Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I'm So Excited for the Olympics

CC: carlbob
The Olympics are coming back this summer and I've been counting down for months. Of course, lots of people are excited about this world event, but, as a children's librarian, the Olympics will always mean something special to me.

Summer is a lot of fun for your public librarians. We see families and kids that may not make it down to the library at other times. We immerse ourselves in readers' advisory as we talk to kids about the great books they're reading over the summer. We do crafts, build things, make art, sing songs, dance, discuss books, watch movies, and share stories with kids of all ages.

And summer is a lot of stress for your public librarians. There is near-constant activity in our Children's Rooms. We may award prizes and log reading accomplishments for five siblings at once, while the phone is ringing, a daycare has fifty kids running around our department, we have three other people in line looking for the most popular books (which, of course, are all checked out). Just because we have all this additional activity doesn't mean that everything else we do - book orders, timesheets, planning upcoming programs, attending staff meetings, etc. - stops. It doesn't.

And some summers are harder than others. For myself, I would say that Summer 2012 has actually been relatively easy. Summer 2008 was another story.

I was at a different library in 2008 and that summer, for whatever reason, was rough. We had a lot going on and I remember weeks where I might have been doing seven or eight programs during my five-day workweek. And honestly, it was time for me to move on from that library, but the opportunity hadn't yet presented itself. It was a hard summer.

It turned out that the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was August 8, the same day as the end of our Summer Reading Club. Well, after a summer of coming home exhausted and turning on the TV to see commercials for the Olympics, those two events - the start of the Olympics and the end of Summer Reading - became inextricably entwined in my head. August 8 meant the end of stress. August 8 meant we had made it through.

And so the Olympics came to symbolize the end of the Summer Reading Club.

For youth librarians in our public libraries, every summer is kind of our own Olympics. We train for it. Months or even years of planning go into picking themes, purchasing supplies, planning programs, visiting schools, contacting community partners for donations, scheduling outreach, and more. Every summer, we evaluate what we've done so that we can be even stronger for the next "event".

As the school  year ends, teachers and media specialists pass the literacy torch to their public librarians and it's our time to shine. The spotlight's on us. We stretch our muscles and show our stuff with readers' advisory, programming, and doing what we do best: connecting kids with books. 

Even though this summer hasn't been one of the hardest for me, I appreciate the Olympics coming up right at the end of our Summer Reading Club. I still connect the beginning of the Olympics with the end of a stressful season. As much fun as I'm having with our families this summer, I'll definitely be ready to hand most of our kids back to their teachers and afterschool programs in August. It'll be time to change gears in the Children's Room, to concentrate on some weeding projects, planning in earnest for our fall programs, and other things that may get nudged aside during these busy summer months.

Youth librarians, we may not actually be OLYMPIANS, but anyone who gets through the summer intact gets a gold medal in my book.