You may be thinking, “Summer Reading Club is still months away–we still have plenty of time!” But it will be here before you know it.’ ‘  And, with the economy as it is and library budgets continuing to predict devastating shortfalls and cuts, how do we conduct a successful Summer Reading Club without or with little money?

I have to say that I am from a rural community library that doesn’t get funding for teen programming, so my motto for Summer Reading Club is “Beg, Borrow, and Plead.”‘  It may sound harsh, but the reality is this: we need to provide summer activities for teens regardless if we have money or not; they deserve to have opportunities at an organization that cares.’  Here are some tips for operating Summer Reading Club on a shoestring:

Tip #1: Start early. It is really important to start trying to get help as soon as possible.’  Begin by sending letters requesting donations from every community club, organization, and business. It is essential to do this now because as budgets get worse, the reins will tighten more.’  Because most of these requests are addressed on a first come, first served basis, it is necessary to get your voice heard now. For businesses, even donating coupons are helpful, but you will find that the major corporations have special outreach offices that might be willing to do more.

Tip #2: Contact your Friends group if you have one. Surprisingly, many Friends groups do not receive too many requests for assistance.’  For a successful request, you should always be prepared to give a presentation stating all the facts and benefits of the Summer Reading Program, as well as a breakdown as to how the funds would be spent.

Tip #3: Be able to sell yourself! No one knows your program better than you and your teens.’  Everyone involved should be advocates for your program.’  Talk about it with your neighbors, your community council, your schools, and your politicians.’  Get some press in the local papers about it.’  Start tooting your horn now so everyone can see what it is all about.

Tip #4: Have your elevator speech ready. Imagine if you were in an elevator and had only a minute, two at max, to convince someone to support your teen summer programs.’  You need to have your speech ready to deliver and be confident in your message. Facts should be at the tip of your tongue about your attendance numbers and how your teens benefit from Summer Reading Club.’  Start with something catchy, but don’t waste time on too much story-telling.’  Most people just want the facts, and they want them in a split second.

Tip #5: Get your teens to help out. Many teens have special skills or abilities that they might be willing to share or lend to help create a successful Summer Reading Club. Talk to your teens; chances are they have some ideas.

Tip #6: Talk to your community. With our Summer Reading Club, I have different experts pertinent to the summer’s theme come in and present fascinating topics.’  And, they are willing to do it for free.’  Don’t be afraid to ask; so many are willing to help out if they know it is for teens.’  For example, with the “Make Waves” slogan, you could set up a volunteer opportunities fair with organizations coming in to explain how teens can volunteer their time.’  You could have the president of a local college activist organization talk about how true advocacy works. Or, you could go with the literal water translation of the theme and have someone come in and teach water safety or first aid.’  Someone else could demonstrate how to fish or do science experiments based on water. Teachers have summers off and are excellent presenters!

Tip #7: Reuse and Recycle. For crafts, we can always using things that are thrown out or old’ that can be’ recycled into something new. There are so many books out there with projects for re-using cardboard tubes and newspaper.’  Just start early collecting, and you’ll have plenty by the time summer starts.

Tip #8: Network with your peers. Librarians have tons of ideas. Talk to each other, get feedback, and loan help or ask for it; share ideas, tips, and tricks.’  Your colleagues are your best resources.

Tip #9: Use technology. It can be so helpful in keeping printing costs down and in advertising programs.’  In addition, it can be helpful in putting out the call for assistance and in getting volunteers who might be able to present programs.

Tip #10: Be committed, and don’t give up even if someone says no. Sometimes a person may not be able to donate financially, but they can’ give time or certain supplies. Be willing to keep trying and be flexible!

Always remember to keep sending thank yous! Let everyone who helps in any way, big or small, know that you appreciate their contributions.

About Krista McKenzie

I am a Children's Specialist at the Ruth Enlow Library in Garrett County, Maryland. I work with kids from the ages of 0 to 18 and am also a reference librarian. In addition, I am member of the YALSA Legislative Committee, and the Children's Services Division of the Maryland Library Association.

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