Ah, the library. Home away from home, refuge from the blazing hot sun or pouring rain, that place you can make photocopies of your grandma’s cookbook, the book place. If you’ve ever been to a public library during the summertime, you know that summer is peak library season. School is out, the weather is extra crispy, and the library is a welcoming space. During the hottest, longest days of the year, library programming is usually altered to suit the busy atmosphere. These are just a few of ways libraries and librarians support their local communities during the summer.
Summer Reading Programs
Almost all public libraries in the United States host some form of summer reading programs. These programs are designed to boost reading skills during the summer, with activities, prizes, and events. Summer reading programs have been around since the 1890s! These programs started as a way to encourage kids who lived in cities to read during their summer vacation, so they wouldn’t lose their hard earned skills.
In classrooms, summer reading loss is cumulative. Reading programs help bridge the gap, helping prevent some of the reading skills loss that children face. Children who live in poverty are more likely to experience summer reading loss, which is why it’s important for summer reading programs to be accessible for everyone. Librarians design their summer reading programs to be inviting, inclusive, and easy to update, encouraging little ones to draw their favorite story, and reminding older kids to include all reading — including audiobooks, magazines, and comics. Today, most libraries offer a program for teens and adults as well, so everyone can join the fun.
During the summer, when temperatures can climb to 110° and higher, many public libraries serve as cooling centers. In cities like Phoenix, Arizona, cooling centers open up for anyone who needs to rest a bit during the heat of the day, with air conditioning, water, and ice available. After a storm or power outage, temporary cooling centers may open at libraries or other community centers. Acting as a cooling center is one of most important services public libraries provide during the hottest days of summer. Just by providing shelter for a bit, these libraries are helping prevent heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death for community members.
Food Distribution Centers
In the United States, 21 million children receive reduced or free meals at school. Rather than having those children go hungry during the summer months, public libraries have been partnering with the USDA Summer Food Service Program since 2014. The increased accessibility of meals means more kids are getting lunch during the summer. To find a distribution site, and more information, visit the USDA site.
A Place to Be
For teens, summer can be a strange, lonely time. All activities are on hold until the school year begins again and many friends are away for the summer. Libraries provide a unique kind of solace in that it’s a quiet, cool place to be that isn’t home or work. There’s internet and books to read. Teen programs at the library include crafting, gaming, social hours, and classes for new skills. For teens with a rough home life, the library provides a safe space with resources for help, or simply a place to be.
Depending on where you live, your local library may have outdoor activities all year-round. For some locales, it’s a summer affair only. Outdoor movie night, nature walks, seed libraries, water game day, gardening class, landscape painting class — check your library’s calendar to see what they have planned for this summer.
Once the standard, mobile libraries are becoming more of a novelty. However, some cities have a whole fleet! Austin’s mobile library fleet includes a book trike, trailer, and bookmobile. Bookmobiles are commonly used in the hot summer months, visiting rural areas and places like retirement communities to bring books to the people. If your city has a mobile library, check out their schedule to visit one this summer!
Public libraries are a valuable community center, especially during the summertime. For a full list of activities, classes, and resources available, check your local library’s website. Interested in baking along to this summer’s Great British Baking Show, but need supplies? Some libraries lend out baking pans to patrons! This summer, visit your local public library, check out a book or twenty, chill out in the AC, and get involved with a program that suits you. In the meantime, visit out library archives for more information about libraries, librarians, and library news.