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System Director’s Report:

June 2007

The summer library programs in our member libraries are really taking off as I write this in mid-June. The theme for 2007 is “Get a Clue@Your Library,” and all participating libraries have a full schedule of events, performers and activities for several age groups. I don’t know all that is going on, but the magic of electronic communications lets me get some glimpses.   

The most recent Vesper library board minutes noted that 56 children had registered for the summer reading program and there were still several days before the registration deadline.  Their first program was an outdoor movie with a Harry Potter Theory night, and a game night to follow later this summer. (The total population of Vesper is less than 600.) 

The Madison Public Library online newsletter mentioned that 3,000 kids signed up for the Summer Library Program in the first week of registration.

Monona had a low-key Mystery Family Read on June 16, a drop-in program where participants received a bookmark, picked out books and sat together in any area of the library to read. At the end of the program the children checked out, recorded the time they spent reading, and collected a prize. A Junior Volunteer was there throughout the day to help them as well. Karen Wendt, Children's and Young Adult Coordinator, brought face paints from home and gave each interested child a face paint design. About 26 children recorded reading between 11 am and 4 pm. They also have a dry erase board at the children's reference desk and about once a week a junior volunteer writes a message in a secret code for children to work on. This week Patrick wrote in Morse Code "Get a Clue at Your Library."

And the brave and creative staff at the Verona Public Library kicked off their program by having 104 people come to a “sleepover” in the library, 65 kids and 39 parents/adults. Stacey Burkart, Head of Children’s Services, posted this report on the SCLS-kidslist mailing list.

“We started off at 7 p.m. by giving away door prizes, including the sleeping rights to the castle in the kids room. Every child got a door prize and then we set them free to do activities. We had a scavenger hunt, crafts, and we did the Crime Caper mystery game. After an hour, we showed a movie on our big screen, after which we read bedtime stories and turned out the lights at 11pm. Incredibly, there was hardly a peep out of anyone after the lights went out.”

“The kids loved the scavenger hunt, but the mystery game was a little hard for some. Many were happy just to curl up in their sleeping bags and read as the night wore on. We had juice, milk, donuts, and fruit available for breakfast from 6:30-7:30, and then people went home.”

“I spent about $75 which was mainly on food (we also had pretzels during the movie) and glow sticks (prizes for the scavenger hunt). If we did it again, I might consider a potluck breakfast to keep the costs down. But 12+ hours of fun for less than a dollar a person seems pretty good to me.”

“Tiffany Thiede, our new children's librarian, was a great sport for agreeing to sleepover her first full week of work. I also had another staff member volunteer to stay over and several of our pages came to be suspects in the mystery game. All in all, it was great event and could hardly have gone any better. Lots of the parents asked if we would do it again next year. One little girl said "This is the best day of my entire life!"

Where else could a little girl get such a memorable experience for less than a dollar? And who demonstrates more creativity, energy and caring than the children’s services staff in our public libraries?

Electronic communications this week also included two job ads for part-time children’s services positions in our member libraries. One listed the pay range at $8-$10 and the other at $11.15. While I know our libraries do the best they can on the budgets they have, and some of our libraries can and do pay higher wages, we need to do better. What our children’s librarians do to support early literacy is incredibly important. We need to find ways to attract and retain the best and brightest for this work and give them the tools and resources they need to continue successful summer reading programs.

We can’t directly affect wages, but this year, for the first time, we can offer some dollars from a new source to enhance the Summer Library Program. The SCLS Foundation, through a gift from Judith and Dr. Gordon Faulkner, is beginning what we hope will be a long tradition of getting more resource for the literacy and children’s programs in our member libraries.

And now I’m off to ALA, so I’ll see you on July 9!