Drop-In and Have Fun

Summer is crazy-busy for children’s librarians in public libraries—I’m sure I don’t have to say much more for ALSC blog readers to understand.  Besides our Summer Reading Game, my library system has high-quality summer camps at each branch. The camps are typically weekly, and ages range from entering kindergarten to 18 years old.  They span from art to STEAM to magic topics.  They are lots of fun.


As you might imagine, these free camps are extremely popular—most of them fill the first day registration opens.  This fact leaves many of our patrons unable to participate in them.  To fill that gap, my branch, along with three others, was asked to pilot a drop-in program where all can attend.

Painting made with, I kid you not, Q-Tips.


The chosen branches are very different from each other geographically, demographically, and socio-economically.  My branch’s community is very diverse within itself, including both affordable apartments and small homes populated by many new immigrants and families looking for “starter homes” and large homes inhabited by upper middle-class residents.  The area, historically white, now has a large South Asian community and a growing African-American population.  One thing all groups have in common?  They use their library.  Books are just sucked right off the shelves here, almost as if vacuumed.  However, programming is more hit or miss.  I was anxious to see what would happen.


The pilot runs 1 day each week for 8 weeks.  We have completed the first three.  The program runs for four hours, from 1 to 5 p.m., and guests do not have to sign up or stay the entire time.  They can come and go at will.  Those entering grades 1 through 8 may attend.


The community, especially our South Asian customers, have responded very positively thus far.  We have had over 40 people attend each week.  Attendees have spanned the entire age range.  We have had many caregivers opt to stay with their children, and they have been helpful with assisting them in the activities and cleaning up—without being asked!  It has turned into a very nice family affair.  The kids seem to have a really good time, and caregivers have thanked us for having the program.


Making windsocks on Nature Day

My staff approached this challenge by choosing a theme for each week.  We started with Art—we had 16 different art projects we rolled out over the 4 hours.  Next, we did “Make a Difference” day, where we made no-sew animal blankets and doggie treats for a local animal shelter, picture frames for a nursing home, and letters to pen pals.  Just yesterday we enjoyed “Nature Day,” where we decorated pots to plant seeds in, made bubbles and other crafts, and created pine cone bird feeders to hang outdoors.  Next week?  Gaming Day.


While the program has thus far been very positive, it is a lot of work.  I personally think 3 hours would be better (a lot of “steam” is lost in that last hour).  But drop-in programs that are open to all appears to be an equitable way for kids to enjoy summer at the library.


This post covers the Core Competency of Programming Skills.


  1. Lolita

    I was very interested to read your blog, as my Director has strongly suggested we have more drop-in programs and fewer that require preregistration for a specific number of available spots. While I applaud your efforts and “hear” what my Director is saying, I am not as enthusiastic. Part of the reason is that I am a one-staff department and I know first hand how much preparation goes into planning activities. In addition, I do not want to have an over abundance of materials left to store, but at the same time, I want to have enough for everyone. How have you handled those issues with your pilot program? Thank you in advance and congratulations on a successful camp!

    1. Maria Trivisonno

      If I was a one-staff department…I don’t think I could do the above. We’ve had really positive results, but it’s been exhausting. We had four people “man” this program each week thus far (three librarians and a page)…and we were all tapped out at the end.

      I bought materials for 40 people and that was a good guess–we’ve been using a lot of the material and will be saving left overs for future programs. I am still really concerned that a child care will come and add about 25 more people to our count–they came the wrong day the first week and haven’t been back. I’m not sure what we would do with 60 people–I don’t believe we’d have enough of each craft/activity and people would have to pick and choose and might not be happy with it. So far so good…but I’m concerned.

      I think each library would be VERY different. My former branch would have all children and no parents, and they would probably not stay the entire time like we are seeing here.

      Our next program will be Game Day, where we will be playing video games on the big screen, board games, life-sized Connect 4, etc. That might idea for a first drop-in program–it’s more open-ended and less planning intensive. You might see how many people show up for it? I hope that helps a bit!

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