5 Tips to Help You Plan This Year’s Summer Reading Program
Your library doesn’t have a “slow season,” so there’s no shortage of important tasks on your to-do list all year long. Because librarians wear so many hats, it can be hard to follow the best practice of spreading your summer reading program planning throughout the year. Fortunately, you can still have the best program yet whether you’re putting the finishing touches on your plan or are just getting started. Try these five tips to keep you on track for an engaging and memorable summer reading program.
1. Take Time to Plan
It’s always important to frontload your tasks and be strategic as you set up a planning checklist leading up to your program’s launch. If you just have a couple of months until your program kickoff, you might think that it’s best to hit the ground running — but this may not be the case. Since your time is limited, you’ll want to make the most of it by taking a step back to determine how much time you can realistically dedicate to each task. This is especially important if you’ll be working with multiple stakeholders to finalize your program’s components. The more time you can give your colleagues for approval, the better.
2. Lean on Partners to Get the Word Out
You already know that relationships are key to your library being thought of as an integral part of your community, so you likely have established partners you’ve worked with on previous programs. Think about which of your partners can help get your program in front of your target audience members. Traditional media contacts — think radio hosts and newspaper writers — can offer invaluable support, since community members who don’t regularly visit the library likely get their local news from at least one of these sources.
Before you call on your established radio and newspaper contacts, draft a press release so they have the details they’ll need to help you get the word out. Keep these best practices in mind as you write:
- Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Aim for 300–500 words total for this release — no need to write a whole novel. Journalists are busy. Get to the point quickly so they know what key pieces to promote when they cover your news.
- Keep your audience in mind. If you were a patron, what would entice you to register for your library’s reading program? Highlight incentives and be clear about the timeline so community members know when and how to act.
- Mention other library services, too. Your reading program isn’t the only valuable service that you offer your community, so take this promotional opportunity to draw attention to your other events and resources as well.
3. Take Your Program to Schools
School principals, librarians, English teachers, reading coaches, and tutors all work closely with many of your program’s target audiences, specifically students and their parents. Ask these educators for help with driving registration and participation in your program. Be sure to remind them of the many benefits of your summer reading program, such as minimizing the summer slide, when appealing to educators for assistance.
To make the most of these connections, focus on one or two advocates among school employees who can help you get into as many classrooms as possible. Not only will they be helpful for this year’s program, but you can use these partners to attract students and their parents to your library’s other events and programs as well.
4. Get Creative Without Reinventing the Wheel
Librarians know that literacy encompasses more than simply reading books, so many libraries are expanding their summer reading programs to be summer learning programs. They’re integrating new types of programming, makerspace activities, and STEM resources to combat summer slide with fun and engaging activities for all ages. Let some of these ideas inspire your own activities. We’ve collected a few of these creative ways to expand summer reading beyond just reading books here.
5. Use All Available Promotional Real Estate
Get the most out of your remaining pre-launch time by making smart use of all of your available promotional real estate, from Facebook to your website. Start promoting your program on your library’s social media pages as soon as you can, and follow social media best practices to make your posts as effective as they can be. Even if your registration page isn’t ready yet, send out a few “teaser” ads to get potential participants excited about your program’s launch.
If you are using event management software, like Demco Software’s SignUp, you can easily tag all of your summer reading events so that they’re automatically pulled into a feed on your website, making it easy for patrons to not only discover your summer reading program as they browse your website, but also to register for the program, as well as other events year-round.
The bottom line is that even though you only have a couple of months left to wrap up planning your summer reading program, this is plenty of time to make it the best one yet! For ideas on how to keep patrons coming back after your program is underway, download our free guide, How to Keep Summer Reading Participants Engaged.