The working groups of California librarians that have guided the transformation of the state’s summer programming have developed specific outcomes for each age range that participates in the program:
- Young children and their parents and caregivers, and school age children, feel part of a community of readers and library users.
- Teens make connections at the library.
- Adults find value and enjoyment at the library.
Each of these outcomes builds on research conducted by Dominican University, and on findings from the first pilot year of our outcomes initiative. Aligning with anecdotal evidence from across the state, both found that people who take part in public library summer programs tend to be active and engaged readers who already use libraries.
We wanted to strengthen the bond that people who identify as readers have with their library and with other library users. We are aware that people who come to identify as readers are often those who have found a social setting in which their peers also enjoy reading or those who are more introverted and like the escape that reading provides. We wanted them to find a community at the public library.
The concepts of community and libraries and reading are very closely linked. Spend time in any library and watch how people young and old interact with this public space. You will see parents reading to young children or playing with them in Family Space sites all over California. Parents tell us how much they appreciate the library as a safe and comfortable place to bring their children. They see storytimes as opportunities to network with other parents and to increase their sense of belonging to a community. Both parents and caregivers often arrange play dates around their visits to the library.
You will see school children sharing their homework assignments with classmates who forgot to bring the instructions home with them. Teens may be helping older adults master the new technologies available at the library. People of all ages are fascinated by the opportunities for creativity that Maker Spaces provide. Patrons chat with clerks at the circulation desk as they check their books in and out. Homeless adults find a place to get in out of the heat or the rain and catch up with some reading. At some libraries they can even get a free lunch. Even the people sitting quietly by themselves with a book or a magazine or a laptop in front of them seem to be enjoying the feeling of being part of a community.
This is what we want to encourage through our summer programs. In our complex society, there are many kinds of communities besides the geographic ones in which we live. These communities of choice may be based on religion, voluntarism, hobbies, cultural or leisure activities, or ethnic pride. With this new emphasis on community, community building, and connections that we have proposed for California’s Summer @ Your Library outcome and outreach initiative, we are positioning the public library as a significant community of interest.