My primary library has the best location for becoming a summertime hotspot. It’s next to the only public park in the area with a free splash pad.
So, with the last day of school being yesterday, I decided I would set-up a table near this splash pad and rope a few kids into summer reading. I planned ahead by reading what some other librarians are doing for this kind of outreach. (Bryce Don’t Play has a great write-up on some ways to make outreach more exciting and so far, she’s having some great success with this strategy. Reading with Red also talked about a community baby shower, and that reminded me of Abby’s adventures at a baby fair.)
I’ve personally gone 100% away from setting up tables to sign up for library cards. It’s too time consuming for something that, in my experience, doesn’t usually pan out. You can tell someone they need library cards, and they believe you because they’ve heard somewhere it’s important. Then once they have one, they have no idea what they can achieve with it, so they never come and use it. Even if you try to explain everything, you’re often too embroiled in keying in information or responding to multiple people to really get them saying, “hey, I need to go here after work or on my weekends.”
Instead, I focus on having some fun activity to draw kids to me (like Dr. Seuss Twister) and then I talk to parents about all the things the library offers. Kids get excited and that makes parents way more likely to come. This time, the activity was already there so I needed some goodies that the kids could use at the park. I went to the dollar store and picked up a small basket of water toys. I also took sidewalk chalk with me since there’s a shady concrete area next to the splash pad.
I set-up just before the splash pad opened so that I could work the crowd that gathers while waiting. This is where I got most of my sign-ups. Once the splash pad was up and running, few kids or parents were interested in me, even with toys. I was determined not to look like someone who was selling something, so I didn’t approach people watching their kids. I had a bright, attractive table, so I let that work for me.
In a couple hours, I got 9 kids. I saw maybe 20 kids playing in the splash pad, so honestly, almost 50% doesn’t feel too bad to me. It’s also 9 kids that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go.
In the future, I won’t be doing toys again, though. It’s too hard to take them back when it’s time to pack up, and they seem to walk away. Instead, I think I’ll do snacks.