Saturday, July 9, 2011

15,000 and counting!

We're almost halfway through our summer reading program, and it's been an adventure.  We've got over 15,000 kids and teens signed up online, and many more signed up on paper who will be added to the online database.

This was the first SRP which I got to fully plan as Manager of Youth Services, and it has been tremendously fun - and a huge amount of work.  Many of the things we're trying are firsts for our library system:
  • The same start and end date for all 73 agencies (yes, each branch used to stop and start when it wanted to)
  • The same program, with exactly the same rules, prizes, and so on, at all agencies (yes, each branch used to determine how to run the program, meaning we had 73 different programs)
  • 3 different programs for different age groups - an early literacy-based program for ages 0 - 4, a minutes read-based program for ages 5 - 11, and a reading and activity-based program for ages 12 and up.
  • A "group kit" with everything a group leader needs to run the summer reading program at a day camp, day care center, Boys and Girls Club, and so on.
  • Giving only stickers, chances at system-wide prize drawings, and BOOKS as prizes
  • Using Evanced online summer reading program in addition to paper game boards
  • Measuring outcomes for the CA Library Association
  • Partnering with 9 organizations for the New Vision for Summer in CA grant
For children's and YA librarians, it's been fun, confusing, exciting, and exhausting.  For me and my staff, it's been a huge amount of work, but (for me, anyway) completely exhilarating.  

Stressful, too.  There have been lots of glitches and problems.  Man, we've been learning a lot about how NOT to do things.
  • Kids have been racing through their 15-hour game board and then requesting another.  Which is fine - but it means we started running out of game boards at a rapid rate.  I threw up a PDF of the game board in the nick of time, so now librarians can print out 2nd and 3rd game boards for people.  Still, I had to order more game boards.
  • Our group game boards only have room for 24 names - and most groups have far more kids than that, meaning each group needs multiple group game boards.  Next summer, we'll make sure the group game boards have room for at least 50.
  • Never having given away books as prizes before, we had no idea how many we would need, nor how and when to give them away.  We settled on the completion of a game board for the very young children and the teens, and after 8 hours of reading for kids - whether this is working is still up in the air.  These books have been a major pain in the butt - everything from ordering them to storing them to shipping them out to all our branches (72 plus Central Library, remember...) has been fraught with difficulty.  And yet - it's SO cool to be giving books away!
  • I thought it would be easy to gather plentiful and nifty donations for our prize drawings - but while we have indeed received some cool donations (gift certificates for Vans shoes, passes to local museums and movie theaters, a year's family membership to the zoo, and more), they are not nearly as numerous as I had hoped.  We have tens of thousands of kids signing up for our program every year, so we figure most of those will earn at least one prize ticket, if not many more (kids earn a prize ticket for every 2 hours of reading; teens earn a prize ticket every time they complete a row of three activities), so it's kind of sad to offer just a handful of prizes.  We ended up supplementing the prizes with stuff we purchased - library logo-ed aluminum water bottles for kids and MP3 players for teens.  Next year we'll start much earlier and be much more systematic about it.
This summer is shaping up to be a fine learning experience.  We'll be forming two summer reading planning committees this fall, one for the children's program and one for the teen program.  We'll use the best elements of this summer's program, and improve on its drawbacks.    We're going to do everything way ahead of time.

We're going to make Summer Reading Program 2012 the best one EVER!


  1. Eva, can I ask what you include in your group packets for daycares and organizations? This is definitely something I want to do next year! We have a number of groups wanting to participate and we encourage it, but the way we're doing it right now is very cumbersome and I'm hoping to make it easier for them next year!

  2. We keep the group kits pretty simple. In a large manila envelope (each one of which serves 24 kids), we put: one group game board; instructions for the group leader; sign-up sheets; enough stickers for 24 kids; blank prize tickets; and blank grand prize tickets.
    It's up to the group leader to make sure the prize tickets get turned in to one of our branches in time for the prize drawings, and to pick up from the library any books earned by the kids in the group.
    The great thing is that this has been fostering a lot of communication between librarians and group leaders, and has led to increased visits by daycamps, etc to the library and by librarians to the sites. Hopefully those relationships will continue into the school year.

  3. My groups have liked that only 24 are the group gameboard. LA Best tends to have their kids in classes and usually about that number of kids. So one packet per teacher/room. Martha

  4. Ah - that's good to know! Hmmm - much to think about for next year...