Monday, October 27, 2008

I've got the blues...

Budget cuts, the sinking economy, the effect on services - we have all been hearing about it lately. And of course a budget crunch is going to have an impact on the library - despite the fact that as times grow tough, the library offers so many things to those who are having financial difficulty, so it seems a shame to cut the library's services. While my library system has been well supported and does (and will, I hope, continue to) offer a wide range of services to the community, we have been informed of some of the many changes that are to come. It's hard to argue with them, really, as the money isn't there, and we clearly need to cut back.

But still, I'm upset. One of things my library does is offer a summer reading program (SRP) with incentives to encourage children to read over the summer. Kids who read during the summer months return to school with better literacy skills than kids who don't - it's simple, but true. Toward the end of the school year, we children's librarians go around to the public schools to talk up the SRP and get kids excited to come to the library to sign up. We read dozens of books and prepare many book talks for kids in all the different grades with enticing, teasing descriptions of the books we've chosen to highlight for the summer. It's a blast - we use puppets, act things out, use silly props. We tell them all about the different free programs we offer throughout the summer - puppet shows, arts and crafts, clowns, music, live animals, science demonstrations - all kinds of things.

It is so much fun, and it works - the kids come in to sign up - more every year - and they ask for the books that appealed to them from the book talks. The best thing is that we are able to reach many of the children whose parents wouldn't normally take them to the library in the summer. Often the parents come from other countries and are unfamiliar with the wonderful free services provided by the public library. Or maybe they are just not library users. The kids initiate a trip to the library - they get library cards, and their parents become familiar with the library, too. With luck we soon have a family of dedicated library users, and kids who are reading and learning and coming back for more.

Well, not next summer, and maybe not the summer after that. We'll still do the SRP, in a more limited form, but no more school visits, and no more book talks. No more staff programs in the summer. Sigh. It's a depressing prospect. We are thinking about other things we might be able to do, but I feel as though I've just lost the ability to perform an important aspect of my mission as a children's librarian.

So, here I am, feeling sorry for myself (and the kids who might miss out on an important opportunity), and I come across this post by a friend and regular patron of my library. Talk about warm fuzzy feelings! It reminded me that, even though they're taking away some of the whistles and bells, we are still lucky to have the resources we do, and there is still a lot we can do to promote literacy and a love of books, just by being there, being friendly, and making the library a place kids - and their parents - want to be.

The image above has been used under Creative Commons licensing. It is called Melancolia by Thiago Fonseca and illustrates my feelings perfectly! See this page on Flickr for more info.


  1. Hi Jill,
    That is really sad to read that cutbacks are going to affect in that way to the library. There's something so magical, so special about the summer reading program and to cut any part of it is such a loss. Only to add to it in numerous ways would be the main goal but yes, cutbacks are across the board sometimes. At least they are not doing away with the whole concept. That would be too much to take! My goodness.

    I'm sure that part you wrote about is such a dear part of the program for you but I know you'll think of out of the box ways to add those additional ways in other venues.

    Speaking of the blues and budget cuts, my husband lost his job today. When God closes a door, He opens a window, I firmly believe, so think positive on this despair type day you feel ~ better things can be around the corner. I just know it.

    I'm delighted you enjoyed my library post.

    Tanya :o)

  2. Thanks, Tanya! I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's job. Let's hope you'll have a nice big window opening soon!

  3. Here, here on supporting the libraries! Especially summer reading programs. I think every ounce of excitement we can drum up in our kids over reading is priceless.

    Wishing you the best as your library rides out this economic tsunami.

  4. That's too bad about the school visits and book talks :( Just hearing you describe them gave me an idea of the enthusiasm and passion that you put into them, and I can see all those kids running to the library as soon as they could. But even without as many resources, I have no doubt that the enthusiasm and dedication that librarians like you put into their work will continue to make a huge difference. And I'm sure you'll all be able to think of new ways to get those kids reading!

    Good luck with everything, Darla.

  5. Rachel - thank you so much for you kind thoughts!

    Nymeth - you are right - we do have so much fun with it, and there's nothing like a captive audience to share my love of books with! We are throwing ideas around already, and I do think we'll be able to come up with some in-branch things that might be helpful. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the encouragement! It really took the wind out my sails when I found out.

  6. i'm sorry you're feeling so blue. i'm sorry about the budget cuts. is "reading rainbow" still on tv? i remember, as a kid, that show used to point me to books i'd be interested in reading. maybe a silver lining is shows like that ... in lieu of you being able to go into the schools. i'm just thinkin'...

  7. Molly - you are right - encouraging literacy is so important that there are sure to be other helpful influences out there. We get Reading Rainbow DVDs from the library, and then the girls ask for the books they see on there. That's a great show! I don't know if it's still on (we have no tv reception) - I hope so!


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