Blogger Managing Children's Services Committee

Smile! Here Comes Summer Reading!

Summer Reading is almost here and for some who are reading this, it has already started! The last couple weeks before kick off day are often chaotic and filled with the stress of preparing for big events, numerous programs, decorating the department and organizing materials for all the check ins. Many children’s librarians are feeling lost in this mountain of work amidst doing numerous outreach visits.
Here are some ideas and inspiration collected by the Managing Children’s Services Committee to get you and your staff to your kick off day …with a smile.

Make Things As Easy As You Can
1. We pass out books as kids register for the program and as they complete their 30 days. We store all these giveaway books in the workroom in boxes that have the name and the picture (cover art) of what’s inside each box. Staff actually prefer the pictures as it makes it easier for them to refill!
2. This year we are doing registration old school! To avoid lines to get kids registered, we will have the children and their parents fill out a registration card and then they get a registration packet. Packets have instructions for the program, a reading log for their age group, a bookmark and a shape to decorate and return to us so we may display it on our SLC wall. Staff will later add the registration information into a google doc to keep track of all the participant stats. We are a very busy, small library and have a small group of staff. The flexibility of adding this into our tracking system at a later time will be very helpful.
3. We are starting things early! We started decorating in May and every week we have an outline for what needs to be completed. We are chipping away at it to avoid the last-minute frenzy!
4. We have an Intranet page just dedicated to programming, which includes summer reading. Every staff member has access to dates of the program, what prizes get passed out to who and at what level, and any other tidbits that are useful. We also grab a stash of adult prizes to pass out at the children’s desk to save the adults from running around the building with children in tow and to encourage them to also do the program and model for their kids (and have fun!).

Be Resilient When The Unexpected Happens
1. One of our school districts decided to start their own Summer Reading program this summer instead of using ours like they have in the past. They had someone new come in and this was one of their ideas. While we groaned at first, we are rolling with it and advertising in all of our Summer Reading presentations with that district that they can do both programs simultaneously.
2. Staff changes during summer are especially hard. In some cases, the staff member leaving passes along the plan for the programs they were in charge of. Sometimes we are able to schedule a team member to fill in. Other times a decision to cancel a program has to be made despite being already published in the newsletter.
3. Locate a backup space for programming in case of an unexpected space issue or emergency closure. Then you are prepared when something does cause the venue to change. Schools, rec centers and parks are all good places to start!
4. How you respond to situations will determine impact staff stress levels and behavior. Use perspective: a year from now, how much will this matter? Also, what is there to laugh about in this situation? In the words of Marie Osmond, ‘If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now.’ After the situation is resolved, note how your resilience won the day. Call staff attention to the resilience they showed in a stressful situation, and celebrate.

Keep A Light And Happy Atmosphere
1. Share weekly jokes or random interesting facts on a bulletin/white board in staff area. You can also add a component to this: staff are challenged to use the fact/word in conversation three times that week, and maybe check off when they did!
2. While summer outreach is coordinated by the outreach staff, we invite anyone who has the time and their supervisor’s permission to come along. There are some great summer events where it is fun to spend a couple of hours outside and one series even has cheap and yummy pizza. This way Summer Reading isn’t a children’s department silo and becomes a whole building initiative.
3. On the first day of our Summer Library Challenge, I bring treats such as donuts or chocolates for our department and rest of the library. Once I got ice cream bars!
4. After the SLC ends I give each YS team member a little something to go with the program’s theme along with a written thank you note.
5. Get everyone’s thoughts on how the program went. Don’t leave anyone out. At the end of Summer Reading, send out a short survey of 8 to 10 questions to inquire what they felt went well and what they would like to change for next year. Compile the responses on a document leaving off names. Share this document with all when you start planning next year’s program. Great discussions and laughter at the pitfalls will result!

What works in your department to prepare for Summer Reading and still keep smiling? Share them with us in the comments!

Today’s blog post was written by Christy Kepler, Head of Youth Services at the Oswego Public LIbrary District in Illinois on behalf of the ALSC Managing Children’s Services Committee. She can be reached at
This post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of Programming Skills 8, Reference and User Services 5, and Administrative and Management Skills 8.

One comment

  1. Sarah

    “Smile” is the perfect headline starter. Thanks for sharing!

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