YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation graciously selected Ozark Regional Library as a recipient of the Summer Learning Resources Grant. With this grant, we were able to supplement our Summer Reading Program with things we’ve never before been able to offer. We used the funds for a collection development, prizes, and programming.
Over the past few years, our Young Adult collection has not received a lot of attention. Collection development funds were used elsewhere, so we didn’t have a ton of new material coming in. Thanks to this grant, we were able to add some fiction and non-fiction to the YA shelves. We ordered some popular fiction books as well as non-fiction that fit in with this summer’s theme of “Build a Better World.” I noticed an increase in teens perusing the shelves this summer and I expect circulation statistics will show a rise in YA checkouts.
In addition to collection development, we were able to purchase books to give away as prizes. Every teen that completed the Summer Reading Club received a book. This book also came with a bookmark that stated: “Congratulations on completing the Summer Reading Club! You have received this book thanks to the generosity of YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation! Keep on Reading!” Several teens expressed their excitement when getting to pick out their new book. We decided to make this a part of the Summer Reading Program because our goal with this grant was to get books into the hands of teens. Many of the families in our community are low income and can’t afford to have books in their homes. This grant made it possible for teens to take home a book that they can keep for years to come.
Another goal our library had for this grant was to provide programming that was educational and fun for teens. We want the library to be a safe, air-conditioned place for the teens in our community to relax, learn, and have fun. We had several different teen programs throughout the summer, but three were created due to the YALSA/Dollar General grant funds. These programs were: Planning for the Future, Make Your Own Film Festival, and a Teen Carnival.
Planning for the Future was a program created to help teens and young adults with college and career readiness. College and career advisers from the community were brought in and made up a panel of experts. Panelists included members from the local community college, a university extension office, the Missouri Job Center, and Mers/Goodwill. These panelists talked about how to apply to college, financial aid, resume writing, interview skills, etc. We offered the program at three of our locations, but sadly, attendance was low.
The Make Your Own Film Festival took place on a Saturday and was run by a Branch Manager. It was a four hour event and teens and even some adults attended. The teens came in groups or were put into groups and were given the task of creating a 5-minute short film. For the first hour, teens enjoyed coffee donated by a local coffee shop and brainstormed their film after hearing the theme. They then had two hours to shoot and edit the film. The last hour was spent eating popcorn and pizza donated by a local restaurant and watching the films. The winning team was voted on by the teens and the winning team got to split a $25 iTunes gift card. While the program went well, we will change some things in the future. The editing software was not working properly and caused some difficulty. We would also try to break the ages up some more because older teens seemed to be more successful than the younger teens. Additional staff will be needed as well if the event continues to be well-attended. However, since this was the first time we did a program like this, we definitely would call it a success.
The last event we had for teens this summer was a Teen Carnival and to my major disappointment, no teens came. We had one child show up near the end and asked if she could participate. We had planned fun things so I definitely thought were would have good attendance, but for some reason, we didn’t. We hired a caricaturist and a face painter/balloon artist and had games, crafts, and refreshments. We even advertised that the door prize winner would get to throw a pie in my face. Since only one child showed up, she was automatically the lucky winner and she greatly enjoyed doing that. We decided to attribute the lack of attendance to the weather. Even though the carnival was held inside, it was 103 degrees that day and we feel like most teens were staying at home or were at the town pool. It was disappointing because we advertised so heavily, but staff enjoyed the event (especially the caricaturist).
Despite low attendance at some of the teen events, we had a great Summer Reading Program. This grant allowed us to do things we’ve never been able to do and many teens and parents said that this was the best Summer Reading Program we’ve had in years. Again, we would like to thank YALSA and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation for making it happen.
My name is Kelsey Fitzgerald and I am the Youth Librarian for Ozark Regional Library, headquartered in Ironton, Missouri. I have been in this position for one year and have absolutely loved it! After working in larger city libraries for several years, it is a wonderful change to be in a rural library system. My passion is lifelong learning and with this job, I am able to instill a love of reading and learning into children at the very beginning of their lives.