Survey Says…School Age Programming: Outreach

Library Outreach

Marge Loch-Wouters and I tried our hand at surveying school age programming librarians to see what the pulse is around the country. It’s always helpful to know what works and what doesn’t with other librarians around the country. We all learn from each other.  You can see other posts here concerning the results of the very informal survey.

This post will be focusing on outreach for the school age. We had a total of 171 responses and result is pretty evenly split in half:

T here are a variety of reasons that outreach can be difficult to fit into your duties. They include: lack of funding, lack of time, not enough staffing, not enough community support, too time consuming. It takes time not only to plan and execute outreach programs, but also to build a rapport with a community partner and foster relationships with other staff and with the children you are serving. Once established, outreach is an extremely important and effective way to serve families in your community.

The following are kinds of outreach programs librarians offer for the school age:

  • Summer reading promotion
  • Mock awards
  • Open house / Family Night / Literacy Night / PTO Fundraiser
  • Booktalks
  • Circulating books in the classroom
  • Field trips / tours of library
  • Offering library programs on site in the schools
  • Database and catalog training
  • Author study programs
  • Banned Book Week
  • Lunch Bunch
  • Read aloud program

I’m going to steal some of these ideas for myself for next year!

Not only did Marge and I learn a lot about school age programming while conducting this survey, we also learned a lot about the research process (and how we’ll improve for our next one).

To finish our survey, we had a comments section:

The Good:

  • Besides a winter reading program, this is the first year we had school age programming. We are still searching for the sweet spot of variety of interest and kids who can attend.
  • School age programs are vital for a vibrant & happy community.
  • I am very interested in programs that involve the whole family/children and adults together.
  • We are working on more school age programs to get more kids back into the library. They see we have new books for them so they are starting to come back. Before they didn’t really have anything they wanted to read.
  • I hope that libraries are reaching out to home schooling families! Also families with English as a second language and those families with children with special needs.
  • It is very rewarding…a lot of fun, and we are learning how to effectively market our programming (better web designs for posters, social media, etc.).
  • I recommend cooperating with another entity – we do programming with our local nature center.
  • I collaborate with the local teachers to present school age programs during the school day. I host monthly class visits with most of the K-3 classes, and bring in special performers for the K, 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade classes. I have two elementary schools within walking distance of the Library.
  • Best job in the world!

The Bad:

  • School age is what most often gets looked over unfortunately.
  • Sometimes it’s a challenge to get school age children to participate.
  • It is amazing how well things can do at one library that bomb at another. We are on a constant prowl to find things that work for us!
  • Our attendance is not very good during the school year.
  • Wish I had the time, space, funding, and cooperation of the school so that we could offer more programs.
  • It can be challenging when you are doing programs yourself with a limited budget.

And the Ugly:

  •  It’s hard to keep younger siblings from attending.
  • It is tricky finding something to bring them in without being obviously educational.
  • Attendance is feast or famine.
  • This population is underserved, even though it seems we offer a lot for them – the numbers that attend are not high in comparison to early literacy initiatives.
  • My time is so limited, and has been cut. Most of my programming is for preschool, and I had to cut 2 programs I had been doing for school-age.

Marge will be blogging more about programming and ideas soon. Check out Marge’s Tiny Tips for Library Fun and my survey posts for more information.

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