And I mean it.
Fellow YS librarians! I know that this is our most stressful time of year: this lead-up to summer reading when all things converge into one mass of school visits, school tours, preparing publicity, lining up programs and getting ready for the crush of all those endless days of patrons, programs, and mayhem. I know! I know this is when that dark part of you starts whispering how useless this all is, how no one notices all your hard work, how patrons don’t appreciate all your effort and money and time. I know!
Last year, I wrote a piece for the amazing site Letters to a Young Librarian (y’all should submit pieces! Let’s get lots of YS voices featured!) that was specifically about summer reading and this soul-suck. It’s inspiration and solace for new librarians and it’s called You Will Survive Summer Reading. This letter to a young librarian has this as a thesis: Summer Reading is the certainly most exhausting time to work in Youth Services but also the most dang fun!
And because I truly believe this I am SO EXCITED for another summer of chaos and exhaustion. Our summer programming begins the very second school gets out which, for us, is in a mere THREE WEEKS. We run full-on all the way through June and July and then take August off.
We’re just about all lined up (with a few last minute details flying in, of course, because that’s how I do!) and I am starting to feel the real pressure and EXCITEMENTS of summer and everything new we have coming. I thought this would be a good time to preview some of our upcoming summer activities…and that I’d have something to revisit after surviving summer. So, here are some of the things I can’t wait for in summer 2o14!
- Fizz…Boom…Science on Film! Our branch library has a weekly Family Friendly Film Series in the summer. We show movies and have popcorn and lemonade. They’re usually pretty well-attended (between 30-80 people, depending on the film.) This summer I decided we’d have a film series – an actual theme instead of just trying to dig up random children’s films. And what better theme than one that fits with this summer’s theme: MAD AND WACKY SCIENTISTS? We’re watching movies like Flubber (with Robin Williams, but either would do), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Meet the Robinsons (and just think how many movies would fit – Megamind, The Nutty Professor…) I think this is going to be an especially fun connection to summer reading and a great way to motivate more people to come to the film series regularly. But there’s more!
- We’re trying out some more evening programs. I realized last summer that we have so many fun and great things during the day … but what about if you’re a working parent? So, we’re trying out a more participatory kind of summer evening programming and part of it ties directly to the film series. A kid’s film series about science? What a perfect time for STEAM programs! Before each film screening, we’ll have a short storytime/STEAM activity. It’ll be a chance to tie in some books and science programming WITH the films and gives parents/families an activity to go with the film or even just a quick hands-on, fun night program if they don’t stay for the movie. I love the idea of modifying an existing (popular) program by adding just a little extra that can fulfill several needs. I hope it will gain popularity as the summer goes along and can become a regular part of our summer programming: activities, books, movies all for families and all after 5:00 PM.
- We’re also adding Craft Creation nights in July at our main library – which I hope will give us a chance to burn off extra supplies 🙂 and create a fun drop-in-maker-station kind of vibe. Nothing too staff-intensive, but something that will give families a place to hang out together for a bit and make something.
- Our PARTIES! Last year, I wrote all about our school-age standalone single day events. Here’s my blog about how ours are set-up and why I think they are an essential part of programming for libraries year round but especially in summer. This year we are back with a whole new slate of single day events I can’t wait to test out! Our single-day events this year are: My Little Pony, Geronimo Stilton, and Pete the Cat. I’m really excited about Geronimo Stilton because I love trying things for this specific age range based on those early chapter books. We’re plotting out activities and timing right now and we’re scanning Pinterest and modifying to fit out format. These are very popular characters here, so I’m expecting good attendance.
- I’m excited to try another year of our relaunched American Girl. I posted about how we relaunched the program and it’s great to see that, even in a second year, this has helped staff enthusiasm for it AND patrons are still as curious as ever. As I wrote, the program is now even MORE experience based, so I’m excited to try that out again this year. This year we’re doing Kit from 1934 and I’m excited to see how this new format holds up on a second year.
- We’re launching a week’s worth of CAMP HALF BLOOD/CAMP JUPITER programming. I just thought this was a trend we could no longer ignore – I don’t know about y’all but our Percy Jackson books are never checked in and we have dozens upon dozens of them. So, here we go. We’ll have a week worth of programming around the universe of Percy Jackson. I feel sure my #1 challenge will be keeping them from full-contact physical force against each other…so any tips on that are totally appreciated.
- FROZEN SING-ALONG!! This is another one we can’t stop the momentum on – so why not harness it. Not just a showing of Frozen but a chance for the kids to come in costume and sing along and out-loud and not worry about being shushed. Some theaters have done this so I thought it’d be a great chance for a library to offer it for free. Also … Frozen!!!
- Remember the best librarians borrow, modify, and credit each other! So, this summer I’m trying out Amy’s Book Bunch Picnic Lunch because it’s an amazing program and because I wanted to have something else for that age range on a weekly basis. I’m excited to see what ages show up and how it works. Thank you, Amy! You’re a glorious goddess!
- I’m also excited that we’re moving our early literacy storytime for ages 4-7 back to once a week. We launched this program last summer to great success and we’ve tried to keep it up during the school year, but attendance has plummeted. SO to have it back at once a week with much higher participation is a big thrill. It’s a wonderful chance to build our early literacy skills with an older group.
- Another new program this year: a middle-grade book club. We’re having a special book club for 6th-8th graders. We’ve struggled with middle school programming over the past few years, having big ups and downs, but I thought this would be a good chance to try to find some new almost-teen readers and try to get them involved in programming year-round while also getting booktalking in. We’re reading Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner and The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand AND we’re Skyping with Claire Legrand, so that’s verrrrry exciting.
- Total revamp of the teen program! Yes, we struggle mightily with getting teens involved in summer reading. So, here’s another reboot! (never stop throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks, man!) We’re encouraging them to come in for weekly drawings instead of just one big end of summer drawing and are giving away books AND small gift certificates, a new addition. We’re also doing TWO book clubs that will have authors Skyping in to chat with us since that has been popular in the past. We’re reading The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova and Charm and Strange by Steph Kuehn. I’m also adding FANDOM NIGHTS, not quite during “after-hours” but a little later than previous programs. This is because at our last teen Lock-In we had AMAZING turnout and lots of it was due to the fact that we themed it around Doctor Who and Sherlock and a younger teen demographic was really drawn to that and boosted our numbers. We want to make those teens our future and keep them coming! So, I am trying to be cautiously optimistic that our numbers will boost up in the teen area. BUT we’ll keep trying new stuff until it does!!
WHEW, I AM EXHAUSTED EVEN THINKING ABOUT ALL OF THIS, AMIRIGHT! But I am also really excited. That’s the thing! I know Summer Reading is exhausting – believe me, I totally do, I’m not kidding that this post is exhausting to think about how it’s all going to be implemented. (which … it … will be, I’m sure!) AND YET. I also know that the summer will be full of rewards and learning lessons and great successes (and failures too). We put lots of effort into Summer Reading but we also get high returns.
As I was once again exhausting myself over every single tiny detail, I was browsing through the Summer Reading Manual when I found the world’s most adorable picture. It’s part of the Early Literacy program and its drawn by this year’s superb artist, Dan Santat. It IMMEDIATELY calmed me down and, more than that, it reminded why we do all this, why we push through all this and try so hard to CREATE something. Because of this picture of a baby and a book and pure joy. It matters. We matter.
What do YOU have planned for Summer Reading that you just can’t wait for? What are you trying new? What familiar favorites are you welcoming back? When does all the fun happen for you? What suggestions for me for OUR programs do you have? Are there any questions or details about these programs I didn’t answer or that you want more info/samples about? Let’s talk about it all! (Comment here, send me an email, or talk with me on Twitter!)
Let’s get out there and take a bite out of Summer Reading!
I’m excited for summer, too! I mean, yes, also exhausted, but there are a lot of families that we only see during the summer months. They’re all so busy with school and sports and extracurriculars during the school year… One thing I’m excited about this summer is our weekly Preschool Lab programs. I started doing preschool science programs about once a month as part of our weekly Preschool Explorers program, but this summer I’m doing it every week. It’s been lots of work to get those programs planned and prepped, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun! We also started a beginning readers storytime this fall and I’m excited to hopefully have a new and larger audience for it this summer so we can grow it next fall! We’ll see!!