Monday, September 15, 2014

Got Summer Checkout?!

It all started innocently enough: Shain Pounds, NPL Library Associate extraordinaire, accepted our invitation to come out to my school, Shwab Elementary School, to be a guest reader for Read Me Week.  We had a lot to talk about – I spent seven years in Children’s Services in Public Libraries and was thrilled to hear about some of the changes that were coming with their revamped Summer Reading Challenge.  One thing I heard clearly: they were looking to partner with other agencies serving kids in the summer in order to meet them where they are.

Now, it may have been that my oxygen levels were low because my suspenders where too tight, or that my beard made breathing difficult (I was Piper/Paul Bunyan that day), but when I got up on my soapbox to beat my chest about how great the Shwab community is, with so much potential, and how underserved they are (no Public Libraries or community centers in walking distance or simple bus trip) an idea began to form:  If NPL is willing to work with us, why not open our Library to neighborhood families during the summer?

Of course this very thought had crossed my mind at the end of every school year, knowing that the summer gap and/academic backslide is a big problem for our students (and the building and resources sit unused).  Yet this time, my conversation with Shain made the idea feel different.  I started to flesh out logistics in my head: how would we get kids in and keep the building secure?  What if nobody came?  What if too many people came?  Will the custodians freak out about the floors?

Before I got too far into the what-ifs, I got permission from my principal.  Then I campaigned like crazy for volunteers, knowing that I certainly couldn’t do this all by myself, especially since I was going to be out of town for a month.  So I created a schedule that wouldn’t intimidate volunteers and would be consistent enough to be remembered - every Wednesday from 1:00-3:00 for a total of eight Wednesdays.

Thanks to NPL and our amazing volunteers, many of those days felt like events.  Shain came out three of those days to sign up folks for the Summer Challenge, talk to kids, and distribute prizes.  We even got to have our own show from the Puppet Truck!  Alison Forte from Homework Hotline brought volunteers to come out and do projects with the kids four of the days, and the Shwab staff volunteers did crafts, played games and just talked to kids, making every Library Wednesday fun for the students and families that showed up.

While our overall statistics aren’t mind blowing, they are solid: 395 items checked out (only 6 haven’t been returned yet) and we averaged approximately 40 people each week with many families returning for multiple visits.  Seeing those kids and their families take advantage of this opportunity was priceless.  My latest conundrum: just last week my most reliable summer volunteer, an educational assistant here at Shwab, stopped me in the hall and asked, “Ms. Piper, what do you think about Saturday Library?”

Guest blogger,
Piper Nyman
MNPS Teacher Librarian  


1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this idea, Piper! Well done, you! My school does summer reading programs for rising Kinder and 1st graders, but I think partnering with NPL could really take it to the next level!