Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer reading: librarian detox!

Warning: I'm going to talk about work!  (I love my work.  It's hard not to ramble.)

Summer Reading kickoff party:

Nothing fell apart, there were no tears, the popsicles remained Cold Enough, and the balloons were ready on time despite it being a big graduation week.  And while I don't mean to brag, I was able to stretch the budget enough so we could have not one but TWO raffle gift bags to give away at each branch after looking over my receipts for all the necessary purchases.  I event-planned a big event and it didn't catch on fire AND it came in under the maximum allowed budget!  TWO big events really, since I'm the assistant branch manager at two small branches rather than one regular-sized branch.  I'm not fired!  (Not that I feared such, but being new and having the Summer Reading kickoff party be the first big event on the to-plan programming list is a bit sweat-inducing.)

For my non-library readers, a quick explanation: Summer Reading involves signing kids up to meet their reading goals for the summer.  It's fairly self-explanatory, and upon first glance, fairly simple.  However, it is far more elaborate, and involves prizes and data entry/collaboration like when we worked all day Thursday to sign up 27,000 kids, and of course, kickoff festivals with games, prizes, popsicles, entertainers, and more (on a library budget, of course).  Mostly, I'm just happy to have been able to have free raffle bags (you get an entry just for showing up) with some awesome books in them to kids.  Giving gifts to people is one of my favorite things in life, which is probably why I love librarianship so much (I "give stuff away" every day).  

After announcing the winner and handing off the grand prize bag, the mom asked their winning child what they got in their raffle bag.  Their reply?  "Books."  (They were actually quite pleased as far as I could tell.  But I had to chuckle a bit.  Yes.  Books.)  Hopefully at least one of the books suits them.  It's hard creating bookish raffle bags when you don't know the age or anything else about who might win!  We need diverse books, but it's a challenge to create a raffle bag when you don't know what the receiver may really need/want/gravitate towards.  Originally I wanted to choose the latest Newbery and Caldecott winners, but that ended up meaning there would be two books with primarily Caucasian characters represented.  I have not read Flora and Ulysses yet, but the cover gives me that impression -- I could be wrong!  Locomotive was nice, but not my favorite of the Caldecott competitors this year, and in flipping through our library copy I didn't see many diverse people in the illustrations.  So, other award winners could be considered, I thought!  It's tough when the recent Coretta Scott King winner is a sequel (stand-alone, but still!) or a book about a son's longing for his absent father.  Without knowing who might actually win the book, I didn't they weren't good choices either.  Of course, you can enjoy a book about someone who's not like you -- that's part of what reading is all about! -- but if you only ever get handed books about people not like you or who don't look like you or who have a cookie cutter family, I imagine it'd probably get annoying.  We serve diverse populations.  

So much about library work is about finding the right book for the right reader, so a blind raffle means throwing all that out the window and approaching it with a "Hopefully they'll like one, and maybe they'll have siblings or cousins or friends for the others if they aren't quite right, or they'll grow into them" outlook.  

In the end, the grand prize raffle bags contained copies of Flora and Ulysses  since ultimately, it's the most recent Newbery, AND it's on both the elementary and middle school "Battle of the Books" list from the local schools, which meant its school-appeal would be high.  In addition to F&U the grand prize bags had the first Redwall book plus Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain.  The second-place bags had Frog and Toad are Friends and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  As an afterthought, I tossed a Dover Make Your Own Robot sticker book into each bag with postcards highlighting our summer Mini-Maker Camp events.  I hope all the winners got at least one winning choice in their bags!  Of course, at the end of the day, I think the littlest kids were just as excited about bringing home the balloons as they would have been about winning one of the bags.  But the main point is, I think we got to put some nice books into some lucky kids' hands this weekend.  Books they can keep.  That makes me happy.   Even if their favorite ends up being the $1 robot sticker book, I'll be happy they were happy.

In summary, Summer Reading is all kinds of nuts.  It's a lot of signing kids up, getting them into the library, and hoping your popsicles don't all melt.  On all three counts, I'd say this year was a success.  Of course, Summer Reading isn't over.  Not by a long shot.  But the kickoff party is at least behind me.  They need a Summer Reading Kickoff Party badge over at Unshelved.  I feel like I and all my library cohorts have earned one!

I have no idea how to weave this quote into my narrative here, so I'm just going to end this library-centric post with a quote overheard at the popsicle cooler: "Popsicles are like a fan for your mouth."

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