Libraries build lifelong relationships with the individuals and families in their communities, and library staff is encouraged to interact with all patrons, making even a routine library visit a positive and personal experience. Many library staff members have worked in their libraries for a long time, they know patrons by name, and patrons know the librarians’ names. The staff turns as readily to the community for information as it does to its collections. Staff members believe in the power of community and believe that the community is its own best resource. Youth services librarians aim to introduce children to new experiences, make literature come alive, and spark enthusiasm for reading and learning.
An introduction to the library
Many of the youth who enroll in summer enrichment programs are not regular library users. By introducing these children, teens, and their families to the library, the summer enrichment program will provide them with lifelong opportunities and free access to:
- a safe community space where information and resources are available to all,
books and the internet,
- family literacy programs that help people of all ages reach their potential as workers, parents, and community members,
- information literacy training,
- high-quality programs for children and teens,
- homework help,
- resources to help families live and thrive,
- professionals who are trained to help community members find the right information at the right time.
About public library summer reading programs
Summer reading programs, which encourage participants to set and meet reading goals during the summer, have been presented in libraries for over one hundred years. They are a cornerstone of youth services programming and can be the biggest outreach effort of the year.
California’s public library summer reading programs foster communities of readers and library users. They provide youth with books and help them make guided reading choices, and they offer fun and enriching activities that extend the reading experience.
Summer reading programs are available free of charge at California’s public libraries during the summer months. Librarians encourage youth to read for pleasure and enrichment, encourage families to feel welcome in the library and to visit regularly, and hope to help bridge the summer reading gap that adversely affects so many children. Librarians know that free voluntary reading, which is at the heart of summer reading, is the best way to improve reading and language development and develop lifelong readers.
Librarians also work with local groups and programs to take the summer reading program out to the community. These groups can include local day care providers, Boys and Girls Clubs, city-sponsored summer programs, and many others. Often, library staff will compile summer reading materials and work with group leaders to facilitate the summer reading program out in the community.
Summer partnerships engage youth in library reading programs; provide them with reading logs, books, and library cards; and help summer enrichment programs prevent summer learning loss. Librarians welcome partnerships that give them direct access to local and underserved youth, particularly when the partnership can help the library engage the kids via unique and fresh outreach activities. Partnerships can enhance the potential for greater relationships with underserved youth, help the librarian get to know these students on a one-to-one basis, and can allow the student to get to know the library’s resources.
Creating effective partnerships with libraries
Librarians welcome the opportunity to provide unique programming that compliments and enhances the goals of the library and the partnering organization. When librarians partner, they are looking for:
- A shared understanding of the importance of reading for pleasure.
- Partners who understand the role libraries can play in the lives of the children and communities they work with.
- A commitment to literacy.
- A willingness to engage in dialog about mutual needs and how best those needs can be met.
- A mutual understanding of the goals of the partnership.
- Involvement in the partnership-planning process.
- Open and clear communication.
- Contact information for all staff with whom they will be working.
- Mutual respect for policies, procedures, and time.
- Timely meetings to enable sufficient planning to take place.
- A sense of humor.
- An appreciation of the restrictions libraries may need to work within when developing the partnership, e.g. the size limitations of the library, any city- or county-mandated regulations, the need to balance competing needs of different community partners, and the need to plan early for summer to allocate staff time and other resources during this very busy period.