Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Tips for Evaluating Storytime

In order to keep improving at anything you need to periodically ask yourself an important question:

In order to best serve patron's librarians must consider both the why and how of what we are doing in all programming. Storytime is no different. In order to get better at providing storytimes, you must evaluate whether things are working, or whether you need to make changes.

For the past four years I've been working as a librarian I have done this kind of evaluation informally. For instance, I'd observe behavior during storytime. Did the kids seem engaged? Were they smiling? I want the kids to enjoy storytime, so if they aren't I clearly need to make improvements.

I also would view attendance as a performance measure. Is it increasing? How big of a crowd of regular attendees is there? I want to make sure I reach as large a group as possible. I also want to know that people see the value enough to keep returning.

Based on these measures I have made changes and developed a storytime routine that seems to work well for me and my community. For instance, when baby storytime struggled I tweaked the time and format until it gained a following.

After seeing how Jbrary did a formal storytime evaluation I was inspired to go beyond these measures. A new school year and series of storytimes seemed like the perfect time to try surveying parents and getting some formal feedback.

Using questions from Jbrary's form, and other forms distributed through the ALSC listserv, I came up with two different evaluation forms. One form was passed out at storytime and asks specific questions about the program. The other was shorter, simpler and geared towards those that have children but do not attend storytime. This second survey was posted on our website and distributed through our Facebook page.

Here are a few things I've learned through this process:

1. An important first step to evaluating storytime is determining what your goals for storytime are. As the wonderful Mel Depper of Mel's Desk points out, your goals will determine the evaluation questions you ask. One of my major goals is to try to fit in more evening/weekend storytimes, so I made sure to include a question on both surveys that asks about convenient times for this.

2. When surveying families distribute surveys widely to reach those who are not able to attend storytimes. Otherwise you are getting a skewed sample. I definitely need to find more channels to distribute my survey because so far over half the respondents to my second survey have attended my storytimes.

3. When asking certain questions, make sure you provide relevant information. For instance, I should have included our hours in my questions about convenient storytime times. Some of the responses I've received back mention times outside our operating hours.

4. Allow plenty of time to receive responses back. Parents are busy and it will probably take a few reminders to get them to fill out a survey. You may not get many responses. This is where the informal evaluation can come in handy to fill in the blanks.

5. Many times evaluating will lead to further questions and more evaluating. For instance, responses to my storytime scheduling question have lead me to to wonder if I need to reschedule my morning storytime as well. I will bring this up to current families and base my decision on what I find out.

How do you evaluate storytime? I would love to hear any opinions or ideas you have on this topic!

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