I have a love/hate relationship with August. I hate August because it sometimes feels useless. August is long and hot and dreary. Summer reading is wrapping up or is over already, but it is too soon to start thinking about next year. Patrons seem to be far too preoccupied with tying up their own summers and getting ready for back-to-school to participate in programming. Most autumn activities and programming don’t kick into high gear until after Labor Day. And, there are no universally recognized holidays in August to offer staff a mental break from their routines.
Despite all of this, August is a great time for the library and its staff. With the summer reading pressure behind them, now is the time to survey your team on what worked this year and what didn’t. While it is too early to really start planning for next year, it is a fantastic time to gather thoughts and statistics while the program is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Survey your patrons as well, if you haven’t already. Since they are the ones using the program, their input will be paramount to shaping next year’s program.
At our library, patron counts and circulation numbers drop in August, leaving some extra downtime for staff. Use this time to plan or finalize fall programming. With the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus infection rates and the ability (or inability) to host in-person programming, having extra time to devote to contingency planning is welcome. Figure out how, or if, your programming will proceed should there be a change in your library’s ability to deliver that programming. I have come to loathe the word “pivot,” but knowing in advance how you can pivot your programming will provide a lot of comfort.
August is also the time to put the finishing touches on your Library Card Sign-Up month campaign. Some libraries have IGAs with local schools to provide library cards to unserved or underserved students. Traditionally, those cards expire sometime in August, so sending flyers to the schools for distribution in September is a great reminder for kids and their parents that having a library card can be just as important (or in some cases more important) than any of the textbooks or homework they will be encountering over the next nine months. This is also a great way to introduce your library and services to families who are new to the schools in your community.
There are several other library celebrations for the fall that also deserve attention. Banned Books Week happens at the end of September. August is when you can plan or finalizing your promotion and displays. Embrace the issues surrounding intellectual freedom and create a buzz-worthy display of books that have been challenged or removed from other libraries.
“Teentober” focuses on teen reading and teen services, giving an entire month to this often-overlooked demographic. Teentober replaced the YALSA Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week a few years ago. Also happening in October, National Friends of Libraries Week recognizes those community supporters who provide much-needed support (both financial and spiritual) for libraries nationwide. If you don’t have a Friends group at your library, October is a great time to get one started!
November is Picture Book Month. By November, many beginning and emerging readers have enough confidence in their reading skills to want to select books of their own from the library, so use August to start flexing your creative muscles on how to promote your Juvenile easy fiction. Finally, the first full week of November is also International Games Week. With many libraries adding board games and video games to their catalogs, celebrating the problem-solving, strategy, and social skills that gaming in a group promotes is a must! If you are thinking of hosting a tournament of some kind, August is the perfect time to begin finalizing your plans, designing your print materials, and start your early teaser promotions.
While August is disappearing quickly, use the time remaining to recharge your brain and get creative for the fall. You can start planning next year’s summer reading program next month!