As promised in my last blog post, this post will expand upon our experience at the Merced County Library System as we prepare for the full rollout of our 1000 Books before Kindergarten program. I’m exaggerating, of course, but it feels like there are one thousand things to consider. Here I have narrowed them down to just four.
- If at all possible, connect with a library that has already implemented the program.We took a field trip to visit a branch of a nearby system that was already up and running with a 1K books program. No shame in our game-we took pictures, asked where they purchased novelty items, and pretty much copied just about everything they did. I mean, why reinvent the wheel? It turned out to be a great visit and we left with our heads full of ideas and ready to move forward.
- Have a pilot program that lasts at least six months.Training and staff buy-in is a must. I am so glad we had the opportunity for a pilot program, because it gave us the opportunity for feedback and making mistakes. Here are the locations we chose: The bookmobile was selected because it visits a wide geographic area. Next was a smaller, rural branch. Finally, we selected a larger branch to get a more urban feel. I still think our pilot program was too short at just three months. It took at least one or two months just to get the word out to patrons, community partners and local businesses, and this was just for three branches. Imagine if we had three just three months to get the word out at all thirteen locations! The staff members of the three pilot locations have been wonderful about just jumping in with enthusiasm and going for it. We had a three hour training session for the pilot staff, and now, when we train the rest of the staff, the pilot staff can assist!
- Think about record keeping.If your program is being sponsored by the Friends, then they will want to know details at their budget meetings, so you will need to keep records. Also, in case you might apply for funding from other sources, good record keeping is a must. You can do something as simple as registration cards and reading logs like the ones used for Summer Reading, or you can create a database that allows you to look at demographics using zip codes.
- Create your re-supply strategy.In other words, the more branches, the more you will need a well thought out system for distributing supplies such as prizes and additional registration forms. Even if you have a delivery system, how will you handle communications? Email? Interoffice envelopes? Who will be in charge of this? You can make use of an awesome volunteer, but are there limits as to what the volunteer can do, like filing forms which have sensitive information? It’s likely that full-time staff will want to handle everything in the beginning until you find your rhythm.