What I Learned From My First Summer Learning Program

My goal for this summer was to create a teen summer learning program at the library, because we didn’t have a dedicated teen services librarian before.

My first lesson was easy: I tried too much. I’m still trying to connect with the teens so there were usually multiple events a week in July.

I am a department of one, with the children’s department happy to assist when they are also not busy. Next year, I need to take a look at the broader theme of the summer, plan a few special events, and a few more low-key events that I can manage on my own. There were some truly large events that I have to re-examine for next year, and some smaller ones that I’ll consider not doing again. By the end of July, I had run myself ragged, and I still had most of a month of programming left to do.

But looking back at what I did accomplish, there is a lot that worked for my teens and my area. Taking some ideas from “Adopting a Summer Learning Approach” by Beth Yoke, I had created a space in my library where teens could learn in a safe, fun environment over the summer.

I spent six months crafting my STEAMPower Camp, a week-long program whose purpose was to encourage young women in middle school to try different STEM activities. We had women in STEM fields come in, physically or virtually, every day to talk about different STEM career paths, and plenty of experiments to keep them busy.

The girls, who already knew each other from school, were quick to join in teamwork to surpass my challenges. There were girls who had a little more trouble than others working in teams, but I could set one of my older teen volunteers with them to smooth things over. They learned to work in teams, and to experiment and see how many different fields of science they could go into.

However, it took a lot out of me. And the most important thing I learned was to plan for breaks in the summer. Just a day when I didn’t have a program or something to plan, and that I could take a breath and do the other parts of a one-person department like read review journals and order books, or catalog them.

Regular life has to go on during the summer, and no matter how excited I was for it, there was the regular part of librarianship that had to go on while I was doing bigger and better programs. Next summer, I’ll have a cataloging assistant, which will certainly help, and I’ll know better than to plan 20 programs in one month.

How’d your summer programs go?

 

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