ve created something special for you that includes the songs we sang, the books we read, the fun, upcoming events we have coming and some tips for building those early literacy skills at home with your child. It’s a portable Story Time for you! Please use the tips and suggestions- they can help prepare your child to love reading and to be ready to read by kindergarten!” It’s good for you to get behind the one-sheet - to point out to them its value or else they might not see it as anything but another piece of paper.
Whether or not the one-sheet is something you might want to try, consider what you want your parents and caregivers to take away from your program. Ask yourself the questions I asked about the important outcomes of your program and then work towards reaching (and measuring) those outcomes. Story time is so much more than stories and it’s not just for the children attending them. Parents are their child’s first and best teacher. Let’s be librarians who seize a great opportunity to connect them with resources and information that will further help them. They are coming to our story time because they care about literacy. Let’s support that as much as we can.