For the past two years, Defiance Public Library System (DPLS) has been in the process of revamping the summer reading program by changing the name to Summer BreakOUT and focusing on the whole child. DPLS eliminated the reading requirement and instead made reading one of the possible activities participants could choose to do. Participants could track their activities online or they could choose to play using the paper gameboard.
Despite these efforts numbers are dropping. This year our goal was to increase Summer BreakOUT participation through the use of STEAM Camps and a partnership with the summer food program. The STEAM Camps were held over the course of three days for three hours each day. The camps were further divided into three grade level groups: 1-3, 4-6, and 6-8. The DPLS Youth Services Department serves three locations; with minimal staffing and lofty goals we were blessed to have received the YALSA/Dollar General Teen Summer Internship Program grant.
We were able to hire one teen intern for each library location for the duration of Summer BreakOUT. The candidates filled out an extensive application and were invited to an interview. On paper each applicant was amazing, but it was during the interviews that those who were hired outshined the rest.
The interns assisted with preparing for the STEAM Camps and various passive activities and displays. They also worked the summer snack program and directed the STEAM Campers. Each day, the interns would show up ready to work even after the previous exhausting day at camp. They were willing to be at the bottom on a dog pile, guide the campers to the restrooms, judge the Ozobots dance party, and carry all the tables. The campers fell in love with our interns and would often express their appreciation. For one of our teen interns, the STEAM Camp closed with a marriage proposal from a 3rd grader. Needless to say, we haven’t let him forget.
As a whole, the numbers were still down, however, we did receive excellent feedback for the STEAM Camps and will choose to host them again next year. It was worth the time and effort. We also had such success with our interns that we would love to hire them full-time. I would recommend any library to open their doors and host a teen intern.
Pamela Rellstab is the Youth Services Librarian for the Defiance Public Library System.