My very first independently planned and executed Summer Library Program is officially in the books. Phew! It is a relief to be done, but man those six weeks sure flew by! Over the next few weeks I plan to post a series of SLP write-ups, covering everything from incentives (which I’ll be posting about now) to weekly themes (yes, I did themes-within-the-theme), to specific programs that I thought were particularly successful. I’ll talk about the things that went well as well as the things that I’d like to change for next year. After all, this is just one giant learning process, is it not?
This year’s theme was Every Hero Has a Story, so we celebrated heroes of all kinds including–but certainly not limited to–superheroes. Last year, the librarian in my position made a wonderful move to cut down on cheesy prizes, instead offering coupons from local food joints and area attractions. It went over really well, so this year I decided to take it one step further. After hearing about a few other Wisconsin libraries venturing into the brave new prizeless world (like La Crosse Public Library and Portage Public Library) I became inspired by the hero theme and decided that this year we were going to challenge Summer Reading participants to “be a hero for their community.” Instead of getting prizes or coupons for completing each level, the kids and teens received a sticker that allowed them to vote for one of three community organizations to receive a donation at the end of the summer. Ultimately, all three organizations would receive something, but it was up to the kids to decide who the number one winner would be.
After brainstorming with my director and another staff member, we decided that the three groups up for a donation would be the local Food Pantry, the Literacy Council (a dedicated group of mostly retired teachers who tutor adults and English Language Learners in reading), and the Club House (a before and after school program for kids which also recently became a summer day program as well). The director put on her fundraising hat and rounded up $600 to be divvied up between the three groups. A coworker made the display below, with each organization being represented by a cape. We used Avery dot labels for the stickers and voila! We were in business.
I am pleased to report that I did not hear a single complaint from kids or adults about the lack of prizes. I should mention, though, that we didn’t exactly go “cold turkey” with the prizes. Finishers received a free book from the prize cart to take home and keep. This was something that we did last year for the first time and it went over really well (Although I enjoyed giving cheesy prizes the ax, I’m totally okay with giving books as prizes–for obvious reasons). We also gave out coupons for local restaurants and area attractions that we always get from our library system. But instead of doling those out as reading incentives, we stuffed them into these nifty little envelopes created by yours truly and gave them upon sign-up as a little “registration bonus.” I heard good feedback from many parents about how excited they were to plan a night out with the kids and use their pizza and ice cream coupons, as well as one family who was able to finally visit the Milwaukee museum thanks to the free admission coupons. Handing the coupons out all at once really helped reduce confusion and staff time. Plus since they weren’t technically “prizes” I felt okay having a “first come, first served” attitude–once the coupons were gone, they were gone.
Another extra special thing that we did in lieu of prizes was creating weekly “Activity Packs” based on each week’s theme. But I’ll explain more about those in a later post.
For our final celebration party, I had planned something fairly small. We’d have cake, decorate the sidewalk with chalk, and present the checks to the organizations. However, a Friend of the library suggested we invited some local heroes to thank them as well. A wonderful idea, especially since mid-SLP a huge storm hit the town, resulting in extensive damage and power outages. This was a great opportunity to once again highlight our community helpers. It ended up being quite the turn-out! We had close to 60 attendees pack onto our little library patio to say thanks and celebrate (that’s a pretty big number for our library). What a great ending to a very successful Summer Library Program!