Saturday, July 23, 2011

This week at the library; or, Lengthy thoughts on summer reading

It seems crazy to think about next summer, with this year's summer reading only half over (we go mid-June to mid-August) but I can't stop the ideas from joggling in my mind! This has been an amazingly successful summer - and year. In June, our attendance statistics were already almost 2,000 higher than last year at that time. We've met and passed the 800 summer reading registration goal we hit last year and kids are still signing up. I've had good turnout for pretty much every program and phenomenal numbers for some like the teen Body Art program and our Messy Art Club.

I'm also, quite frankly, completely exhausted and wondering how I will make it through the rest of summer. In the last four weeks, we have three performers, four movie showings, four preschool interactive programs, another messy art club, two (or is it three?) more lego clubs, a book club, after hours pizza party for teens, end of summer reading party for all ages, and a three day Scholastic Book Fair. The last week of summer reading I'm working 3 nights and Saturday. I also have another summer school pre-kindergarten visit (only about 80 kids), desk time, budgeting, collection development, volunteers to supervise and find work for, an intern, two aides to supervise, displays to update, publicity to make and distribute, grants to write, several professional development things to attend in August, summer flannelboards for storytime to finish, toddler storytimes to sub for, and probably several other things I'm forgetting at the moment. Oh yeah, special summer report to write.

We've actually had about the same number of programs this year as in the past, but the higher attendance numbers and the fact that more of our programs are active, rather than passive, makes the whole thing a lot more work. I've looked at several blog posts and various discussions talking about why summer programs are so heavily emphasized, issues with the continued agrarian model for school years, etc. In theory, I'd agree that we should have about equal year-round programs and summer should not be over-emphasized. In practice....most kids are heavily scheduled during the school year, we live in Wisconsin so there's quite a bit of "bad" weather to combat, not to mention the many, many kids and teens who have informed me they only read/go to the library during the summer. We get good numbers during the school year, but we need the heavy summer programming for the really strong attendance.

So, I'm thinking now about how I can make the whole thing less exhausting, more efficient, and and still have enough programming for everyone who wants to come.
  • Summer Reading Club
    • I love giving out the free books to the kids who sign up, but I may have to let that go. It's highly time-consuming to gather enough chapter books - I tried having volunteers use bookmooch, but that has NOT worked well and I need to do it myself. I didn't hand out free books to the 0-5 group because I wasn't sure we would have enough for everyone, but that confused people and I think we might have had enough anyways and then we tried giving them out as prizes has just been too confusing.
    • The 0-5 program has been popular, but it is too confusing to try to do it separately. We quickly dumped all the prizes in together. Lots of parents don't "get" why we would have a program for the really little ones and having separate logs for each kid is a pain, especially when you have multiple littles.
    • I've simplified the registration process, but record-keeping is still a problem. It's great to just have people write their name, school and age (I really don't think phone numbers are essential, but I was required to include them) on the list, but then keeping track of who has won their pass, counting names, how many kids from which school, was all supposed to be done online. But I underestimated how long it would take to enter that many names into the online database - I'm still behind. Plus, most of the reference staff don't like using the database to mark kids who have gotten their passes, so they're writing them on paper and then those have to be entered as well.
    • I've also pared down and simplifed the actual program, but it's not optimal. Too many kids finish their activity/reading logs the first couple weeks and then never return. Too many other kids sign up and then don't participate. I also feel that although I got rid of all the huge drawing prizes for kids 12 and under, there's still too much emphasis on the prizes - kids should be more excited about reading and fun activities than a piece of plastic or a sucker.
  • Programming and other thoughts
    • I need more organization! More organization would allow me to utilize my volunteers better, instead of them being a drag on my time. More organization and training would help my aides take care of some things like passive programming (movie showing, lego club, etc.) which just need a staff member present as well as some publicity so I could concentrate on active programming and outreach. Better organized aides and volunteers could take care of some of the grunt work of summer reading (stamping, registration, distributing prizes) which currently clog our information desk (we have a combined services information desk in the children's area which includes adult and children's reference, summer reading, computer help, etc.) and displays. I farmed out many of our displays this year, but it took time to show people what they should look like etc. We need to start this earlier.
    • I need more pre-planning. This summer's more extensive programming and several other factors combined to me just not being really ready (note to self - put off all personal crisis until after summer reading). I need storytimes planned ahead of time instead of the night before, I need to purchase supplies before summer begins instead of racing to Walmart every other week.
  • Conclusions
    • I need more staff, more time, and more money. We all have dreams. So, what do I have?
    • One ten hour aide during the year and an additional twelve hour aide during the summer.
    • Teen volunteers - they rarely come at regular times because of vacation and summer activities. I had many teens fill out our volunteer forms but never return and several of my volunteers are drop-in bored kids "can I help you NOW?".
    • Possible intern, since it's going really well with the one I have now, so Milwaukee may put us on the list for future interns!
    • I have the last two weeks of August and December and the first week or two of January with no programs for planning time.
    • I have the possibility of additional grant money from United Way this year, but there will be none next year. Most of my performers were paid for with this money, since my programming budget is about $750. Most of my local donations are monetary in small amounts. I usually send out about 20 letters and get maybe 5 donations of $50 each. Our Kiwanis Club has given us a couple hundred for summer reading and the VIP Aktion Club gives us a couple hundred for programming as well.
  • What can I do with what I have?
    • Organize and do more extensive training with aides and volunteers.
    • Plan and budget ahead of time so I can focus on programming and interaction with patrons. I will be cutting down the number of programs we have this fall, so I will have more planning time hopefully.
    • Organize donation requests and grants ahead of time.
    • Try a new summer reading program, probably based on Marge Loch-Wouters program at La Crosse. Cut down on prizes, encourage more visits to the library, and design the program so it's easier to collect statistics. Let go of the free book giveaway when kids register and make books prizes again *sniff*
Anyhow, those are my thoughts right now. Onto the week!

Monday - We showed Howl's Moving Castle, but it wasn't a huge success. I'm trying to decide if the movie showings are really worth it. It's not really expensive - our Friends paid for the license and I just buy some snacks, but it's a lot more time intensive than I had hoped. For this one I had to:
  • Bring down the screen from upstairs. Get someone to help me open it b/c it was stuck. Detach and bring down the job seeker laptop, since the other laptop won't play movies. Hook up the projector and laptop. Move all the tables in the Storyroom. Set up chairs. Bring in bean bags and loungers from upstairs. We had 3 teens, 1 other girl, and a couple families that came briefly. The movie started skipping half way through, we had technical difficulties, etc. etc.
Tuesday - I did toddler storytime with a theme of "fives." We started with Jim Gill's The Tempo Marches On (got to remember this doesn't work well with toddlers) then we did Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day, then Duck Dunks by Lynne Berry, then five little monkeys with flannelboard, then five little peas, then Christelow's Five little monkeys sitting in a tree, then five little ants (3 times) then Christelow's Five little monkeys wash the car, then we made suncatchers and I tried to catch my breath!
Our performer today was Storywagon (paid for by the consortium's grant) a musical group, Fox and Branch. They were AMAZING, it was a perfect all ages program and I bought all three of their children's cds for the library!

Wednesday - My intern did baby storytime and I went to the dentist. For our last Messy Art Club of the summer we distributed window crayons and window markers (purchased at Walmart) and let the kids paint our windows. They LOVED it and it really wasn't messy at all...until they finished and I and my aide and volunteer started to clean the windows. It comes off easily with a wet paper towel...but there was so much that it took forever and it smears and we only got a few windows clean. We'll have to keep doing a few windows a day before it's all done!

Thursday - Preschool Interactive is still going strong - we're going to switch to Wednesday in the fall and our town will have 4k for the first time, so we'll see how that affects numbers. Realized I should be squeegeeing the windows, not mopping them with paper towels, so the cleaning is going MUCH faster. Suddenly remember I have to be at the middle school for summer school storytimes at 8am tomorrow. Blah.

Friday - I did a frog storytime for the pre-kindergarteners at summer school. Only about 80 kids, 4 classes, but I was still hoarse at the end! I felt unprepared, probably because I left my schedule at home, but summer school II is always a little more casual anyways. It was pouring rain and miserably hot and sticky in the middle school. Ugh. Anyways, I worked a closing shift at the library and then finally time for some sleep!


Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading these wrap ups, it helps me put my week into perspective! I've been thinking about our SRC lately and what I'd do different. Since I work in a system, I don't have as much of a say-so in design and schedule, but I can dream! I'm going to do a wrap up soon, since we run start of June to end of July. Our final parties are this Wednesday!

Abby said...

One thing we've done to make life easier is to start our Summer Reading Club 2 weeks before we start up our summer program schedule. I'm thinking that next year, we may let SRC run for a week after we stop our programs, too. This allows us to get those crazy days of mass sign-ups out of the way before we add programming to our days. We started the SRC May 24 and our first summer programs (storytime, art studios, etc.) were the first full week of June.

We have a similar situation with teen volunteers. At the beginning of the summer we had a bunch who were interested in coming "every week!" but they hardly ever showed up when they said they would. We ended up telling them that IF we had work for them to do when they came in, they could volunteer but we might not have anything for them to do. We did have a few that we knew we could count on for programs. For the ones that dropped in, we had them gather up books that were stacked at the end of shelves & on tables, straighten shelves, and shelf-read the paperback racks (which are so messed up all the time that even if the volunteers completely screwed them up, it wouldn't make that much of a difference...).

Jennifer said...

Thanks Abby, that's a good idea! Right now I do spring programs right through the end of May, in conjunction with school visits (I visit all three elementary schools, 6th grade, and two parochial schools) and I have two weeks at the beginning of June to get ready for programs. Spreading things out would make life easier!