Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Selling of Summer Reading

Before I show you what we do, let me tell you about our library.
  • Summer reading is our largest kids' initiative of the year.  We start planning 9 months ahead of time for a 10-week program.  It takes many people a lot of time to put together the program.
  • We run programs from 0-adult, broken up in 3 age groups-kids (baby-grade 5), teen (grade 6-12), and adults (ages 19+).
  • We do set goals, both in terms of registration numbers and completion rates.  We are rewarded for hitting the goals, but there is no punishment involved (it doesn't show up as a bad thing on our reviews).  Last year our ys staff received gift cards to the local outdoor mall.  This year, we have expanded to the entire staff and will have a donut party and pizza party for hitting our half-way and final goals. 
  • We are a relatively new public library system.  We opened our first location in 1999 and have added 2 branches and a large main library since then.  Everything we have built has been from the ground up.
  • We have a very busy reference desk at our branch.  It is always staffed by a librarian, but we rotate (so you may have an adult librarian working or a children's librarian).  Everybody has to be able to handle everything.
  • Through numerous community surveys, we have found that there are a significant amount of our customers who do not know that we have a summer reading program.  We also get a lot of people telling us that they read in the summer and isn't that summer reading?
Our biggest way to increase summer reading participation is to stand next to our self-check machines with a stack of forms and ask people who are checking out books if they are participating.  We don't hold them up and we aren't pushy.  This does give us the chance, though, to show them our gameboards and explain the program on a one-to-one basis.  I don't think that I have ever had anybody actually tell me "No" after I have explained the program.  I get a lot of "Oh, I didn't know that my baby could participate" and other reasons why they have never done summer reading.  Why do you think that stores have people out in the aisles selling things or that kids fundraise outside of grocery stores?  It works.

Our second favorite way to increase summer reading participation is to promote it in our programs.  You have a built-in audience who don't mind giving you 5 minutes of their time before a magician or story time parents who will listen and ask questions before story time starts.  I really like showing our summer reading program off to our story time kids because these are kids who come every week.  They are your kids who will most likely finish the program.  They are also your kids who will do the program every year once you get them started.

The rest of our promotional ideas I refer to as the "extras".  They make us look a fun and nice place to be.  They help to promote the Rule of Seven (people need to see or hear about something 7 times before it will sink in).  We have a giant window display that you can see from the road with the dates listed.

This is our summer reading table that holds the various forms.  We also like to include booklists to promote our collections.  If you don't have one prepared, definitely check out the ALSC summer booklists that they put out a couple of months ago.  I like having a table out because anybody on staff can refer customers to the table.  It is right next to the reference desk so if we are in between questions, we can explain the program to people walking by.  It is also easily accessible for those savvy customers who know what they want and don't require any staff interaction.

As you can see from the above picture, we list the program name and the ages right on the sign.  We have out the gameboards/forms, booklists, and a small slip with the web address if people want to do the whole program online.

We added in some fun decor.  Oriental Trading sold us construction cones and inflatable dinosaurs that we scattered throughout the children's area.

 They are even on the ceiling!

For those who have missed that we have a summer reading club, we have 25 stars scattered through the library.  I use magnet tape to attach them to our metallic endcaps.  As you can see, they list the dates, the ages, and where to get more information.  These are especially useful in our adult and nonfiction areas as many of the summer reading decorations don't make it that far.  

If you have missed every sign of summer reading so far, we have one last sign on the security gates as you exit.  Did you get your form?

These are just a couple of ideas to get you going with your program.  Once you get your customers in, then you can explain why summer reading is important for their kids.  Unfortunately, you can't get the message across if you don't have the people to talk to.  How do you promote your program in-house?

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