A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Summer Slump

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on June 18, 2014

At some point in “the season” everyone gets tired and cranky. Summer slump, sheer exhaustion, or whatever phrase you choose to use happens to everyone in your reference desks or outreach departments. It’s not just a malaise of people in the children’s departments. Even your circulation folks start to get worn down as car-warmed items move in and out of the building, or sand granules and blades of grass fill book returns. Everyone loves to see school-free children increase the visitors per day door counts, but the hustle and bustle can take a toll just as heat and humidity do. Half the problem is ignoring the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist. What can be done to help the staff? Can hours be rearranged temporarily at least for a week or two in order to give people some rest from the desk or time away from the library building itself?

Summer slump affects library morale. What can you do to improve morale? Is a themed potluck lunch in the staff room a possibility? Can you have funny clothes day? There’s never a bad time for pajama day, Hawaiian shirt day, hat day, or the favorite at our library “Fancy Friday” where you wear feather boas and tiaras all day. Can you get the staff together for a local minor league baseball game or all play miniature golf at the same time on a weekend evening?

Focus on the little things. Can your staff members remember to do one thing each day to move the library’s summer agenda forward? Are they asking people if they are signed up for your library’s summer reading program after they help them find a book or answer a reference question? Does your staff hand out a newsletter or flier that lists all the summer activities, or could they offer to answer people’s questions about the programs? Just because some members of the library staff have been making summer preparations since last December does not mean the patrons have any idea what’s going on at the library. And it may be “old news” to the staff, but it’s brand new and exciting to patrons. Help them out. One quick question and the staff could have a new program attendee or a potential summer reading super reader.

Use your social media presence effectively. One of the best things in the world is the ability to schedule posts on your library’s Facebook page. Once your programs are planned put in your posts. You can schedule them for every day if you want, and you don’t have to worry about them ever again. Your patrons are reminded about what is going on, but your staff doesn’t have to remember to post something every day. It’s best to increase the library’s social media presence now that more patrons are free to read the posts more often.

Leave yourself notes for the next year. There is nothing worse than dreading the physical and emotional fatigue of summer programming, but you can make things easier on your staff. What can you do earlier in the year that isn’t as time sensitive? What can you do at the end of this summer to make you better prepared for next year? It can be something as simple as packing up your supplies in a different way or deciding to order or purchase prizes earlier in the year. How can you spread out responsibilities to more staff so one person isn’t responsible for everything?

Everyone at the library gets tired during the summer because more activities are packed into a shorter amount of time with kids out of school and people on vacations. But with a little planning ahead, there is no reason to have a library staff that looks like zombies because they’ve succumbed to “summer slump.”

Tags: , ,