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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Storytime is Full

Uploaded: Sep 27, 2014
I got my first glimpse at just how many babies there are in the Bay Area when I attended (or tried to attend) my first library storytime.

I arrived a couple of minutes early only to discover that the event was full. It was disappointing to miss out on storytime, but I was very lucky that my son was still young enough not to know the difference - it was sad overhearing parents of older children explain why they were at the library but couldn't attend storytime this week.

Since then, my son and I have attended a variety of library events. We've enjoyed most of them and feel so lucky to live in area with an abundance of free, drop-in programs for kids. Some are so popular that you must wait in line outside the library before it even opens. Others are less popular but can still get filled with students coming from nearby preschools.

Over the past year, it's been interesting to see how our libraries are dealing with the popularity. Some of the leaders use microphones to ensure that everyone can hear what is going on. Some storytimes now require registration.

Have you had positive or negative experiences with the local library storytimes? Do you like the way they've handled the crowds?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Sep 28, 2014 at 9:54 am

You are so right! I did the library storytime thing quite often. Then it got crowded, plus it stopped being convenient when I had a couple in elementary school and it got crowded out.

What I did discover though was the important thing with the toddlers was to get to the library and read there. The Palo Alto Childrens Library was perfect for this and so was the old Mitchell Park library, with a childrens section and reading corner. There were even some puppets, etc. I would sit there with my child and we would choose a couple of books for me to read out loud, I would use some funny voices and perhaps read to a puppet on my hand. Quite often a couple of other children would come and sit and listen too.

Now I am not the best but I soon figured out I didn't have to be. As soon as a child started giggling, I got the adrenalin rush and managed to over animate and that caused even more giggles. I started using my own puppet which I kept in the library bag I used and this puppet started coming out for reading time at home also.

If you can't get to the storytimes, then go on your own and create your own style. Do it with a couple of friends or just make some new friends while you are there. The important thing is to go and to read. The arranged library ones can give you some ideas, but they are often crowded and children can get upset by the numbers of others and the fact that their raised hands are never the ones called upon. Tailor making your own with stories that you know will appeal to your own child are great. I always remember the Billy Goats Gruff as being particularly appealing with lots of funny voices and sound effects that the child could join in with.

Good luck.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4- Thanks again for sharing your experiences. It's wonderful that you were able to create your own storytimes at the library. How fun that other children joined in!

We've also enjoyed heading to the libraries when no scheduled events are going on. With many being conveniently located close to parks, it's a great way for kids to spend some time reading books and playing with puzzles either before or after running around outside and using up some toddler energy.

Posted by Librarian, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on Sep 30, 2014 at 10:40 am

As a local librarian, I am delighted that you are taking advantage of the many, many, programs for children that all of the nearby public libraries offer! We put our heart and soul into creating and running these imaginative, educational opportunities for kids--we view it as an opportunity to increase literacy and help form bonds to the library that will last a lifetime.
The problem is not how libraries handle the crowds; we do the very best we can with the limited resources available. The real issue is, as always with public services, funding!! Libraries, and especially Children's Services, are considered expendable, the first to be cut and the last to be restored. Even in this remarkably wealthy area, most librarians are part time temporary employees, and the number of hours we are allowed to work each week is capped. Even though Friends of the Library organizations are very generous in supporting programs, if municipalities are not willing to pay for staffing, we will never be able to expand the number of storytimes to meet demand. Since these decisions are made at the local governance level, I hope you and every parent who values public library programming will let your Library Commission and City Council know that you want and expect more library services for children!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Sep 30, 2014 at 1:10 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Librarian - Thank you so much for your dedication to these children's programs. I know my son looks forward them throughout the year.

Great points! Thank you so much for commenting and for reminding us about the libraries' needs and what actions we can take to try to make a change.

Posted by Tooo crowded, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 1, 2014 at 5:46 am

We tried to go to Storytime at Mitchell Park around 5 years ago. It was very over crowded, not at all fun for my kids or me. The Children's Library story time seemed to have a little more space. We went to Menlo Park a few times for story time, it was fine. The library setup was much more inviting and fun for my children than Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. We also liked walking around the lake, watching the ducks and seeing the skateboarders there. I don't understand why they don't have some type of limit system or i.d. system for these overcrowded sessions. I'm not sure of the situation today.......that said, we love the libraries in Palo Alto!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Tooo crowded - Thank you for commenting and for sharing your experiences with the local library storytimes.

I know some of the storytimes at Menlo Park Library now require registration. I'm not sure if any other libraries have also tried this or something similar (like the i.d. System you suggested). It limits the crowds and the disappointment (families no longer drive/walk/bike all the way to storytime only to find out that it is already full).

I agree, it can be quite challenging when the storytimes are too crowded. Sometimes it is almost impossible to hear the stories being read over the adults and children talking. Or see the pages when you are in the back of the room.

Although the libraries' summer events were usually also quite crowded, we still found most to be quite enjoyable. The performances were usually outside and the performers had microphones and/or were being quite active on stage.

And I also agree that we are very lucky to have so many wonderful libraries, storytimes, and events. One of the reasons they are probably overcrowded is that adults and children enjoy the programs so much.

Posted by Staff shortage?, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 1, 2014 at 11:46 pm

There was an attempt a while back to use volunteer story readers. Lots of adults are good at it and enjoy reading to children, like Mother of 4, above.
I suppose you might have to give the readers some guidance, but a group meeting or two of training, should be enough.
I often wondered why it took a trained librarian to do what parents do quite well every day with their own children.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Staff Shortage? - Thanks for commenting. It would be interesting to find out why the volunteer program didn't last. I assume that it was hard to ensure that a volunteer was always present to run the storytime. If there are enough interested and committed volunteers, I wonder if any of the local libraries would try this in addition to the regular storytimes.

I personally enjoy having the same experienced storytime leaders each week (but that limits the # of storytimes that can happen). My son has learned the differences in their styles - some have opening and closing songs and others give out high fives at the end. Some are quite humorous with the same "jokes" repeated weekly and others ask for lots of kid participation. Many of the leaders clearly love kids, have a passion for books, and have a lot of experience with storytimes and other kid programs. The kids learn their names and enjoy listening to them week in and week out.

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