It's something every programmer dreads, putting time and effort into what we think is a good program, and nobody shows up. But it's probably happened to all of us at least once, and it doesn't feel good. Though the word cloud above may be a bit harsh, it is definitely how I felt at the time when it happened to me. Like having no one show up to your birthday party, it's hard not to take it personally. And let's face it, as much as we say numbers aren't everything, we aren't naïve; we know numbers are how we are often judged.
I think we are all familiar with the anxiety around attendance that precedes every program. How many should I prepare for? What if too many people show up? What if no one shows up? I have had both happen, and though having more people show up that expected can be very stressful, I think having way less than expected is worse.
I've only once had no one show up for a program, but it was for a storytime that only had 2 regular families, and a couple more occasional families. I had just added this second storytime a couple of months before, and it hadn't been well attended. I wasn't too upset about it, except that it was my last week at this library, and I hated not having a chance to say good-bye.
However, I recently had a program that I expected to get a large attendance for, say at least 20 kids, and only had 5. I had planned a program around the release of Mo Willems' new Pigeon book, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, thinking a popular character of a series spanning almost 20 years would attract quite a few families. I scheduled it for a Saturday morning, thinking it would appeal to both preschoolers and younger elementary-aged kids. I had a number of activities planned that were loosely inspired by the Pigeon and other Mo Willems characters; some were borrowed, but some were my own. Since I had no idea what to expect as far as attendance, I asked both YS staffers to come in on Saturday to help.
[In case you're curious, here is a list of planned activities and the books/characters that inspired them:
- Reading the new book, The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster
- Marble Runs (purchased sets and DIY), The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster
- Cookie Toss (using beanbag cookies I made by making 'slipcovers' for our regular beanbags with fabric & fabric glue), The Duckling Gets a Cookie?/The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster (roller coasters make some people toss their cookies, right? 🤣)
- Cookie Counting (count choc. chips, match to number in cookie jar, from Totschooling), The Duckling Gets a Cookie?
- Duckling, Duckling, Pigeon (like Duck, Duck, Goose)
- Dress Wilbur (from Mo Willems' Pigeon Presents site, The Naked Mole Rat
- Help Trixie & Knuffle Bunny get to our library (coloring character then cutting and pasting onto a B&W picture of our library), Knuffle Bunny (this was inspired by a similar activity described by Kelly Corr Amodeo in the 'Programming Librarian' Facebook group)
- Wash the Dirty Pigeon (printed large picture of Pigeon and laminated, then used washable crayons and dry erase markers to make them dirty, kids could use cloths, paper towels, and baby wipes to clean him up, and then dirty him up again), The Pigeon Needs a Bath! [This one I actually came up with all on my own!]
- Create Your Own Comic (panels with line drawings of Elephant & Piggie to color, and empty speech bubbles to write in, original source unknown), Elephant & Piggie series.
- Raffle off a copy of the new book
- Mo Willems character scavenger hunt
- Coloring sheets