Like Kelley and the folks she links to in her intriguing post on Technology and SRCs a few days ago, I’ve thought about library summer reading programs quite a bit over the years – first as a children’s librarian on the front lines and now as manager of Youth Services for my system.
Really, it’s been about a search for meaning. Why do we do it? Is it doing what we hope it’s doing? How do we know? Yes, there’s the Dominican Study – but I need more!
My own questioning aside, our summer reading program is here to stay, and this year we have done away with cheap gewgaws and are focusing on books as prizes, plus chances to win system-wide prize drawings, based on minutes read (for grades K-5) and early literacy activities completed (for ages 0 – 4).
But…! The fact that we took a new approach this year, plus our lack of data from previous years, meant that planning our 2011 program was fraught with uncertainty. We had statistics from previous years on:
- How many kids signed up (by branch and system-wide)
- How many programs we offered and how many kids/adults attended them
And that’s it!
Our branches did collect information, via paper sign-up sheets, on age, grade and school – but we never entered that information from our 72 branches and Central Library into any kind of spreadsheet or database, so in essence it was unavailable to us.
So we knew approximately how many game boards to order – but not how many should be preschool and how many should be school-aged (this year, for the first time, we have a different game board for those two age groups).
And because this was the first time we were presenting a program based on minutes read, we had no stats or experience to tell us when or how kids should earn their free book. We also didn’t know how many books we would need, nor how many for each age group to buy (board books, picture books, IRs, chapter books).
And those are just a few of the issues we had to muddle through. Although we are happy with our program all in all, let’s just say that Mistakes Were Made (okay okay, I made mistakes).
Next year, we’ll be set! Like Marge of the Tiny Tips for Library Fun blog, we’re collecting information as kids register — in our case, using Evanced as our method of logging, compiling, and crunching it. At summer’s end, we’ll know:
- How many kids signed up, broken down by age, gender, branch, and zip code
- How many kids (approximately) received free books (and therefore, we’ll know how many kids read at least 8 hours)
- How many minutes were spent reading (for this year, just a total — but next year, we hope to break it down by kid, by branch, and so on)
- How many kids finished the program (in other words, read the entire 15 hours on the game board)
And of course we’re distributing a survey to kids, and will glean lots more information from that. Why? We need to know what kids did in the program AND what they thought about it (and the library), both to measure outcomes and to help plan next year’s program.
When we begin planning the 2012 program this September, we’ll be armed with some good solid information.
But how the 2012 program will work? I bet we’ll make changes. Like Kelley and many others, I’m keeping my mind open, especially to all the meanings that “literacy” has in today’s libraries. It’s exciting to imagine a program that has interactivity and connectivity built into it, along with an emphasis on all kinds of reading.
I can’t wait to get started!