The art and (mad) science of summertime

On those first Tuesdays when the library opens an hour later for all-staff meeting, we’re almost never discussing what you’d think.

Literary chat would be fun, but other priorities rule the agenda.  Administering an information/access/community center–the modern library model–demands customer service updates, new resource training, community awareness presentations.

This week’s confab was special, marking our official transition into SRP Mode, best described as a state of high alert with moments of mild panic.

Michelle, our director, likens library summer reading programs to the retail world’s Christmas–a potentially game-changing season fraught with conventional expectations and opportunities to innovate.  New customers are attracted by SRPs, while current users anticipate another rewarding experience.

Hence, the flurry of questions:  Did we order enough reading rewards for children?  How will they know when they’ve qualified for one?  Will the online registration work?  What prizes will tempt grownups to complete a reading log?  Will they like this year’s mad scientist theme?

And this issue was tricky:  how can everyone enjoy summertime when some define the ideal library visit as calm and thoughtful while others express high spirits in loud tones, sometimes romping around beyond a parent’s field of vision?

Did we oversell the “second floor is the quiet floor” concept, and by directing phone calls, conversations, and general noisiness downstairs, foster the impression that first floor is “No Holds Barred” territory?

Our consensus:  it’s OK–considerate and responsible, in fact–to remind folks about library manners and the need for constant parental supervision in a highly public venue.

I work on the grownup floor and consequently admire the energy (and diplomacy!) required to manage the pleasant chaos resulting from large crowds drawn by summer performers.  Still, as part of the team coordinating the adults’ SRP, I envy the demographic perks of Youth Services’ customer base.

Just think:  children aren’t encumbered by work responsibilities; grownups devote 40 potential reading and library-visiting hours to their jobs.  Parents, mindful of the advantages of early literacy and summertime reinforcement, don’t merely encourage library visits–they deliver and accompany their offspring!

The Adult Services audience, meanwhile, gets sidetracked by pesky non-library activities like the aforementioned employment, volunteer responsibilities, home and lawn maintenance, child care, meal preparation, bringing their young to children’s programs…

Given our multitasking, responsible demographic, we appreciate each and every completed adult reading log and program attendee.

Not that grownups lack youthful tendencies.   We observe “kid in the candy store” moments when overwhelmed adults ask for reading suggestions–“just a few, please!”.  Like the youngster who much prefers the sturdy packing carton to the shiny gift, a mature reader may bypass the new hardcovers and digital resources that we’re most excited about, instead choosing a years-old paperback novel.

And grownups can put one in one’s place almost as deftly as kids do.  When a retired patron recently reported her 10-15 books per week average, I calculated my meager 1.5 for the past week (which included a book review deadline, work, houseguest).  Answering my regretful “I didn’t get through many this week”, the customer huffed, “Well, I happen to think that reading is important!”

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