Here’s a definite sign of the poor economy: attendance at my two infant storytimes has picked up significantly. Parents obviously can’t afford to pay for infant music classes, so they’re coming to the library; while at the library, they’re finding that their local children’s librarian offers a curriculum-based, fun, educational, and very social program. For free.
The Tuesday morning Mother Goose on the Loose storytime used to have an average attendance of twenty adults and kids, but in recent weeks the average attendance has been thirty-five. The Wednesday morning MGOL program has traditionally been rather small, sometimes only five attendees, but this fall it has blossomed into a strong program, too, with current average attendance close to thirty. With this number of attendees, there’s absolutely no spare room in the story room, and I’m actually wondering whether I need to think about moving the program up to the very large program room upstairs. Or, perhaps, I need to add another MGOL program to spread out the attendees and keep the program in the child-friendly space of the story room.
And one more problem has arisen. I don’t have enough musical intruments to accomodate everyone. On Tuesday, I had to rethink my lesson plan mid-way through the storytime, when I realized that there were more than twenty-four people in the room, and I only had twenty-four wooden rattles to offer to the crowd. Quick switch then to the jingle bells (we own thirty-six bells), and we used all but one of those.
I’ve decided that it’s time to use some of my program budget from the Friends of the Library to purchase more musical instruments and scarves from Musikgarten. With about half of my program attendance coming from storytimes, this seems like a very prudent use of the funds available for programming, especially considering that with proper care these instruments will last for many years (as opposed to hiring a performer – when the performance is done, it’s done). And the instruments are really lovely, very well-made, very durable, very easy to wash and maintain.
As for the sudden surge in attendance – will people continue to come to the library for infant programs, even if the economy recovers? I think so. The parents who are attending my storytime have compared it to ones they used to pay money for, and they’re happy enough with what I offer to recommend it to their friends and family. Free is good, but free with quality and educational value is even better.