Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee

ASK ALSC: Unplugging the Summer Learning Challenge

Welcome to Ask ALSC, where the Managing Youth Services Committee asks leaders in children’s libraries to share their response to an issue or situation.  We hope to showcase a range of responses to topics that may affect ALSC members. If you’d like to respond to today’s topics, or suggest a topic for the future, please leave a comment.

Kids are on screens…a lot.

They have gone to virtual school, virtual extracurriculars, virtual library events. It has been a very plugged in year for our kids. Don’t get me wrong, our ability to transition so much of our lives, and library services, to the virtual world is astounding. We have been able to breakdown some barriers to access and reach new customers. But in this moment many families are looking for opportunities to unplug. Additionally, the digital divide continues to impact many of our children and families.

Librarians are now faced with reconciling customers’ desire to unplug with our investment in digital platforms for managing Summer challenge programs.

This challenge was front of mind as we worked through our Summer 2021 plans at the Virginia Beach Public Library.

So where did we land?

Somewhere in the middle.

To find this new balance, we chose to continue inviting our families to register for the program using the virtual platform or app. From there, they’ll have the option to either continue tracking activities and reading online as they have in past years, or unplug completely, and track everything in a library-provided paper log. For families that choose to unplug, we ask that they log back once at the end of the Summer to check their completed activities, log reading, and receive their prizes.

Was this a hard choice? I remember the days of working to convince staff that moving away from paper logs was going to be OK. Any transition or procedure change in an annual program of this magnitude is hard. But we have done it before, and we will continue to adjust to meet customer needs. Adding the paper option back in isn’t moving backward. I like to think of it as meeting our customers where they are. And where we hope they are this Summer is unplugged, relaxed, and enjoying a good book.

What program modification are you making to meet your customer needs this Summer? Are you unplugging elements of your program? Taking another approach? Please share in the comments.

Today’s blog post was written by Katie Cerqua, Youth and Family Services Manager at Virginia Beach Public Library in Virginia Beach, VA, on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of I Commitment to Client Group and III Programming Skills.

One comment

  1. Cherie Pemberton

    So we are partnering with businesses in our community this summer to get the kids out and looking. Since the theme is Tails and Tales the businesses are going to have a picture of a tiger tail displayed in a window. We will then give the kids a picture of a tiger tail without color that they will take around and look for the tiger tails in the windows. Once they find them they color in the tail and once they have colored the whole tail they bring it back to the library to add a bead to their chain.

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