Monday, August 13, 2012

Summer Reading Volunteers: The 2012 Wrap-Up

Hey, you guys! It's time now to officially close out the summer reading volunteers experience for 2012 with some appreciation, some reflection, and the final stats.

Having ravaged the sandwich and chips spread,
the teens commenced with movie-watching.
As a thanks for all of our teen volunteers' hard work and hours spent at the library over the summer, the library hosts an informal appreciation party between the end of SRP and the beginning of school. The 2012 Teen Summer Reading Volunteer Appreciation Party was a lot of fun. Teens enjoyed a spread of sub sandwiches, chips, cookies, and drinks. After some brief mingling time, we drew names for prizes; winners chose from our stash of Own the Night swag and ARCs (really good ARCs, folks). Then we popped in a movie (The Goonies!!!) and relaxed for the evening. Groups of volunteers would chat for a bit before returning their attention to the movie, so the whole event had a chill, social feel. Teens enjoyed the throwback movie and the chance to just hang out before homework kicks in again. Consensus was that the evening really made them feel--guess--appreciated. (Don't they just have the best sense of humor?)

I spent my quiet time during the movie reflecting on the whole experience of mixing teen volunteers with the behemoth that is summer reading. What I learned:
  • Training: I cannot emphasize enough how integral training is to empowering summer reading volunteers to perform well. (See earlier post.) Also, make cheat sheets with key program details and plaster them all over the summer reading desk. Staff also find these cheat sheets useful.
  • Scheduling: Teens will enthusiastically show up for their first shift. After that, most of them will show up most of the time approximately when they are scheduled to volunteer. If they know they can't make a shift, they may or may not call you ahead of time to let you know. This is true regardless of how much you stress punctuality. Thus it is very important to have all library staff trained on the program so that anyone can effectively fill these sudden program table voids.
  • More teens (and their parents) will ask to volunteer once they see other teens volunteering: This sort of contagious enthusiasm is great, but at a certain point the costs of training and scheduling a new volunteer outweigh what that volunteer can contribute during the summer reading program. My cutoff for new volunteers was two weeks into the program.
  • Discipline: At some point, you'll encounter a behavioral issue. If you're lucky, it will be a teen playing on a phone instead of reading during downtime. If you're less lucky, it will be a teen loudly using language unbecoming of a library representative (use your imagination). Regardless of the issue, I do two things: 1) calmly acknowledge the issue and why it is problematic; 2) state that volunteers are expected to act professionally and that said issue will not be tolerated again. That's it. No yelling, no blaming, nada. Teens are smart, and they are usually far more embarrassed about their problem behavior than I am angry about it. One brief, serious warning and they are good at self-policing.

All of my volunteers worked hard to enthusiastically engage kids and teens in the 2012 Summer Reading Program. I'm glad I have plenty of notes and experience from this year, which was very successful, and I will use them to inform how I utilize volunteers in summer 2013.

Final Summer Reading Program 2012 stats:
  • Total program registrations (children and teens): 3592
  • Total program completions (children and teens): 1549 -- 43% of registrations
  • Total volunteer hours worked: 454
  • Number of volunteers helping with summer reading: 36

P.S. Did you catch my Goonies reference right at the beginning of the post? That's dedication to a theme.

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