Building a Community of Lifelong Library Users

Yesterday was probably the best day I’ve had so far as director of the Oskaloosa Public Library. It’s summertime, so that means Summer Reading, and we had our Summer Reading Kick-Off party in the library’s new Reading Garden. All through preparation, my staff told me that Summer Reading has always been a big thing in Oskaloosa – families in the community look forward to it. However, it wasn’t until last night that I truly understood what they meant.

It was pretty simple, really. A digging station where kids could dig for small prizes, a station where kids could plant a seed in a cup to take home, and a table with bubbles were our activities. We had popcorn donated by First National Bank and orange drink donated by McDonald’s. The biggest draw, though, was registration for the children’s reading program, Dig Into Reading. Throughout the day, we had 212 kids register – the majority of which were registered after waiting through the long line that formed on the first floor of the library during the kick-off party. Total door count for the day was about 780, and my staff checked out over 1,200 items!

What was also thrilling to me was the number of adults who picked up a reading log for the adult program, Take Back the Summer. The library hasn’t offered an adult program for a couple of years, but through heavy promotion and pushing at the children’s registration table, nearly 50 adults asked for logs. Now – I’m eager to see the turn out for the series of programs I’ve developed – it has been sort of a challenge to get people in the few programs I’ve offered since I started, but I’m not letting that discourage me. I’ve got Classic Movie Mondays, author visits, historic walking tours, and a program on the history of women’s fashion scheduled.

The teen program, read it ‘n tweet it, has gotten off to a slower start – not quite as many logs went out. However, we have weekly chess club, Dungeons & Dragons club, and videogame nights planned, as well as a book club, art days and a messy games program at the park. These events will provide opportunities to promote the reading program. I think the grand prizes – a mani/pedi package from a local spa, Kindle Fire, skateboard and 2 hour senior portrait session from a local photographer – will be a draw as well.

Opportunities for children at the library have always been strong, but since I started here, it has been my focus to provide those opportunities to older age groups as well. I’m really pushing – and getting behind – increasing programming at the library for teens and adults. It’s my goal to see a community of lifelong library users, and last night’s kickoff party was a good sign that it can be accomplished.

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