This summer, a local elementary school and I combined our formerly independent summer reading programs. The school was going to be closed for construction and I could always use a boost in circulation and attendance, so this partnership was so beneficial. Like anything, though, there were some pros and some cons.
- After talking with school officials, we decided it was best to offer programs after hours to help working families. I’d always wanted to do this and this was just the opportunity I needed to ask permission to keep the library open longer one day a week. I was SO happy to see families using the library like never before, but my system really relied on me to staff the evening shift, increasing my job responsibilities to include two evenings a week for the summer (a whole 8 weeks).
- The school was kind enough to ask teachers to volunteer by attending library events and helping with crowd management, shelving, and anything else I could use. Most nights, I had two volunteers and that was such a wonderful gesture from the school, but the benefits were a little iffy. Since I had different volunteers most weeks, I had to show them all how and where to shelve, brief them on how to help with the programs, and delegate to them for most of the night. Only about half of them were enthusiastic helpers, while others had to be rounded up and directed constantly. It was exhausting for me.
- Most nights, our program room (aka the council chambers for Town Hall) was packed. On one hand, that is the best success! On the other, it was difficult to arrange the room so that everyone could get to supplies, to manage all the body heat, and to keep families focused when things got noisy.
- I tripled my attendance AND my circulation!
- Families feel way more familiar with and comfortable at the library.
- I know a lot more of the kids than I did before.
Here’s what I learned and would keep in mind in the future:
When you have a small space and big numbers, having one activity that individuals can participate in for as long as they want before leaving is a pretty good options.
The three programs that worked best for me were:
Minecraft Post-It Art
With Minecraft Post-It Art, I divided the kids into teams and let them choose which pictures they wanted to work on. In small groups, they had to figure out how to make their poster board look like Minecraft characters. I told them they were racing, but when everyone finished, they all got a piece of candy.
If we do this collaboration again, I think I’ll push for a volunteer orientation night so that I can show all volunteers how to shelve and give them some details about the programs they’ll help with on their assigned nights. I could potentially let them know if I need some extra help setting up earlier in the day or it’s something simple like a guest speaker and they don’t need to arrive until the program begins. This will save me some stress when I’m trying to get the programs going AND relieving my staff.
I hope to see this collaboration reach into the school year, so I’ll be back with updates on the long-term implications of working together.