Thursday, May 20, 2010

What goes into a Summer Reading Club?

I mean, besides blood, sweat, and tears, of course.

Summer is nearly upon us! That means our lovely teachers and school media folk are giddy with excitement while our public librarians are steeling their wills (and perhaps having a stiff drink). I know you public librarians are well aware of the amount of work that goes into planning and implementing a Summer Reading Club, but I wanted to give the rest of y'all a little peek behind the scenes and share with you just how we go about planning a Summer Reading Club.

(Keep in mind that for most of this time, we're also doing at least three storytimes a week (sometimes 7+ storytimes a week) and doing the everyday parts of our jobs like putting in book orders, answering questions at the reference desk, working on book lists, attending meetings, etc.)

August 2009 - Whew! We breathe a sigh of relief. Summer Reading is over! Time to relax! Time to take vacations! Time to straighten the books, weed the collection, and do all those other tasks we had no time for over the summer. But there's no rest for the weary - we're already thinking about next year. I have a meeting with my staff to debrief after the Summer Reading Club. We talk about what we liked and didn't like about this year's program and we make notes for when we start planning the next one.

Yup, we'll take a few months "off", but planning will start sooner than you might have guessed...

November 2009 - It's already that time - time to be thinking about next year's Summer Reading Club. Funding doesn't grow on trees! I'm researching performers, putting in inquiries about fees and availability, so that I can get an accurate estimate of how much money I'll need to ask for from our Friends of the Library.

December 2009 - I submit our request to the Friends and get the money approved. It has to be done early so that if our Friends aren't able to fund the full amount, I have some time to find funding elsewhere. Luckily, this year the Friends are able to give us our requested amount.

January 2010 - New year, time to start brainstorming! Our library participates in the Collaborative Summer Reading Club, so our theme is already determined. We have a meeting with one of our neighboring libraries to discuss ideas for programming and sponsors. We work together to find businesses that will donate coupons as prizes.

February 2010 - I send out letters to local businesses to solicit donations of coupons and prizes. I also start booking performers.

March 2010 - We start planning our programs in earnest. We have to get a calendar ready by the beginning of May, so we need to nail down dates and figure out who's doing what. I finish confirming performers and call the local schools to set up visits. Some schools schedule visits right away and some take awhile to get back to me. I'm really appreciative of the schools that let us visit because I know they are taking time out of their day and it really helps us get the word out!

April 2010 - We're finalizing the calendar and collecting coupons and prizes from local businesses that are donating. We write up blurbs for our programs in order to advertise them, put all our programs into a calendar that we'll hand out at the schools (and we proofread and proofread and proofread...). We write lists of all the supplies we'll need for programs this summer. We budget and budget and budget. We put together a video to promote our Summer Reading Club and we decide what we're going to do on our school visits. We make literally thousands of copies of our summer program calendar to bring to the schools.

May 2010 - You might think this is an easier month because we're taking time off from our normal storytime programs, but May is crunch time! We're out visiting schools, we're making copies of coupons and having our wonderful teen volunteers cut them out and stamp them. We're putting together sign-up packets, planning programs for summer, purchasing supplies and prizes, designing and creating decorations for the department. We're testing our computer sign-up program to make sure it'll all go smoothly, submitting purchase orders so that our performers get paid. We're making sure that we're all on the same page as far as the rules for the club. And did I mention the school visits? This year, 15 of the local schools are letting us come and talk about the Summer Reading Club.

And all of this work is leading up to May 24 when our 2010 Summer Reading Club begins. Yeah, after all that work we still have 10 weeks of craziness ahead of us! But it's worth it to see so many kids enjoying the library and reading books all summer.

So, c'mon, parents, teachers and school librarians! We're ready for your kids! Send 'em our way!

(And you know what? We're already thinking about next year's SRC and this one hasn't even started yet!)