How it all started:
Summer is extremely busy for our library system. To reward/motivate staff in this busy time, I came up with the idea of doing a staff summer reading program. After all, staff can't participate in our regular program for the public.
Funding, Set-Up, and How It Works:
Once I had the idea, I approached our Friends of the Library. I will admit that we have a very generous Friends group. I asked for $100 to fund prizes throughout the summer.
Since we already had dates in place for our kids, teen, and adult summer reading programs, I used those dates for our staff program (which also helps all staff to remember them). We have a 10 week program, so I split up our prize money so $10 a week was passed out. To have the most possible winners, and still have a cool prize, we pass out $5 gift cards to local restaurants. My only requirement for including a restaurant in the program is that you have to be able to reach it from all 3 locations in a 1-hour lunch break and be able to fund most/all of your lunch with a $5 gift card.
While for our kids and teens we count time read for summer reading, for this program we count items read/watched. We wanted our staff to be using our collection, which made them better at readers' advisory. They could read a book or a magazine, listen to a music cd or audiobook, or play a video game. When they finished, they filled out a form and returned it to me. Drawings were run every Monday morning before the library opened.
In addition, we run a Staff Recommends blog on our web site. Personally, I think that it is low on everybody's TBD list. To bring it back to the forefront, we offer an additional entry for every item written up on the Staff Recommends blog.
You may wonder what we do with all of these recommendations. We are able to run booklists off of our web page. I set them up each summer and call them "Staff Recommends for Summer Reading", "Staff Recommends for Summer Listening", etc. As staff members submit their entries, I take any with a 4 or a 5 rating and add them to the lists.
For the first couple of years, I took suggestions from staff to get the program going. After all, the prizes are for them. You will want to appeal to a wide variety of people-some eat healthy and some eat fast food. Our three most popular choices are Jimmy Johns, Panera, and "choose your own". We have also included Subway, McDonalds, Starbucks, Target, and Dairy Queen.
Issues that have happened:
- We have a lot of volunteers who work at our three locations. We were asked if they could participate. Since volunteers were able to participate in our regular summer reading programs, we did exclude them from the staff one. Now we say that it is for paid staff.
- While it doesn't happen often, there is always one staff member a year who stuffs the entries with a stack of picture books. While on one hand, they are not anywhere near their reading level, they are still using library materials. This makes them better able to recommend items to the public. If you run a program like this, you will want to decide ahead of time what to do in this type of situation.
- Check with the restaurants ahead of time to make sure that they offer gift cards. It also helps if you buy them ahead of time. We have had restaurants stop carrying gift cards right in the middle of the program (Taco Bell and Mr. Pita). In those instances, we offer a "choose your own" gift card.
How it has changed:
Last summer we moved away from a paper program and had everybody log their items online, similar to what the public does (we use Evanced). In addition to being good for the environment, it gave staff a chance to use the program, which made them better able to explain how to work the online portion of our summer reading program to the public. When we moved to an online system, our staff participation increased 300%. This was a big shock to me, but I just love saying it out loud.
We are now in our 6th year and I am very excited to see the results. Personally I am hoping to increase again, but after the 300% last year, it may be a stretch.