Take 5: Ways to combat summer fatigue
My summer newsletter items are due in a matter of days, and I’m already exhausted. Anyone else?
This year should be easier for me.
- We finally have a part time position tasked with serving tweens, so the pressure to plan for grades 5-12 all together has been lifted and I can just focus on teenaged teens… who have drastically different wants and needs.
- I’m restructuring my SRP to encourage interactivity… but that means I’m letting go of the online forms that I’d finally gotten teens accustomed to using and am mired in InDesign.
- I have an active Teen Board full of great people who are eager to volunteer… and suggest their own programs that I need to take the time to support.
- I’m planning fewer small programs… because we’re adding some big programs.
I stare at the calendar, then at the unfinished SRP flyers, then at those unanswered emails, and then I refill my coffee cup and hope someone interrupts me so I can focus on a task that I can actually accomplish.
It seems dire, and I sound super whiny, but! But! I have some solutions. Here are my strategies I’m using to anticipate summer fatigue so I can combat it before it hits.
1. Forget about “should” if it doesn’t work.
“I should do more contests.”
“I should decorate more.”
“I should look into that free lunch program.”
“I should offer more mid-day programs in the summer.”
“I should do an anime club.”
Should I? Really? Every community is different. Though there are lots of commonalities between us, one thing I know for sure is that part of the beauty of library service is that we get to tailor our program to the needs of the people around us. Let go of the parts of summer that you do because you should and focus on the parts that are used. This doesn’t mean never try new things. Try new things! But give up the old things that don’t work, and give a pass to the new things that aren’t good fits for your community.
2. Front load
You think you’re the only one who’s tired of summer by the time mid-July rolls around? Teens get summer fatigue too. What works at my library is front-loading the summer with lots of events to build excitement and engagement, then tapering off toward August, when most of the town takes a vacation. My June schedule currently brings me to tears, but I think I’ll be able to breathe in July, and I’m reminding myself that August will be quiet enough for me to weed. Caveat: Rule 1.
3. Stock your survival bunker
Cans of soup, protein bars, coffee card, good chocolate… You know you’re going to be too busy to take your full break now and then. You know packing your lunch is going to fall by the wayside at some point. If you get as hangry as I do, you owe it to yourself (and your coworkers) to stash a few pick-me-up items in your desk drawer that you can grab when the going gets crazy.
4. Ask for help; Offer help
Even if you’re the only teen librarian in your library, Summer Reading is a library-wide event. Turn to your library colleagues, coworkers, volunteers, and even members when you need a hand with something. Likewise, if you see someone who needs a hand and one of yours is free, lend it. Teamwork! Cooperation! Other good words! SRP is kind of like pulling an all-nighter in college. In hindsight, it totally messed up your schedule and was maybe not the most effective way to achieve your goals, but you remember it fondly because your roommates all did it with you.
5. Appreciate the fun, don’t put up with nonsense
Take a deep breath and get out in the sunshine. Life loosens up a bit in the summer, and we can too. Find ways to make exceptions to the rules that make you feel good and keep patron service at the forefront. Can you let those kids who were just riding their bikes around the neighborhood and then decided that they had to stop at the library check things out even if they don’t have their cards? Feel like loosening up the age requirement so someone can bring their out of town cousin to see how great their library is? Want to toss another raffle entry at that kid who tackled Chaucer for fun? Do it.
But the nonsense? No.
No, the eight-year-old can not participate in the Teen SRP just because she reads mostly YA. No, you will not send prizes to the person in California who keeps emailing librarians! No, you can not wear a bathing suit, bare feet, and a towel at today’s program. You can say no. You can do it. I’ve said no in all three of the above situations… multiple times. Saying no in a bad situation is saying yes to your core mission & beliefs. It holds the space you need to have held for teens, it preserves standards that keep everyone safe, and it reminds people (including yourself) that you have logic and reason for implementing programs the way you do.
So — go forth and SRP y’all! Before you know it, summer will be but a fading warm glow and we’ll be on to back-to-school shopping. Good luck!
About Heather Booth
Heather Booth has worked in libraries since 2001 and am the author of Serving Teens Through Reader’s Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007) and the editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Servcies along with Karen Jensen.
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