By Cindy Romick, Children’s Services Manager
An adult summer reading program is not new here at the Findlay Hancock County Public Library. Reading fun for adults has been part of our summer time activities since about 1993. From the beginning, the reason for adding an adult SR has been to include all ages in the summer reading program and to remind adults that they set the example for our younger readers. (Another good reason: Why should the kids have all the fun?)
Last year we used the ‘Be Creative’ theme and had 281 adult readers participate in summer reading. They read a total of 3095 books. While an average of about 11 books per participant is impressive, the reality is that some may have read only one book and one or two others read more than 11 per week! We try to attract readers by reminding them that since they are already reading they should make it count for summer reading. It is encouraging that many parents and grandparents are willing to sign up for adult summer reading when they bring in their children to register.
We don’t have a lot of extra programs for the adults during the summer, but there are a few. There are some regular book discussion groups who meet during the warm months. With the creativity in mind, there were programs scheduled for Colonial Rug Hooking, Beaded Earrings, Scrapbooking and Card Making last year. This year there are scheduled book discussions as well as a popular basket weaving class. We’re also working with the local wildlife people to do a program on local wetland animals.
Most of the participants sign up during the kickoff event or during the first few weeks of SR. It seems easiest to ‘catch’ them when the energy is at a high level. When the work of SR gets a bit routine, a few weeks into it, there aren’t as many who will sign up. However, the avid readers do continue to come in and report their reading.
Over the years, we‘ve simplified the paper work greatly. Name and phone number are usually all that we ask for registration information. Reporting slips also ask how many books were read since the last library visit. Prizes are usually awarded by drawing from the slips returned each week and calling that person.
The goal is to keep adult SR self-service as much as possible. Where staff time is needed, the work is streamlined. Some of the recording tasks are done by a volunteer. An adult services staff member keeps track of the volunteer’s work and supplies materials at the sign up station. Each year we try to consolidate tasks and simplify whatever we can. We’ve standardized the registration forms and reporting slips so that we just need to change the theme, the year and the clip art. The CSLP resources are great for this. They make that job quick and easy.
Consider your patrons and how much staff time you have when deciding how to give away prizes. Most of the prizes we give away are donations from local businesses. We have found that many local businesses are willing to donate gift certificates and prizes that the adults enjoy winning. The most difficult part of this process is finding staff time to contact these businesses and negotiate the donations.
Keep the summer reading station away from the reference desk if at all possible. We learned this the hard way. Placing it too near the public desk created a bottleneck of people that was clumsy and interfered with patrons’ other library business. Keeping it within sight of the public desk is good, just not too close.
Also, give the area a distinct appearance so that it is easily identified. In the past, we’ve used a tent, balloons, Christmas lights, etc. Here any decorations are determined by the SR committee and reflect the summer reading theme. The adult sign up area is included with the rest of the library decorations. The object of the game is to make the place where SR business is done easily noticed.
We’ve had many kinds of kick-off events, but the most effective for us is a self-directed, multi-station event that leads patrons throughout the library and to the registration areas. This lasts the whole day, with the last 30 minutes set aside to wrap things up and put things away. It works well for all ages, and especially encourages the adults who are accompanying children to sign up as well. Many don’t think about doing summer reading for themselves unless we remind them and make it easy to do. For activities we have had a treasure hunt, puzzles to solve, etc. This year we will have patrons identify fish.
The ending of SR needs to be clearly stated and adhered to. So set an ending date, record those last statistics, draw the slips for the last prize and shout ‘hurrah!’ As much as we enjoy the summer reading period, we also enjoy the end of it for the summer.
Our adult patrons who participate in summer reading enjoy the extra push to read during the summer. They look forward to seeing if they won a prize. It’s also good for children and teens to see them participating in SR. These adults set an example for younger readers and show them that reading is important and can be fun.