Two Must-Haves for a Rewarding Summer Reading Program Finale
Your summer reading (or summer learning) program is a valuable resource for your community, especially for children who need the extra push to avoid the summer slide by reading outside of the classroom. Since this is likely one of your library’s most popular offerings for people of many ages, it presents opportunities to transform summer readers into year-long library users — that is, as long as you include the two must-have components in your program finale.
Must-Have #1: A Memorable Finale Party
Summer readers put in the work to reach their individual milestones and meet your community reading goals. Once the end of the season comes around, they need a reason to think it was worth it so they’ll do it again next year! If you’re like most libraries, you already throw an end-of-summer bash to give readers just that. Make your party even more worth your effort by getting creative and leaving a lasting impression on reading program attendees.
First of all, consider the many options you have for a location for your party. Is a fun local place on your list of program partners — perhaps a water park, roller skating rink, or bowling alley? Ask if you can host the event at one of these sites and remind that community partner of the benefits they will realize from it too. For one, since the location will be listed on all of your promotional materials, they’ll have a chance to get in front of many new potential customers. Every business knows the value of free advertising!
No matter if you decide to throw your party at your branch or somewhere else, take extra steps to make it memorable. Try these:
- Award door prizes and feature fun, hands-on activities. If you’re cutting it close on your budget by the end of your program, collect prizes that weren’t given out or materials that weren’t used for crafts earlier in the season and use them at your finale party.
- As you well know, food is always a big draw. If it’s in your budget, include pizza or sweet treats in your celebration. If it’s not in your budget, see if a local restaurant, bakery, or ice cream parlor wants to partner to provide a discount or donate the treats.
- Invite local personalities to attend. Is there a juggler or magician who attracts attention at your community’s parades? A TV anchor or person who everyone recognizes and enjoys? Invite your community’s “celebrities” to your party. Most public figures would love to align themselves with an altruistic organization like your library, and they can leverage their extensive networks to help you draw people to the party.
- Publicly recognize your star readers. As Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Use that to your advantage. Host an awards ceremony to give your most active readers kudos for the progress they made over the summer. This year’s winners will relish the attention, and you’ll inspire others to try their hardest to make the leaderboard next year.
- Get social. Community members likely have already established relationships with many of your librarians. Use these connections to draw attention to your big finale. Charge your most recognizable staff members with posting behind-the-scenes Instagram stories and sharing Facebook Live videos that highlight how they’re preparing for the end-of-season fun. Don’t stop the day of the event! Spur those who can’t make it this year to mark their calendars for next year by sharing live updates during the can’t-miss bash.
- Recruit a crafty staff member to create a photo prop opportunity (a fun selfie photo frame, for example) that features your library’s social handle and a personalized hashtag, such as #EverytownLibrarySRP, and encourage attendees to share their photos on social media and tag your library.
Must-Have #2: An Invitation to Keep Coming Back
Even community members who are actively involved in your reading program may not be familiar with everything else your library offers. While you’ve got their attention, invite them to share their perspective and expand their awareness at the same time.
As a first step, distribute a survey when your program ends. (Here are a few tips to help you implement this best practice.) Beyond asking for feedback about their experience over the summer, include a question that asks respondents to serve on an advisory committee that will weigh in on upcoming programming. Committee members will appreciate that they have a say in your library’s plans, and by being more involved behind the scenes, they’ll be more likely to spread the word to their friends and families. Your library will see an increase in traffic thanks to these new library advocates.
If you’re an avid reader of the Demco Software blog, you know in addition to surveying program participants, we also strongly suggest collecting email addresses at every opportunity, including during your summer reading program registration. The reason this is so important is because having a way to contact your patrons makes it’s easy (and inexpensive) to keep them informed on the latest and greatest happenings at your library, including next year’s program.
Be sure to send a recap email to your entire email list that features photos from the summer program and your wrap party — this is a great way to let FOMO (fear of missing out) entice people to participate next year. Include in the recap any anecdotal feedback you’ve received from patrons, and also feature a section called something similar to “You might also like …” that highlights other upcoming events and how community members can register for them.
The Full Event Marketing Checklist
Though it’s an important one, your finale is just one of the many parts of your reading program. Since you’ve got so much on your plate as you wrap up your planning, we created an “Event Marketing Checklist” for libraries that will ensure you don’t miss any of the small details. Download it here and you’ll be one step closer to streamlined marketing for successful library programs.