Blogger Heather Acerro

Summer Playlist: At Home Edition

In 2017, Rochester Public Library (MN) launched the Summer Playlist program to replace our traditional Summer Reading Program (SRP). You can read all about that process here.

Cover of a tri-fold Summer Playlist: At Home Edition log. A logo at the top with the name of the program, a line for writing a name in the middle. At the bottom the library's logo and the words "Rochester Public Library" and the tagline "All Are Welcome" with a small heart.
Cover of the Summer Playlist log

Summer Playlist is an all-ages reading and adventure program that is inclusive of all abilities and interests. When we started our SRP overhaul, we intended that the program would remain relatively unchanged for at least five years. For 2018 & 2019, we ended up making several large changes that were much-needed simplifications and improvements. In early 2020, we finally had the most absolutely perfect Summer Playlist program yet; everything was ready to go, our reward bags were ordered, our log was ready for the printer, and it was going to be the BEST!

And you know how this story ends.

Since mid-March, RPL staff have been heavily engaged in city-wide pandemic response work, including setting up and staffing a day center for people experiencing homelessness and running a COVID call center. During the first months of the pandemic, we had little time to devote to summer planning.

With our Summer Playlist reward bags already on the way, we knew we needed to come up with a plan to get people motivated to read and explore over the summer. With a strong planning team and a GREAT program design, it was actually fairly simple to turn our Summer Playlist into an At Home Edition. Here is what we did:

  • Changed the name to: Summer Playlist: At Home Edition.
  • Updated the activity log with items that could be done at home with little to no supplies.
  • Added a gift of sidewalk chalk for participants.
  • Eliminated our various levels and rewards: free books & raffle prizes.
  • Set-up a special email and invited participants to share their Summer Playlist adventures with us.
The inside of the tri-fold reading log with heart outlines to color in as activities are completed. Activities are divided in the categories: read, create, care, play, grow.
The inside of the tri-fold Summer Playlist log

We then stuffed our Summer Playlist reward bags with the chalk and logs and invited community members to grab their bags at our Curbside pick-up location, Bookmobile stops, or one of our special “grab & go” events. This kit was everything that was needed to both start and complete the program. Our revised program didn’t launch until July 1st, almost a month after our previous plan and we didn’t end it until 9/22. In this time, we had 4,917 people pick up bags– a 7% increase over the previous year.

Summer Playlist bags on a table with small wax bags of sidewalk chalk with a branded sticker on the front, and Summer Playlist activity logs.
Summer Playlist bags, chalk, and logs.

While it wasn’t the summer any of us could have imagined, having Summer Playlist in some form was a nice way to continue to connect with our community and inspire reading and adventuring (with clean hands, masks on, and from an appropriate distance).

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