Summer Reading Wrap up

Wow, what a summer! It has gone by so fast, probably because for the public library it seems summer=summer reading programs. Our program runs from when school gets out until the last week in July, which is two months or less. But we seem to cram a lot of programing in those weeks and a lot of activities.

Participation in our summer reading programs is measured by number of people who signed up (just under 2500 total, 1945 children 11 and under and 540 teens 11 and up) number of raffle tickets turned in each week, and attendance at programs. Each week during the program, children who read 3 hours or more come in to get a prize and a raffle ticket. Kids can come in and get multiple weeks prizes, but only one raffle ticket per week.

Across the board our numbers were up, though most increases were seen in sign ups and in raffle tickets. Because of the way the raffle tickets work, it is hard to determine how many of the kids who signed up carried through with participation. Each week around 500-800 raffle tickets came in, but many families came in every other or every three weeks to pick up multiple week’s prizes, which means that of the 2000 kids who signed up we might have 200 or so who come in every week and 300 who come in every other week. It is hard to tell how many of the people who sign up actually follow through with participation.

Attendance at programs ranged from about 85 to 300+, which is about capacity for the sorts of programs we offer. As usual, our numbers were high for the initial two programs, low for the first two in July (one the Wednesday after Independence day, the other the Wednesday before a local holiday) and huge for our final party.

In 2010 our branch signed up around 1600 kids and teens, this year we signed up nearly 2500, about a 64% increase, with almost 1000 more participants. We have an unofficial competition with the other branches, and in 2010 we lost by 7 sign-ups, but this year our numbers were out of the park.

What worked well:

  • Promotion: e-mailing teachers, visiting schools, having classes visit the library–we went from two visits in 2010 to around 10-15 in 2011.
  • Display of prizes: new layout of our circulation area allowed us to set up a table with prizes that both encouraged children, promoted the program, and reminded parents and kids to get their prizes.
  • Sign-up in front of Auditorium: We had a rush of people in the first two weeks to sign up, which would have overwhelmed the circ desk, so we set up a desk for sign ups, which also helped with promotion.
  • Staff buy-in: ALL of the public service staff knows about all the programs and consistently reminded patrons about them.

What could be improved:

  • Flexibility of prize redemption: participants must have their packet to get weekly prize, even if they did their reading and were in the library. I would like to find some way to make it easier to participate–maybe just a card to stamp. The program should be about reading and coming to the library, and not about remembering a packet.
  • Flexibility of program scheduling: all of our programs were on Wednesdays and all were at the same time every other week. We don’t have the staff to do more programs, but we could at least make it possible for people to find programs they can attend, anyone with swim lessons at that time were completely excluded.
  • Flexibility of prizes: actually too many choices, too much flexibility. We are busy during the summer, and all prizes are distributed at the circulation desk while people are checking out–it is not a good time/place to have 50 different ducks to pick through.

Any thoughts on what worked well for you? What you’d do differently?

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