Blogger Kelley Beeson

Summer Reading, No! But Reading in the Summer, Yes!

I’m back with more anti-summer reading ranting!  Interested in reading (or re-reading) the whole diatribe?  Here are the previous entries: Part I, Part II, Part III where I’ve noted issues around how/if the traditional summer reading model supports non-readers; SRP tracking and registration; and learning vs. reading as the program’s focus.  This month, I’m thinking hard about assessment and evaluation again.

Here we are, a little less than 2 months before the summer season starts.  And I’m feeling it!  My stress level is a bit high these days (but calmed weekly with Netflix, the local Y and chocolate banana bread!) But I’m excited too.  This will be a very different summer for my library and I’m eager to see how it all goes.  Since there will be no registration for the reading portion, the only thing from which we’ll gather information is our big LEGO 3D infographic that will definitely give us an idea of how many books each age group read. I’ve talked to more than a few parents who say they’ve never actually participated in an SRP because of the hassle of tracking books for more than 1 child.  I myself don’t want to track my reading (outside of GoodReads, that is) to participate in an adult SRP and I never have. Not even a chance to win an iPad motivates me to either write down the books I read or login to a website I don’t regularly use to track my reading there.  I’d rather be reading – HA!

I do want, however, to spend some time thinking about:

  • what that registration information has meant to us
  • how our library has used it in the past
  • and if we have truly needed it, how could we make do without it

As far as I can see, we’ve only really needed (and I use that term loosely) the total number of books and/or the total number of hours-read.  And even that number merely gets sent out into the void of state reports and is never heard from again.  I know it’s one way libraries have measured success, but I’m not convinced it actually helps us measure our impact.  Again, I would argue that those numbers mostly represent kids who love reading, regardless of what libraries do to support them, other than provide access to amazing books, of course!  And frankly, I’m still trying to find a good way to measure our deep impact.  We applied for a small grant this spring (not sure if we got it yet) but a big portion of the application (as you ALL know!) is about assessment and evaluation.  We included some creative ideas (some we devised, some we got from other grant projects from other organizations) and here are a few:

  • We’re going to ask parents and children/teens to complete brief ladder evaluations. These are 2 mirror evaluations – one giving at the beginning of an event and one given at the end.  These will address interest level and track any change in understanding of a subject or concept.
  • Our staff will create charts that will be available during events and programs alongside stacks of post-it notes and pens/pencils.  The charts will display questions children can answer any time during the program/event such as Did you learn something new about_____ today?  Did you collaborate with someone today?  Would you attend another program like this one?  Our thinking is that this setup, which makes the questions part of the program will yield more responses.
  • Staff will be on alert during programs and workshops to catch stories, ideas and responses to the activities.  We’re also going to be vigilant about snapping photos (for Instagram and beyond) and we’ll be asking follow-up questions to gather transformational stories to share with the community and the library board.
  • And of course, we’ll be keeping detailed track of attendance.  In a more holistic way than in the past.  We’re going to keep an eye on repeat participants and new faces and work on making lasting connections.

This is a far cry from SRP reports that I’m accustomed to filling out and submitting.  And I imagine there will be some work in convincing our library board about this approach as well.  But it’s part of a larger mission I’m on to rework our program offerings and approach to youth services.  Pushing closer to standards more in-line with informal learning projects and organizations.  My hope is that our department can become a seriously official supplemental service to the school.  I mean, truly part of their curriculum.  I really believe this is, at least in part, the future of public library services to children.

Is anyone else going rogue?  I’d love to hear the creative stuff happening out there!

One comment

  1. Dawn Treude

    I really hope you post a follow-up at the end of SRP. Our SRP program went all online in the last few years and I miss the old days when kids colored a simple chart parents could display on the fridge. Good luck on your rogue mission!

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