Sunday, July 29, 2007

The End of Summer Reading Club

So basically, I'm a horrible blogger. I don't even have an excuse. Work has been crazy, but it always is. I think I'm just lazy. Is anyone still looking at this thing?

We're coming up on the last week of Summer Reading Club, and it's time for me to share a dirty little secret that probably makes me a horrible teen librarian.

I hate Summer Reading Club.

Hate, as they say, is a strong word, but it's actually not strong enough to describe my feelings of intense loathing for SRC. I know I can't be alone in this, but I realize that I'm probably a distinct minority. Every time I go to a conference, talk to other youth services people, or read blogs, I see people chatting about how amazing their Summer Reading Club is, and how fabulous it is to see all of the kids and teens using the library.

I understand the reasons for Summer Reading Programs. Reading over the summer helps kids maintain their reading levels, they get people into the library, they provide a great public service for kids and teens, especially lower-income kids and teens (which most of our population is). We give out some pretty sweet prizes in the teen department, so quite a few people sign up and do a lot of reading, which is great.

So theoretically, I think SRC is a great thing. In reality, however, it is incredibly annoying. My hatred of SRC begins in approximately January, when planning supposedly begins. The planning for this summer's program was the most
disorganized it has been in the 7 years I have worked at this library. The two women who were supposedly "in charge" are hard-working and well-intentioned, but are also the most disorganized, inefficient people I've ever encountered. Since my TAB members are responsible for making all of the copies of fliers and reading logs, putting prize packets together, and stuffing the goody bags we give away to registrants, I spent most of the months between January and June begging other people to do their work so that my TAB members could do theirs. When things weren't ready 3 days before SRC, guess who got blamed? My supervisor, P, actually asked me why "my kids" weren't ready when they had had so much time to work on things.

In retrospect, it's amazing that my answer didn't get me fired.

Moving on to the summer itself. For some unknown reason, P can't
see any reason for us to move to an online registration process. Instead those working at the SRC registration table (again, my TAB members) have to write down all of the information (name, age, library card number, address, etc). This hand-written information is then typed into an Access database. We do this for over 3,500 kids and teens every year. Not only is this a bunch of extra work and a huge waste of time, the database is actually useless in many ways - for example, if I try to print mailing labels for teens, it prints out mailing labels for everyone who has ever registered for the teen program - including people who graduated five years ago, people who have moved, etc. Many of the other reports that are generated are also useless, because apparently nobody in our entire library system knows how to use Access, except one woman who only works every third Tuesday or something.

In addition to the annoyance of the Access database, there's also the reality that a bunch of teens in the library is, well, a bunch of teens in the library! And since our administrators, in their wisdom, gave the teen department fewer computers than any other area in the building, ridiculously hard and uncomfortable furniture (I think it was originally designed for prisons), and dim lighting, the teens get justifiably bored and spend their time wandering aimlessly through the rest of the building, carrying on conversations at the approximate decibel level of an idling semi truck. Strangely, they're much louder and more obnoxious in other departments, because my staff and I have all developed versions of "The Look" which is guaranteed to stop 90% of obnoxious behavior before it even starts.

So outdated procedures, extra teens, bratty children who try to hide in the teen department (we kick 'em out until they turn 13), obnoxious parents, and the constant calls from increasingly irritated staff in other departments all combine to make me loathe SRC. I am not alone in this. Several of my TAB members have suggested that we have a ceremonial bonfire and burn all of the leftover paperwork on Saturday after our final SRC program.

I told them no, of course, but if some items happen to fall into a completely spontaneous bonfire at our end-of-SRC party, I can't really hold anyone responsible, now can I?

1 comment:

Woeful said...

You're not a horrible blogger. Blogging shouldn't be your life... Unless you're getting paid to do it. Blog when you can, I always read it. And yes, Summer reading programs suck!! But, they're necessary.

Hang in there.