We have ordered 2,500 Challenge Cards, scheduled 83 special events, and registered 100 teen volunteers in anticipation of Gum Spring library’s first Summer Reading Program (SRP)—In Your Backyard…and beyond. Finally, we will implement the programs we planned so many months ago. Just like we did with our spring programming lineup, we planned summer programs with no input from our users, save the feedback we heard during school visits.
SRP is Loudon County Public Library’s (LCPL) biggest event of the year, drawing in thousands of readers, families, and program attendees. In order for the program to progress smoothly, we implement a teen volunteer program. Over 100 teens commit to serving at least one 2-hour shift for every week of the 9-week program (barring vacations and camps, of course). Their duties range from registering patrons of all ages for the event and setting up online accounts (for tracking their progress) to distributing tickets for popular sessions, and preparing popcorn for movie events.
As coordinator for these volunteers, I want to use the best possible methods of registering, scheduling, training, and employing these teens. I chose the methods practiced by a colleague in the Children’s Department who has spent years perfecting the volunteer program. It includes a 90-minute orientation, a blog with weekly updates of time slots in the schedule needing to be filled, a Gmail account for corresponding with volunteers, and an appreciation party. One obstacle I will face is supervising them. The registration and prize table will be downstairs in the open lobby space, but my desk and the Teen Center are located upstairs. At our all-branch staff meeting this month, I invoked the “it takes a village” concept for overseeing teen volunteers: if you are in the vicinity of the registration table, swing by and interact with the volunteers, even if only for a moment, and greet them and ask if everything is going well. This will open the floor for questions or concerns that they may have, and might also make them more comfortable with interacting with adults. I take my role as teen volunteer coordinator seriously, both in terms of ensuring that the library’s goals are met, and in aiding the teens in developing workplace-appropriate skills such as punctuality and time management.
The programs we elected to host came from various sources. “Teen Cuisine” is a nutrition-based program advertised for budding chefs and young athletes. Both “Camp-in with Books” (teens reading to children in a camplike setting, indoors) and “DIY Teen” (a weekly craft program) were successful events at another LCPL branch that we hope will be just as popular at Gum Spring. Though not successful at other branches, we hope that our weekly “Teen Screen” film showings will encourage teens to spend the hottest hours of every Thursday afternoon indoors with friends, bean-bag chairs, and popcorn. When submitting our summer plans to the programming and marketing divisions, we purposefully left out the movie titles. Instead, we have asked the teens for their input via our dry-erase board hanging in the Teen Center. (So far we have only had to nix one.*)
But despite the fun programs we have planned, we are faced with the same concern as every other public librarian: what if no one participates? We are offering a free young adult book to everyone who completes the Teen Summer Reading Program challenge (thanks to our Friends group), as well as an entry into our grand prize drawings of Target gift cards and games. In an attempt to draw them into the library every week, we will set a guessing jar on our desk, filled with items one might find “in your backyard”—think twigs, stones, bottle caps, and more. Prizes will include obnoxiously large candy bars and free coupons for frozen treats.
Gum Spring is not the only library to worry about participation numbers. We all want our patrons to take advantage of everything our libraries have to offer. How do you encourage patrons to get involved with your Summer Reading Program?
*Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is hilarious, but not quite library-appropriate for teens.
Fresh Paint traces the development of teen services for a new public library in an underserved community.
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