Oh, to be a public librarian in the summer: summer reading programs, events, kids out of school and flooding your cool library! I know public librarians aren’t all starry-eyed over summer, but they are never bored. While academic, school, and other librarians are still working over the summer, there is often something lacking. Our programs are not as needed, our patrons have abandoned us for internships and vacations. Things are downright slow and the usual hullabaloo that gives us energy is gone. It can be all too easy to feel unneeded, blue, unmotivated to work on those projects we put aside until summer. So, what’s a non-public librarian to do in the summer months if one is on a 12-month contract (or is a school librarian, because teachers don’t really get a summer break)?
First, be kind to thyself. You will have days during which you slog through and feel accomplished for having completed one, simple task. You will have days during which all you want to do is watch the entire “Weird Al” video catalog. I know, because these have been my days. I am a librarian energized by my interactions with others; most outreach librarians are such people.
Second, be very clear about what you want to accomplish REALISTICALLY over the summer. Keep your to-do list in a prominent place. Mine is on the white board in front of my desk. Really, this part is simple list-making. The hard part is summers mostly full of planning rather than implementing.
Third, take advantage of this slow time to work on intentional outreach. Be deliberate about this next period of service will look like, how you will assess it, how you will reach patrons.
Fourth, start meeting ASAP with potential partners. They will try to make you wait until late-July or August. I’m telling you this because I did NOT do this and I know the excitement around planning programming and services with partners is energizing, inspiring, and helps me keep my To-Do List on track. Learn from me.
Fifth. Get up. Go work someplace other than your office. Preferably a place that has people or at least reminders of your patrons. For me, this is our university center which is much like the student union on most campuses.
While these sound simple, the hard reality of quiet summers meant for project work can be hard. It’s often uninspiring. If these simple tips did not make you feel much better about your sluggish approach to summer work, hopefully these highlights of some of my plans for next year will get you excited:
- Focus on our commuter students through regular office hours in the student commuter lounges. We’re also working with a commuter student leader to create a bulletin board on using library resources off-campus in the commuter student lounges. We’re putting on special library orientations for commuters and working with commuter students to determine services we can provide them in their spaces.
- Focus on first-gen students by hosting regular office hours in spaces we know they frequent, including doing quick “Hi, we’re librarians, these are our smiling faces and here’s how we can help you” drive-bys.
- Working with local public schools on opportunities for young writers including publishing stories in our student publications and workshops with local authors.
I wish I’d started meeting with partners sooner in the summer. The thrill and internal push I get from planning, brainstorming, and working with others truly turns summer from a time of doldrums to a time of reinvigorating myself as an outreach librarian. While I wish summer were a time of reading the days away for me, it’s really a time to reflect, refresh, and reconnect. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I need to make it that way.