Thursday, June 7, 2012

SLP Outreach/Confessions of a School Visitor pt. 3

I've expressed my frustration with SLP school visits before--they stress me out BIG TIME, take a huge toll on my workload, and my data shows that they don't have much effect in terms of SLP sign-up.

Despite my well-laid plans for this year, I ended up making the decision not to do SLP visits to the schools this year. The reasons were many, and I had an awesome discussion about it over Twitter with several other librarians, which led Marge Loch-Wouters (who I'm delighted to call one of my stealth mentors) to write about SLP visits over on her blog, Tiny Tips for Library Fun

Sara, at Bryce Don't Play, also hit on some of the issues I've had with presenting SLP as well--I've definitely been struggling with 'The Way SLP Visits Have Always Been Done' ie: costumes and puppets. (I LOVE costumes and I LOVE doing puppets with the kids--but that just doesn't fly or seem authentic when you're trying to convince the fifth graders that the program isn't just for the first graders).

(I need to learn from Marge how to not write a book with each blog post...sigh).

Last summer I did collect data on what schools had the most participation so I could compare that with my school visits. And, as I suspected, there's little or no correlation. Regardless of whether I visited, the biggest factors were location (nearness to library) and the school's own library situation. Unsurprisingly, schools that had dedicated library staff had kids who were more likely to participate in the program. Readers gonna read.

In my geographically spread out library population, I've often considered that it doesn't matter how excited I get the kids about the program, if they can't get to the library they can't participate. It's the parents I have to find.

So with that in mind, when I was invited to participate in the City's Healthy Way Walk (booths and giveaways along the new trail around the lake to encourage families to get out and walk), I said "YES!"

I had FORTY FIVE kids sign up, fifteen of which were teens. MANY of whom said they'd never doen the program before. Let me put that into perspective for you: last year I had a total of 275 kids, 42 of which were teens (yes, small numbers overall, but steadily growing each year I've been doing this).



  1. That's fabulous! The sign-ups I mean. Those are the better events than just random visits I think. I am NOT a fan of costumes but I am definitely warming up to puppets more. I'm not natural with them but I'm getting better.

    (My new phrase will now be "Readers gonna read" Just fyi!

  2. I'm continually baffled by the "must" mentality for what a SRP school visit is. WHO SAYS it must have a skit? WHO SAYS it must have puppets or goofy costumes? Seriously. I like SRP school visits for a number of reasons, but I believe they have to fit your goals & objectives, and there are usually several other options for meeting those goals and objectives. Your City Walk numbers are GREAT and exactly the type of "other option" I'm talking about. The longer I am a children's librarian, the more I am in favor of starting at the top (goals) and working down through objectives and really showing tough love for programs and services that don't or can't align with those goals or don't or can't align with your objectives...and being super creative and brave about trying new things even if you only think they MIGHT work.

  3. I used to do school visits in my old system, but I had the same results as you. There was no correlation between SRP sign-ups and school visits, and all they did was create stress and scheduling nightmares (I was part-time).

    In my new system, we don't do school visits. I was quite relieved to find that out. Instead, we put together a small movie with puppets for the kids to watch, then the school librarian hands out information for the kids to take home. So much easier than trying to visit everyone!

  4. I couldn't do anything elaborate if I wanted to - I see kids in the school libraries by class, so 75 fourth graders for 15-20 minutes. The times vary - sometimes I have as much as 30 minutes with a group, sometimes as little as 10. I do a rapid spiel on summer reading and then booktalk tons of books. That being said, I'm reconsidering school visits as well. I have a PLAN next year to see how many of those kids are really coming to the library. Also, your teen numbers are awesome! I have about the same pop. as you - 10,000 town, 24,000 service. I had only 40 teens sign up last year and only 20 of those actually participated. I did have 900 kids sign up, but only 200 "finished" so I am eagerly awaiting new numbers this year to find out the "real" participation number.

  5. First, as an elementary school librarian, let me thank all the public library children's librarians who visit schools in addition to their already demanding schedule. I appreciate you! I recognize you could spend that valuable time a lot of other ways than to stop by the schools, but please know, I think it is valuable and important work that you do by visiting schools. Here's why. I'm in a small town. We have a county library in our town consisting of a main library and one branch about 20 miles away. This library is worn out; it needs repairs, updates and badly needs expansion and renovation. While I love our library dearly, they don't really do much outreach to the community. They hold a summer reading program for the kids during the summer, and they come to our school in May to promote that. But not a whole lot of anything else. So, it doesn't really surprise me that the levy on the ballot last Tuesday to increase taxes specifically to fund renovations to the library didn't pass. There's not a whole lot of positive PR going on for the library. Perhaps reaching out to the community more, showing them the valuable FREE resources available to them through the library is a partial solution. Visiting schools equals building relationships with your future voters. I have no statistics to prove that, but it makes sense to me. So, keep building those relationships any way you can. I think they will pay off in the future for our libraries!

    1. Tamie, I totally agree about the IMPORTANCE of visiting schools and developing partnerships/increasing visibility of the library/working together. But I think they should happen all year and not in one frenzied month to promote the SLP if it doesn't actually do anything for the SLP. I want my time to be productive, and my school visits to be meaningful! So I think we're totally on the same page :D

  6. I should add that when I say "reconsidering" I mean "restructuring". While I don't think my visits garner a high number of new converts to the SLP and they are very time-consuming, it's worth it to build the connections with the kids I already have - and with the school librarians. I always make a handy list of the titles I bring b/c they use it for their purchasing in the year. My new plan for next year is part of trying to organize the visits so they're not so stressful and not as wasteful (I give a handout to every kid and at 2,000+ that's too many!) and figuring out ways to make them more effective in reaching the kids. For example, this year at one of the elementary schools I only saw K-4th and the 5th grade actually came TO the library - I think that will make a difference in their participation and it certainly made it easier for me, since I didn't have to take all the older titles.


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