Friday, June 10, 2016

Do you still do summer reading?

I was at a dinner party recently, and one of the guests, upon hearing that I am a librarian, innocently asked, "Oh! Yes! The library! Do you still do summer reading?"

I am still so gobsmacked by this question. I just don't even know where to begin. Yes! We are totally doing summer reading. My life is dominated by summer reading! We do summer reading for kids, and for teens, and now for adults, too. We do programs, and displays, and we offer so many prizes, and we do so much outreach to promote it. This is a monumental effort. Summer reading feels like the raison d'etre of our library lives. We literally start planning next summer's reading program as the current summer is ending. Yeah. We still do summer reading.

It really got me thinking... on one hand, this is exactly the same kind of question that falls in the category of, "Do you still use the Dewey Decimal system?" (Answer: yes) or, "Do you still use those card catalogs with the drawers?" (Answer: no) Probably people mean it as a harmless, light conversation starter. But, my number one takeaway when I hear something like this is that, this is a person who has not been to a library since they were a child. And this is the kind of person who imagines that if they are not at the library... then probably nobody is in the library. And they just don't know. They don't know how busy we are. They are nonplussed when they get to the library and they have to wait in line... not to check out a book, or get a computer, or ask a staff member a question or for anything. Because how could that dusty, quiet place be so bustling? It doesn't make sense to them. The same way that, "Do you still do summer reading?" doesn't make sense to me.

I know there's a segment of the population that we don't always reach - working adults in their 30's and 40's don't come to the library as often. They are too busy. Even when we offer evening or weekend hours they may not make it in. Our core users are retirees, stay at home moms, and economically disadvantaged. Still, it's worrying when I hear reactions like these - there's a whole universe that they are missing out on!

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