6 Ways to Get Ready for Summer Reading
The temperature may still feel like winter, but right now is the time to think about summer. Summer reading, in particular. Will your library be ready when school lets out? Summer reading programs can turn your library into a bustling hive of activity for local students on summer vacation. But to take advantage, you should act now to put some important plans into motion. We put together a few ways that will help your library stay as the focal point of your community through the summer months.
1. Keep Key Material On Hand
Is your collection protected?
If you want your library to level up the number of patrons passing through your doors, you must make sure that your materials are ready to go, too. What good is getting more people in if you don’t have the books on hand that they are looking for? By protecting your collection, libraries make sure that your checked-out books are returned on time and ready to be checked out again.
Rethinking overdue materials
Getting books back onto your shelves should be a proactive process. Rather than waiting for materials to come due and then chase patrons and materials down, use your transactional emails to establish a regular connection with your patron. Try making your transactional emails more engaging by adding color, your library’s logo, personalization, customize the sending email address, and adding in book jackets. Services like MessageBee from Unique offer all of these, plus many more features all in one place.
Should materials end up overdue, our Fine Free Gentle Nudge service can take the task of material recovery off of your staffs’ plate, without punitive fines or recovery fees from the patron. All of the parameters and criteria are fully customizable by the library. Libraries also retain all control of the accounts without the daily hassle of contacting patrons.
With the increased traffic that naturally comes during the summer months, make sure you are also converting everyone that walks into your library. Having signage about summer reading programs and plenty of literature about the library are important but easily overlooked details for every library.
2. Get a Community Sponsor
Making it work
Budgeting can often be the biggest challenge facing public libraries. While finding a community sponsor may not be a revelation, your library can rethink what they offer potential sponsors. More than branding on signage within the branch, consider things different levels of sponsorship, and recruiting multiple businesses to help fund your summer reading program. A combination of sponsors can lower the individual contribution required by a single sponsor, while making library sponsorship available to smaller businesses. Make sure to call on your friends of the library group to help you send out solicitation letters and can help collect the funds. Remind them how vital they are to the operation of the library!
More than just a logo
Many people think of sponsors as a one-way relationship. A business gives the library money, and they get their name somewhere in the library, but it may not be much of a partnership. By doing things like leaving bookmarks or other leave-behinds at sponsors locations, they feel like they are engaged with the library more, and your library gets materials in front of more potential patrons.
Back in your branches, make sure your sponsor’s name or logo is visible during summer reading program activities. Little touches like sending out thank you letters to your sponsors and relaying the success they were a part of will make partners feel like they are a part of your success.
Tip: If you are stating a minimum dollar amount for sponsorship, also try allowing for in-kind donations such as a movie theater offering coupons for free popcorn. A good rule of thumb is the dollar value of the in-kind donation should be twice the amount of monetary donations.
3. Set-up and Plan a Social Media Campaign
Who to appeal to…
A comprehensive campaign is key to getting the word out to your target audience. For a summer reading campaign, kids and their parents are the target audience. Social media sites Instagram and TikTok are the most popular amongst kids, so focusing energy on those sites are important. For Instagram, check out this article on some of the best ways to use the photo sharing site for your library.
… and where to find them
TikTok can be a little bit of an enigma for some of us. Luckily Kelsey Bogan at Don’t You Shush Me has put together a great article on how librarians can use TikTok.
While kids use Instagram and TikTok, many parents call Facebook home. Using appropriate messages for the right sites is important. Deploying a two-pronged approach to social media to target both kids and parents means your messaging increases the chances of your message being seen and acted upon.
4. Send Customized Email Communications
Your patron base is diversified, so your emails should be too. Send the right messages to the right people with database segmentation. The best way to leverage your database is by directly harnessing the power of your ILS with an integrated email client. MessageBee by Unique is the only library-specific patron engagement platform that handles ILS notifications, as well as scheduled notifications like newsletters and service announcements.
By filtering for different criteria like “patrons with children” or by those who have checked out a designated genre of book, you can send the right messages to the right patrons. This makes the job of writing copy much easier, since you are trying to appeal to a very specific kind of person.
5. Get Schools Involved
Get into schools and in front of as many schoolkids as possible before class is out. Many schools will have some sort of assembly, having a presence there can be a great way to let this group of library users know about your summer reading program with a minimal effort from the library. Physical collateral too can be an effective tool for kids to bring home to their parents.
Get everyone onboard
Enthusiasm among the school administrators and teachers can help promote the summer reading program. Consider awarding a trophy to the school with the highest reading program participation, or most minutes read. Schools have trophy cases, and they love to show off their success. A school with a summer reading trophy in their lobby will be sure to push the summer reading program the following year.
6. Generate Excitement in the Community and Gain New Patrons
Supercharge new patron signups
Using the power of the National Change of Address Database (NCOA), Unique sends postcards highlighting your library to new movers in your area. With the help of our technical department, we can define a specific service area with either geocoded shape files or by simple zip codes. We work with libraries to customize postcards that highlight the best parts of a particular branch or system, and then print and mail them from our facility, making the process completely hands off after the collaborative creative steps. Check out more on our New Mover Service.
A great combination of fun, exciting programming as well as incentivized reading is a wonderful way to promote summer reading and halt the summer slide. To keep track of reading (either minutes, hours, or books) think about using online tracking software such as Read Squared or Bean Stack. If managing the reading progress, prizes awarded, or summer reading registration gets to be too much for circulation staff or youth services staff, consider outsourcing some of your phone customer service or even set up a chat widget on your website. UMS can assist your library with customer service, seamlessly working in the background while your staff is busy with the summer reading program.