Doing Summer Reading for the First Time

I started my first full-time library position in March in a small town library. ‘ Taking over for a librarian who had been there for close to 50 years – pretty much since they have had a YA librarian – is a bit daunting, as you might imagine. ‘ Things have always been done as she has done them and, while I have lots of ideas, I don’t want to step on any toes or do anything the teens will hate, so I’m nervous.

We’re going with the travel theme, as many libraries are, and I’m taking my Children’s Librarian’s advice: ‘ change a few things here and there, but for the first year stick to what’s been done. ‘ The librarian I took over for is, luckily, still around to answer my questions. ‘ So, I am (mostly) doing what she did. ‘ There will be raffles and prizes. ‘ I will be counting minutes and having 3-4 events. ‘ The kids around here travel a lot – going to summer camp, on vacation, summers in Tuscany (I’m not sure on this one, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s true for some of them). ‘ I’m guessing turnout won’t be all that great, but I want to make it awesome for those that do show up. ‘ How do I know if I’m not doing enough or if I am doing way too much?

My process, thus far, has been this:

1) Brainstorming – I looked at all my listserv emails and professional resources and got ideas on everything: ‘ events, books, advertising, and how to score summer reading. ‘ Counting by minutes seems to be the fairest option, so I’m sticking with that for this year.

2) ‘ Where do I get funding – This is, thus far, the most confusing aspect of working in a library for me. ‘ I always have to know which budget or fund I can use. ‘ Surprisingly, it is not as easy to figure out as I would have thought, and I wish that I had heard more about it in library school.

I have just finally figured out where the money comes from, so next I’m on to

3) ‘ Figuring out exactly what I need for each event and

4) ‘ Getting everything ultimately approved. ‘ Then, on to

5) Buying everything and

6) Advertising. ‘ This one will be the most difficult, as I am still trying to figure out how my patrons communicate best. ‘ They seem to text almost constantly and love Facebook, but I am still working out how to utilize texting and have not finished putting together a Facebook page for my library.

I would love to hear feedback from all of you. ‘ What did you do for your first Summer Reading Programs? ‘ How do you adjust them for your first summer at a new library? ‘ What events do you find most effective? ‘ Any overall advice?

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Abby,

    I’m still in library school, so don’t have any real-world experience or advice to offer you, but wanted to say I love your honesty in this post and the organization with which you’ve approached the summer reading program! I wish you the best of luck this summer!

  2. I’ve used http://ohdontforget.com/ to text event reminders to my teens – it lets you send text messages directly from the web so you don’t have to text kids from your personal phone. I use it on conjunction with email announcements. The emails go out 1-2 weeks in advance, and I send the texts as a follow up a day or two before the event.

  3. I would love to hear from librarians about visiting local schools to promote the Summer Reading Program. Advice? Experiences? This is my first time and I’m nervous!

  4. Hi Abby,

    Last summer was my first summer doing a reading program on my own (sorta). I started my position mid-April, so most of the programs had been set by then (we had money provided through a statewide amendment so we got to hire lots of performers and presenters). I came into it having participated in a HUGE summer reading program at a large library, so I wasn’t totally clueless, but I took basically the same approach as you did, in not deviating too much from what the previous children’s librarian did, just simplifying certain parts.

    This year, I’m running both the children and teen summer reading programs on my own (with lots of help through the magic of task delegation to other staff members 🙂 ) and have made lots of changes.

    We’re not using the CSLP because the large metropolitan area where I work has developed its own program they’ll be using for at least the next 3 summers, in an attempt to build “brand” recognition. In some ways, that was very freeing, in there’s not a curriculum or lots of ideas out there and the theme is very general, so I went back to basics and thought about what we were really trying to accomplish by providing summer reading opportunities.

    For instance, in order to sign up for the reading program, kids used to have to register with their name, age, address, school, grade just completed, and phone. From that list, the only information I used in preparation for this year was age in order to decide what sort of prize books I needed to order (every kid who reads 20 hours during the program gets to select a paperback book to keep). So this year, we’re only having them sign up with their first name, last initial and age on blank business cards we’re going to display in the children’s area as a visual display of all the participants. Simple!

    I think the best general advice I have is to stay organized, keep the end goal always in sight (ultimately for me, summer reading is about 1) experiencing the new and fun things at the library 2) encouraging reading and exploration of all the resources libraries have to offer and 3) did i mention fun?), and keep things simple. Putting lots of work into the program before it starts (I have my weekly baby and family farmers’ market storytimes planned through August…I know, it sounds insane) makes the rest of the summer go more smoothly, and it also means your brain space is a little more clear to deal with the cranky parents, out of control kids and teens, and inevitable last minute changes or adjustments that have to be made.

    I do school visits for K-3rd grade at all the public and private schools in my service area (there are 4 schools serving those grades in my area). I keep it short– 15 to 20 minutes depending on how inquisitive and focused the kids are, and meet with 3 or 4 classes at once. I work with the secretaries or principals at each school to set up the schedule ahead of time, and bring a calendar with all our events on it to send home with each kid (bundled by teacher). I talk about the theme, the reading record (we record time as well), and briefly highlight a few events from the calendar. Then we tell a story together (this year I used Banana! by Ed Vere). I allow a few questions along the way and make sure to thank the teachers.

    My advice here is to be flexible– I traipse all over the schools and have to ask for directions many times to figure out where I’m supposed to be– and to start early. The end of the year is a busy time so reserve your spot early. When I write to each of the principals to ask if I may visit, I like to include numbers of last year’s participants and achievements (30% read 20 hours or whatever) to highlight that it actually is something worthwhile that many students are benefiting from.

    We haven’t had good luck yet building connections at the secondary building (middle and high school are all in one here), but that is one of my goals for the next school year, so that hopefully I can do some visits next year. We have a teen volunteer program I would talk about, the reading program, and then I would probably book talk 2-4 new books/materials. We recently added Playaways to our teen audio collection, so I might bring one of those, for example.

    Best of luck and remember to take a little time to enjoy the experience!

    Amy

  5. Hi Abby,

    If you are currently having regular teen programs or have teen volunteers I would start by asking them. One summer I showed teens the theme from the CSLP and they totally didn’t get it. I accepted that and came up with something completely new that they really liked.

    The most basic thing you should do is involve teens in your planning. This can be really casual. You can just ask teens in your library, on the computers, or hanging out for their opinion. If you do this often, they will get used to it, and to you and give you some really good feedback.

    A great new summer reading program doesn’t have to be your idea. It can be the teens!

  6. Two years ago, I did my first Summer Reading Club at my current job, basically taking over from a long-time children’s librarian who had been there for almost 30 years. I started in mid-May, so everything was planned already. That first summer, I sat back and we kept the program basically the same as it had been. I wanted to see what worked and what didn’t before I went about making changes. Last year and this year, we’ve made some changes and we keep improving on what we have!

    Sometimes I feel like I have a lot of big ideas and I want to change EVERYTHING! RIGHT NOW! But I have learned to take it little-by-little (for the sake of both my staff and myself). Everything doesn’t have to be perfect the first time – you learn from what you’re doing. Take copious notes, and as you’re going through the summer, jot down ideas for next year. That’ll make planning next year’s program way easier.

    Good luck!!!

  7. Dear Abby,

    (I’ve secretly always wanted to write that!) I don’t know what state you are in, but 49 of the 50 U.S. states have members in the Collaborative Summer Library Program so there’s a good chance you have a wealth of ideas at your fingertips. Contact your State Library and ask if your state is a member or go to http://www.cslpreads.org/membership.html.

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