Friday, February 13, 2015

Re-creating a Program for Success

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It's OK. Go ahead. Admit it.  We all experience a program that seems to have hit a dead end. People stop coming, staff time seems wasted and it looks like its time to say adios. Or is it?

Our student librarians discussed how they evolved programs and breathed new life into them with a few simple changes:

For over a year, we had a weekly afterschool program for K-5th called Reading Academy.  The program rotated between the librarians and we would choose a book to read and then do activities based on the book.  It was a flop.  The number continued to dwindle (by the end we would only have 2 kids per program) and we were never excited about it.  Then, we got an amazing reference book: "After-School Clubs for Kids: Thematic Programming to Encourage Reading" by Lisa Shaia and decided to rebrand.  We now have the After School Crew which has monthly themes like Monster Mash and Mad Scientist.  We've found it has really revitalized us as librarians because it's a lot easier to come up with a cool activity based on the theme and then the book instead of the other way around.  The patrons seem to love it too as we've had completely filled programs and the numbers have barely dwindled.  My favorite thing is that on the very first program for it, I went around our room to encourage families to come and a family I had never seen before decided to attend.  They have now come back every week for the last month because they like the program so much!

We have been planning more STEM and STEAM programs.  The children are very interested in science; however, we seem to have trouble filling a program at a certain time of day.  Our solution has been to set up hand-on self directed tables. The families seem to really enjoy these. Many times the parent or grandparent has the opportunity to teach something new and it becomes something of a family event.  Right now we have a circuit board set up and the children test different items to try and complete the circuit.  This allows many more families to experience the learning than we could attract to a single program. 

- I run the Mock Awards for our library system and I had heard from a few librarians they didn't feel comfortable attending. I probed them and found out they didn't like getting up in front of the group to discuss the books' merits. Since I am a very outgoing person, this never would have occurred to me as a barrier to attending!

So I took this feedback to heart and I switched up the way we shared our opinions about the Mock books this year. We had tables of 5 and each table had a set amount of time to discuss the Caldecott, Printz and Newbery. Each small group had a Table Captain and this person summarized the small groups' opinions and shared it with the larger group. A few of the small group members chimed in if the Table Captain left something important out, or they thought of something else to add.

A few people have thanked me since the Mock awards to say they really liked this format because A) they were more comfortable attending because they didn't have to get up and speak in front of a large group and B) we ended on time because the table members weren't spending time discussing who was going to stand up and talk about each nominated book! 

We changed our program to a timed reading recording for our summer reading over the previous counting number  of books. Once we did this a few years ago we saw many more participating throughout the summer and completing more reading records. It gave kids a chance to spend time reading something they really wanted to- say one of the Harry Potter books and not feel they had to read a bunch of books to complete the reading record. A couple years after we switched to that, we added a super reader booklet for those who completed their reading time- a fun booklet of various types of reading. For the reward for that booklet completion we had a board game/pizza party program at the end of the summer for those kids ( and also invted our summer teen volunteers to the party).

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