This year North Vancouver City Library and the North Vancouver District Public Library took the big step to coordinate our Children’s and Teen Summer Reading Club program promotion to the schools and worked together to present exciting virtual programming.
It does not need to be said (not even one more time!) that 2020 was a challenging year. One of the first things we started thinking about when we closed to the public due to COVID, was how we would be able to offer our Summer Reading Club programs. SRC is such an important way for children in our community to stay connected to reading and the resources the library has to offer over the summer. At the time, many staff at libraries were laid off, and we had little idea of what others would be doing. Thank goodness for our library networks and communities, where we soon began to learn about the amazing work that BC Summer Reading Club was doing to create a virtual option for 2020.
Our next challenge was how to let youth in our community know that SRC would indeed be happening? Though we technically share a school district, our libraries had never collaborated on promoting SRC before. COVID turned out to be the motivation we needed.
To avoid confusion and overlap, we coordinated our messaging and programming. The youth teams and communications departments at our libraries worked together to create a joint promotional video for our local schools, with dignitaries from each of our communities, and staff from both of our libraries. We also put a joint advertisement for SRC in the local paper. Finally, we combined forces on a series of seven virtual author visits for children, sharing the programs on each of our websites in tandem.
When planning our virtual author visits, we quickly discovered that the possibilities were endless! Authors and illustrators were keen to connect with readers and the fees associated with the virtual visits were very reasonable. We hosted astronaut and author Dr. Dave Williams, Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks, Gale Galligan, Andy Runton, Rashin Kheiriyeh, Robin Stevenson and Mark Leiren-Young. Our readers were able to chat with them over Zoom and had the opportunity to ask questions and learn about writing and illustrating. This was an unusual summer for kids: one participant was set up in the bathroom (presumably, because his parents were working from home in a small space), while another tuned in from the backseat of a car! It is safe to say that these virtual programs brought everyone together in a very unique way. This was an opportunity to try something new, exciting, and a little bit intimidating. Sharing the workload and supporting each other made all the difference.
Working together with another library system to coordinate our plan was exciting and empowering. As part of our decision, we not only promoted the exciting new virtual option for BC SRC, but also decided to retain the physical reading record as a possibility for our participants to pick up via library takeout until we re-opened our doors. Each of our libraries added our own flair, such as a community prize at NVDPL, and weekly prize draws at NVCL. In addition to our shared virtual author visits, each of our libraries promoted our own virtual programming and recorded storytimes.
Some families enjoyed the new online option while others were pleased to have the normalcy of the print materials. Comments from customers included:
“Our 3rd pick up. Sylvie (age 9) came this time and was over the moon to find her Summer Reading Card waiting for her! We all love Bambi Edlund’s illustrations! The booklets are always a lovely keepsake. Many thanks to you all”
“The kids participated in the Summer Reading Club this year and the two previous years. Both missed having the medal ceremony in the square (thank you for making a big deal at the desk!). They liked the dinging on the computer as the days were ticked off (we did it in clumps) and getting the special badges. They also liked choosing fun login names (Bookdragon and Bookmonster). They liked not having to write down every day’s book. It was easy for them to stick with the reading”
Summer Reading Club usually brings with it our largest-scale children’s events of the year, including in person kick-off parties with a special entertainer, face painting, and more. Holding our medal ceremony has been important to our library and community in many ways. It culminates a summer of reading for fun. Participants come to the library to share the excitement of receiving their well-deserved Summer Reading Club medals, have cake and to get their photo taken with the Chief Librarian and the Mayor. It’s difficult to recreate this type of large-scale event virtually, but we did our best. We extended medal pick up dates over a two-week period to avoid congestion, and created a photobooth in the children’s department for recipients to pose with their medals. One customer had this to say:
“I cannot tell you enough how important the medal will be this year. Kids need something to feel good about. After all that has been taken away this summer due to COVID. Thank you a lot for keeping this program alive even under these circumstances.
Please let all the staff know how much moms are thankful for you to keep this program. My daughters are really looking forward for their medal…”
We felt overjoyed to be able to work together to offer children the consistency and support they needed this summer. More than half of our usual number of participants registered for Summer Reading Club and picked up physical packages in the library with their reading record or used the online BC SRC portal to track their reading. Though we kicked-off and wrapped up the summer on a smaller scale than normal – we couldn’t have been happier about teaming up with our library neighbours to make participation in SRC the most accessible it could be, and to make being recognized for reading a reality for our community this summer.