Thursday, June 8, 2017

Summer Reading In Your Neighborhood

This has been a project that has been in my head for many years and this is probably going to turn into a whole series of posts as we go through the summer and see how it goes.

You see, since I started at my library there has been a huge discrepancy between certain schools. Schools from certain areas of our county have had huge participation in the Summer Reading Club, which schools from other areas have had low participation. There are a lot of barriers there, but one of them is definitely access. So we decided to bring the Summer Reading Club to them.

This summer we are taking a mini-collection, activities and crafts, and all the accoutrements of Summer Reading out into some of our neighborhoods to try to reach families where they are. We're calling it Summer Reading In Your Neighborhood, which is a subset of our new #instaLibrary service.

Our Friends of the Library gave us a grant to help us get started, which allowed us to purchase a canopy tent, folding tables, plastic tubs to carry books, nylon drawstring bags to check out the books in, new library cards specific for this program, and a laptop to take out with us. The collection of books has been culled from donations and fair-condition withdrawn books. We also placed a large order from Scholastic's FACE program to ensure that we would have enough books to carry us through this summer. This collection will grow as we continue to solicit donations (and my review copies have a great home now!).

Kids who visit the sites will be allowed to check out a book bag with five books of their choice in it. The books aren't cataloged and there's no overdue fines or fees for lost or damaged books. We won't check out individual books, just the book bags. If book bags are lost, kids will have the option to pay a small fee or to volunteer or read off their "fine". If patrons already have a library card, they may use that (we will override any blocks for them to check out an #instaReads bag). If not, they may get a free #instaLibrary card just for use at these pop-up libraries. Anyone may get an #instaLibrary card, regardless of whether they have ID, live in our county, know their address, etc. This is modeled off the Indianapolis Public Library's Bunny Book Bag program.

Each morning Monday through Thursday this summer, we'll be loading all this stuff up to head out to a different site in our county. We've partnered with our local schools and other community organizations to bring the sites to places that we can hopefully reach the families that haven't been coming to us. We're also setting up sites farther out in the county where people have to travel farther to reach us.

We will send at least two people to each site - one staff member and at least one intern. We have a couple of interns who are going to be helping us out with this program. I have an intern from our local community college who is completing her early childhood practicum with this internship. We got another intern through one of our local high schools who won a grant for an internship stipend for working in a nonprofit over the summer. Our college intern will be in charge of planning activities each week. Our high school graduate intern may be planning activities, helping to sort through the books in our collection, or just offering another set of hands at the sites.

Yes, this makes our staffing a little tight at the library since we are continuing with our regular summer storytime schedule. We have cut back a little bit on library programming, electing to offer more self-directed programming which is easier to run with fewer staff. And we'll just see how it goes.

In June, we are partnering with our local schools' Bridge to Success camps, so I know that we'll have a captive audience to utilize the sites. In July, after that camp ends, we're moving some of our sites to other community locations that were recommended by some of the principals as areas where we might be closer to the families in their districts.

I have no idea how it's going to go yet, but I'm really excited to see. It's been a TON of work getting this all set up, but the best thing is that now that we've got the infrastructure in place this is a service that we have ready to go throughout the school year and next summer. We'll learn as we go and change whatever doesn't work.

I'm going to write in more detail about this program throughout the summer. And I'll keep you updated on how everything is going. Help me formulate more detailed posts:

What questions do you have?