Summer lovin’

They can't cut the budget for sunshine...can they?

First, enjoy the best summer song ever. Now that you are aware it’s summertime (because your weather might not be indicative), what do you do in the good old summertime? If you are a public librarian, you might be too buried under summer reading programs to answer. But perhaps you are like me, hearing crickets amidst the din of an empty campus. Or you are a public librarian, coming up for breath just long enough to say, “we need to update our summer reading program!” I offer my wish list/real to-do list for the season that doesn’t start until fireflies and the sound of the ice cream truck converge. It’s a mixed bag, but don’t throw out what seems too academic or public. I get some of my best ideas to adapt to my library culture from librarians doing seemingly opposite work.

  • If students are on campus, do a lemonade stand or hand out popsicles in the quad to remind them we do exist. Pick one service or program to promote as you do this.
  • Summer classes are heavy on adjunct teaching. I usually literally throw myself at them with offers for library tours/instruction. Some departments will nicely share names for you to email. Lure them in with what you can offer them in addition to instruction (i.e. how to use campus technology, many might be pursuing degrees themselves and would love your assistance, where the best coffee on campus is, etc.)
  • Find out what your city rec department, local YMCA, school districts, vacation bible schools, adult day facilities, day care centers are doing. Can you provide books to them on a regular basis? Are you able to hook them into summer reading or other programs as a group? Can your TAB help you run programs for them?
  • To promote our school year public programs, I’ve rented stall space at our local farmer’s market. Buying a few Saturdays in bulk is less than newspaper ads or even Facebook ones. We’ll run simple crafts and hand out magnets directing folks to our website. I called around to darn near every family friendly event in town until one agreed to let me run a free craft at their kid-friendly concert series. It’s a great way to connect with new people and stay fresh in our regular patrons’ minds.
  • Summer is a good time to cold call and offer to buy people coffee. Um, except public librarians and teachers unsure of their status. When you are not advocating on behalf of these groups (seriously), try to connect with your community. Pin down professors too busy during the school year, meet with your local NAACP or Boys and Girls Club to see what kinds of programming they want to do/already do. Visit local museums and events. I find more and more the bad economy is forcing people inward. Turf wars are vicious things but a natural response to losing resources. Finding optimistic, dedicated folks now for collaboration is a key element to providing quality resources.
  • Summer at academic institutions are a great time to train staff more broadly and deeper. We have our much smaller student staff do things like help rewire our dorms, review and rewrite the policies and procedures for student workers, design training for new student workers, review documentation for updates and holes, help us brainstorm for the upcoming year. Yes, we have them dust shelves in there. But we noticed when we got them more involved in tightening and reworking systems and structure last summer that this year went much smoother. They were also more likely to adhere to policy, think ahead and make suggestions for improvement because they were invested.
  • A colleague of mine and I tooled with the idea of hosting a reference stand when the weather got better. Grab laptops with long battery lives and set up on your long lawn, underneath tables with umbrellas or even at the on-campus coffee shop. Add your version of THE LIBRARIAN IS IN sign and voila!
  • Slip N Slide. Need I say more? Yes, I do need to say more. Check with Risk Management first.
  • Many of us have fond memories of catching fireflies in their backyard (sorry people of Oregon!). Partner with a local expert and host a party in the park or out front of your library.  The expert can provide info on these wonderous creatures and offer “catch and release” advice. Do the same for stargazing. Except the catch and release part.
  • The Eugene, OR public library does my favorite version of the Summer Reading program. Adult and youth participants get their prize when they sign up. And each time they fill out a reading log, it gets entered in a drawing to win other prizes. So yeah, does take away from those Type A folks who love charting their progress with goals ahead. But they still get the joy of trying to enter as many times as possible to maximize their chances.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten on my list, please share yours! And cherish this time, especially if you live someplace cold.

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