As I was working on our 2019 budget narratives this last month, I was struck once again by the importance of telling stories. The stories we are telling our funders (both governmental and private) are crucial to our success in securing the funds we need to accomplish our goals. And telling the story of summer reading is no exception — we need to message to our funders to help them understand just why summer reading is so important to our communities. Over the last few summers, the youth services team at the Madison Public Library has been implementing some new strategies to do this. They include:
- Sending weekly reports to our Library Director. One of our big summer programming initiatives involves programming in the parks. Our librarians provide the Director a weekly summary including photos, attendance numbers, the teaching objective of the week, and a comment from a parent or child participant. This report helps regularly keep youth services initiatives in our Director’s mind, and gives him great talking points to share with community members or city leaders he might meet.
- Training community summer programming staff. Youth services librarians are now a regular part of our school and community recreation department’s summer training program. Library staff discuss attitudes about reading, how to promote reading, engaging with kids positively around books, and how to help kids pick appropriate titles for their reading levels. The trainings have been well received and are now being requested by additional community centers across the city.
- Using community reading trackers. Community reading trackers serve a dual purpose. They are really motivating for kiddos (who doesn’t want to be part of a cool box city being built around the library?!), and they visually serve as a reminder for everyone – staff included – as to how much reading has been going on as part of Summer Reading Club.
- Training teen interns to take photos, interview participants, and write social media posts. If you’ve ever tried to take a photo of a program you’re running, you know it can feel impossible. In the summer, though, you can use teen interns (who are often highly skilled at taking great photos with a phone!) to tell the story for you.
- Working with the school district to use data to tell our story. One of our greatest achievements has been developing a partner program with our school district that includes our ability to get data on how program participants are actually improving their reading skills. Right now, the data is limited to one partnership program that takes place as part of summer school (the kids at 12 schools are enrolled in summer school through the school district and library staff train the program leaders, provide giveaway books, and provide a literacy-enhanced curriculum for program staff), but we hope that this can someday expand to all library program participants.
- Holding a summer debrief. At the end of the summer, the team gets together to share what they did, what went well, and how things can be improved. Then, they write a short summary report for our Director, community partners, and funders, before the next year’s planning starts all over again!
I know other libraries out there are using awesome methods of sharing their summer reading story. What is your library doing?
Today’s blog post was written by Krissy Wick, Director of Public Services at the Madison Public Library in Madison, Wisconsin, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: III. Programming Skills, V. Outreach and Advocacy, and VI. Administrative and Management Skills.