We are bracing ourselves, because today is the first day of our annual Summer Reading Club. From this point on any time the Youth Services Department is quiet, we will all pause and listen and enjoy that silence, because it won’t happen very often.
Summer Reading puts huge strains on staff, from the PR/Marketing staff who have to prepare reading logs, program flyers, posters, and oh, yes, an enormous pair of game boards, to the circulation staff who must deal with lines of people waiting to check out, to the pages who have to restore order to the shelves after a day camp has come through and pulled out dozens of books to consider them for checkout. The Maintenance Department must keep up with the increased messiness, and the general noise and activity spills over into the rest of the Library, too. Most of all, the burden falls on the Youth Services staff, who deal with a nearly constant onslaught of questions and requests while trying to keep the volunteers equipped with all they need for the game, keeping on top of ordering materials, and trying to prepare the programs that help fuel the chaos.
It doesn’t have to be this way. This time of year I start to feel like maybe we are over-doing it. I know that by the end of the summer most of the library staff will be fed up with the whole thing, and I don’t like making people stressed and annoyed. So we could take steps to reduce the chaos. We could downscale the game itself, making it something people only do online, entering their books and getting in a drawing for prizes. We could greet people with a scowl and do a lot of shushing while they’re there. We could get rid of the many games and puzzles and early literacy toys that we have on hand that cause a lot of clutter and interruptions. We could yell at kids when they take too many books off the shelf, and reprimand them when they don’t put things on the cart. We could stop having the Rise and Shine storytimes and the Chat & Chomp book discussions and the Writing for Real workshops, and we could stop bringing in performers. That would cut down a lot on the level of noise and mess and the sense some days that being at work is an ordeal.
But we won’t. Because as stressful as it is, and as much as we long for peace and quiet at times, we love keeping the Library a busy, happy place for our community. We love the excitement that surrounds the game, and the joy that kids feel at finding exactly the book they always wanted, and the sense of accomplishment they feel when their name goes up on the wall, showing that they met their goal. It’s arduous, it’s exhausting, and it’s why we decided to work in a library.
Happy Summer Reading, everyone!