Or, how singing with two year olds prepares you for librarianship.
It’s here— your first story time. You’ve taken the Children’s Services courses, you’ve watched your colleagues run a few programs, and now it’s your turn. It’s time.
You choose a book, and a theme. Something simply, like “winter”. There are so many beautiful books about winter— this will be easy!
Next you make a poster, bright and eye-catching with all the key info, to put up in the library and around town, perhaps delivering copies to local daycares. You put a digital copy on your library’s social media feeds, too.
You spend a fair bit of time planning a craft or activity that is educational and fun and yet entirely appropriate for the age group. You make a sample craft, and it’s beautiful. You run to the dollar store to pick up the supplies that you’ll need, fretting over how many bags of cotton balls you should buy for those snowmen.
Now you spend hours on the Jbrary youtube channel, watching video after video and learning new winter-themed songs. There are so many to choose from, and they’re all so good!
And, finally, it’s the morning of. Toddler Story Time. The children and their grown-ups and a handful of daycare groups wander in, and you greet them all excitedly, your program outline and props and goodies on the table beside you. Your phone is placed face-down on the table, so you can keep track of time. You are all ready to go and it will be perfect.
Anyone who has ever worked with toddlers in any capacity knows that this is nothing but a pipe dream. School-aged programs and even pre-school story times can be carefully planned, structured affairs, but if you think you’re managing that with a group of one and two year olds— well, good luck. Toddlers are busy and curious and chaotic and have only the simplest notion of rule-following. Some days they’ll love the nursery rhymes, some days you’re the worst singer in the world. Some days they’ll listen to your carefully-chosen story (provided it doesn’t last for more than thirty seconds), while on others they’ll start crying as soon as you switch from singing to reading. They might be content to sit with their parents, but they’re more likely to be fascinated by the books or puppets or whatever else is in your story-time kit, and spend half the session trying to pull everything off the table. Once, I made the mistake of reading a puppet book, and a toddler nearly broke my wrist in their efforts to grab the Gruffalo for a cuddle!
Toddler story times are one of my absolute favourite programs— every session is completely different! It doesn’t matter how much you plan, budget, promote, or prepare— you never know quite what is going to happen. But I think this is true for every program you run in the public library. In fact, I think it’s true for literally everything in the library. Computers breaking down at the worst possible time, patrons having a bad day, budgets being reduced, missing and lost books…
Public library work often isn’t for those who love routine. It’s for those who can handle a bit of chaos, who can display a lot of patience, who can field disappointment, and who can adapt to ever-changing situations.
In short— if you can handle Toddler Time, you’re probably ready for the public library.
Kait is an MLIS student at Western University in Ontario, an intern librarian at her local community library, and an avid traveller. She is currently planning a program that is NOT for toddlers. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, or visit her website.