Storytime Essentials–Collecting Impact Stories from Families

I heard about impact stories in passing while attending ALA Annual in July 2022. Since then, I feel it can be a game changer to how you not only handle story time, but also marketing, outreach, and just how you see yourself in the library.

Think of impact stories as just a positive survey, or at least that how I chose to think about it. We’re not really looking to improve or “fix” what we’re doing at this moment, but we do want to know what we are doing right. We’re looking for ways that we impact and improve the lives of our kiddos, it’s simple but so important. So now, when a grandma gives you a compliment after story time, you can log it and save it for when you need it.

Collecting impact stories is essential for a variety of reasons. First it’s a great way to just log some of your favorite families, so that you have something to look back on. But it’s also great to know what’s working so that you can keep making your storytimes and programs special–no sense in reworking something that IS working. It’s also great for morale and to feel appreciated with what you do–someone that may not come up to you after a program to tell you that you did a good job, might rather fill out a simple form below. It’s also great for interviews or performance reviews to have actual quotes from patrons and families that you have helped. And lastly, given some of the recent news, it’s always great to get some community support.

I made my impact stories form in Microsoft Forms, it’s really easy to set up and free if your library has Microsoft Suite. All the answers will go to your email then–easy peasey. But I’m sure there’s other survey software out there, so use what your familiar with.

I think what’s key about my delivery to parents is that I’m NOT asking them to fill out a survey. (I mean, I am, but I’m not phrasing it like that.) I’m asking them to tell me there story. Cute things. Funny things. Impactful things. The things they tell me in passing but I forget in a week. I want their stories, not just their data.

It’s also really important to just ask a FEW questions. No one like surveys, so make it easy. The questions are only to help guide the parents into giving answers. Let me walk you through my survey questions and rationale behind them:

Stories about Story Time! (My survey title. Again, trying to make people feel this isn’t 100% a survey.)

1.) How long have you been coming to story time, and how did you hear about it? (Here we’re getting some information about how long we have retained some of our families, and how well are marketing is working.)

2.) What do you as an adult like best about story time? (This is really important and I feel often overlooked. The parents need to be entertained or at least engaged. They are the transportation for your kiddos, and it needs to be worth their time as well.)

3.) What do you think your child likes best about story time? (Here we’re finding out what kids enjoy, but we’re also starting to shift the survey to make parents start thinking about their kids in relation to our story time with our next questions.)

4.) How has your child developed since starting story time? How has story time helped them? (Here we’re finding out how we are impacting families.)

5.) Has there been anything from story time (a song, a specific story, a lesson we talked about, etc.) that you’ve taken from our story time and tried to incorporate into your home routine with your child? (Again, finding out how we’re truly impacting families.)

6.) Any memories or stories about story time that you’d like to share? It can be something funny your kid said during or after story time, a cute moment, or just the reason you keep coming back! (Think this is a good one to end on, since I feel this is the question most people WANTED to answer when they agreed to this thing. And it can be a sweet one to end on.)

Put it all online and link it to a QR code. QR codes are commonplace now so most people will now how to use them. Plus also, at least for me, when I’m scanning a QR code I feel it’s going to be something quick to fill out or something informative. If I’m handed a form, I super don’t want to do it. Once you have a QR code, put it EVERYWHERE–your song handouts, your fliers, your story time corner, your goodbye sign, anywhere it feels appropriate.

Also talk about it at the beginning or end of your story time sets. For me, I always explain that people come up to me with compliments after story time, but I’m too busy and I forget to write them down, so this really helps me out. Maybe have an iPad handy for those that want to fill it out but don’t have their phone with them or don’t understand QR codes.

Hope this helps you create a data driven story time. Or at the very least, keep track of all the nice things people say about ya!

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