My students and I have different experiences, or lack thereof, of the public library and its programming. Our student body draws from across nine Georgia counties, which can range from suburban to rural; the libraries are not necessarily a walkable distance or even a quick car ride. In fact, a good deal of my students do not have a public library card, something I did not recognize until we waded through the waters of database access together. As I’ve settled in my role as school librarian, I’ve found myself recreating the public library events that shaped my own childhood into my school library programming. One, most dear to my heart, is pajama storytime. As a child, that nighttime storytime meant a lot: that maybe my dad could come too, that the day would last longer, that my sister and I would get to go out on the town in our matching homemade nightgowns.
In the second year of summer check-out, I decided to add in limited summer hours (I am a 12-month employee) and a nighttime storytime one evening in July to allow for more access to the collection and to provide some resistance to the summer slide. The mission of our lower school library program is to instill a love of learning and to me, limited summer programming creates a sense of safeness and security separate from the social and academic anxiety that can came with the school day. I provide milk and cookies, put on some pjs and my light-up unicorn slippers, and open the doors.
There are ancillary benefits, too. This event is informally open to the larger community- I put it on my Facebook page as well as the library’s and encourage the adults and students alike to get the word out. Our Admissions Director notifies ELC, 1st, and 2nd applicants of the storytimes while I always extend an invitation when tours with younger students come through. One night my crowd was primarily potential students and their siblings. Current students got to be experts and teach our guests some of the library’s rituals, like the singing bowl and our steadfast songs and rhymes, and the adults mingled with one another. The summer times have provided a way for new students to ease into the community and gain some comfort in our space.
These are still the early days of this program, a summer event that carried into the school year. I’m looking forward to measuring the success of it with a full year’s worth of data that give me a better sense of the days that work best, the time of year. I’ll likely leave the time unchanged- 6:30 p.m. allows for dinner and also the chance to fall asleep on the car ride home. But, in the meantime, the anecdotal evidence of success is evident: the stormy nights where only two students come through the deep winter darkness have been just as lovely as the evening with a raucous full house.
Having pajama storytime does mean a commitment to a longer day and a dedicated fund for bookish sleepwear. I find, though, that I what I put in I get back tenfold. Programming like this brings me to the core of my primary purpose as a librarian- to give back to others what was so freely given to me.