We librarians tend to be passionate about our jobs; we believe deeply in the importance of library service to children and their grown-ups and so we are always striving for excellence.
But because perfection is impossible to achieve, it is sometimes so easy to focus on all the ways that we are falling short of our goals.
Take Summer Reading (please!). My office – the Children’s Services Dept. in a large library system – coordinates all aspects of our program. Our Summer Reading committee is closely involved in the planning, but once summer starts, it’s Children’s Services that is filling orders from branches for game boards, incentives and other supplies, handling invoices from performers, and much more.
We’re not seeing kids beaming as they tell us how much they read or have fun at a library program. Instead, we hear about the things that aren’t working right – the incentives that aren’t popular (or are so popular that branches run out), the game boards that are too simple (or too complicated), the exhaustion our librarians are feeling, and all the glitches that happen in a big library system during every Summer Reading. And that’s as it should be – our job is to fix problems and make sure everything is running smoothly.
But at certain points during the summer, I do start to feel as if the whole dang Summer Reading program is a colossal failure! Isn’t ANYone happy with it, I wonder? What is the point?
Then – at the end of summer, just when I’ve nearly melted into a little puddle of despondency – I start hearing from branches about the Good Stuff.
We start getting all the surveys back from kids, detailing how much they love Summer Reading, books and their neighborhood libraries!
We start tabulating our statistics – and wow, they’re higher than ever, with record numbers of kids who are participating for the very first time. Kids are reading up a storm and going to their libraries all summer long. Take that, Summer Learning Loss!
Librarians email me photos of kids reading, creating and having fun at the library, plus they send me stacks of drawings kids have done of their librarians (one of our activities this summer)!
And librarians tell me what they thought about this year’s Summer Reading. Sure, I hear about the stuff that didn’t work – and that’s important – but I also hear about the stuff that did – and that’s even more important.
Summer Reading will never be perfect, and I’ll no doubt continue beat myself up about that. But – it’s really, REALLY good. Its value to kids, families and the community is well worth the effort we all put into it.
Let the planning for Summer Reading 2014 commence – and let it be the best Summer Reading program ever!