Ask a Storytime Ninja: Rotating Presenters

This is a great question for any of you super researchers out there. Do you know of any research done in this area? Any advice for our questioner? Please leave comments below.

Question:

Our library is considering rotating presenters weekly at a special storytime during a regular presenter’s maternity leave. What empirical evidence exists that shows that using different performers will hurt a program on a long term basis?   Is there any evidence to show that attendance numbers are tied to program presenter?

Alternatives would be suspending the program for a quarter until the regular presenter is back on duty.

Answers:

Abby says: We just started a weekly Preschool Explorers program, which we rotate each week between different presenters and topics (music/movement, preschool science, and storytime). We started this program in September and while attendance certainly varies from week to week, it has not been tied to certain performers or even certain topics. That is, it’s relatively even whether we’re offering storytime, science, or music/movement and no matter who is offering the program.

In the past, we’ve offered registered storytimes with several class time options each week and the same person leading the same class time each week. Attendance depended on the convenience of the class time (i.e. we’d had a lot of requests for Mondays at 10 and that was heavily attended), not on who was doing it, even if we added the presenters names to the storytime brochure.

Tabin says: This all depends on if you have good fill-ins. If the fill-ins are good, go for it. If not, take a break. I was on leave and discovered from a nurse that my fill-in was bad and people stopped coming. It took months to get attendance to pre-leave level. Had I known this I would have just suspended storytime and put out a sign saying storytime would return on x date. Instead I was in the ER with someone asking when I was going back to work. (Answer: not today.)

Mel says: I don’t have any empirical evidence about this–I think it would be really hard to prove either way. My gut feeling though is that suspending the program entirely would be more problematic than rotating performers. My advice would be to go ahead and rotate (if there’s absolutely no way that one person can fill in for the entire time) but to talk to the original presenter and have every guest presenter use the exact same format–same opening songs, closing songs, puppet, same order for activities, whatever, in order to make sure that the experience feels as consistent as possible for the attendees.

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About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on December 10, 2013, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I was out for six weeks and everyone just stopped coming. I do storytime at the library and at a local Mall and it took a couple of weeks after I came back to get everyone back in, and some never returned, but for the most part I would have to say…short term, yes, definite negative impact, and long term, no problem.

  2. To add to my last comment…The replacement was a 1st grader teacher so I thought that would be great. But evidently she was giving lessons on geography to my 1-4 yr olds for the whole time. Not good. So, yeah, choice of replacement could have a lot to do with it.

  3. Once, I missed storytime to go to a conference and a co-worker filled in for me. She had 14 people show up, which at the time was a lot, but after her storytime, my numbers dropped down to 4 or 6 for a month. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to be there, I didn’t tell anyone there would be another presenter in my place. Now, after that dip, I tell people. Not in a way that disparages my co-workers, mind you. I don’t even know for a fact that her storytime was the reason for the drop and I always keep that in mind. (She is, in fact, absolutely wonderful with her age group.) I just like to assure everyone that I will be back to my usual antics soon.

    That said, I think rotating presenters is better than not having a storytime at all. I would probably have a team meeting and come up with a template that everyone feels comfortable following. That way, your kiddos have some continuity.

  4. We regularly rotate presenters at my library – one of my coworkers and I do both preschool and our two toddler storytimes, with our third children’s librarian also doing the toddlers. Our manager also occasionally does preschool storytime, although less often now that she’s also our building manager. The kids don’t seem to mind, though for most of them, it’s normal since that’s the way we’ve done it for a long time, and they’re used to all of us. We have a basic outline, but each person does things a little differently depending on their style. It does make things a lot easier when someone is on vacation, or particularly if whoever’s scheduled to do storytime has to call in sick. Just last week, I did storytime at the last minute to cover for my coworker.

  5. If all your presenters are good and none of them have been the sole storytime presenter for the last five years or something, you’re probably fine. I had huge problems with this when I was hired five years ago. We have a wonderful Parent Educator that I collaborate with at the library. The problem was, she was so wonderful, had so many community connections, and was able to do things I was not (hang out for hours after storytime, give away free things, etc.) that I was unable to convince people to come to my programs or that different didn’t equal bad. We’ve worked together a lot to deal with this and after five years I’ve gotten my own “following” but I do still have annoyed parents asking “where’s Ms. P??” when I sub for her and the occasional child breaking down in tears. Right now, we’re having problems b/c she is not as available as she used to be and I have no one to substitute for her baby storytimes – we had to cancel three almost in a row and the resultant chaos was…chaotic. Someday she’s going to retire (or just drop dead from exhaustion) and I dread to think of what will happen to us then!

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