Transforming Summer Programs at Your Library: Outreach and Outcomes in Action

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Changes in public libraries, the communities they serve, children’s lives, and educational research all demonstrate that traditional summer reading programs need to be reimagined. Working groups of librarians, in partnership with the California Library Association and the California State Library, have done just that, creating and implementing outcomes- and outreach-based summer reading programs that speak directly to diverse and changing communities. Drawing on case studies from several different libraries, this book shows how other libraries can transform their own summer programs. Offering a vision of change in action, the authors

  • begin with an historical overview of summer programming in public libraries and a review of the research and conditions that have prompted recent changes in summer programs;
  • discuss the principles, strategies, and evaluation framework that California librarians have created to transform their institutions;
  • review a statewide campaign, Summer Matters, that is working to provide equitable summer learning opportunities for all children in California; and
  • take an in-depth look at Lunch at the Library, a public library summer meal project, which brings underserved families to the library while providing learning opportunities for children, volunteer opportunities for teens, and resources for adults.

Public library staff and educators will feel inspired and empowered by the positive examples put forth in this book.


Chapter 1    Looking Backward
Chapter 2    What’s Up with Kids Today?
Chapter 3    A Statewide Approach
Chapter 4    Identifying Outcomes for Summer Programming
Chapter 5    Reaching Out
Chapter 6    Getting It Right: Quality Principles and Indicators
Chapter 7    Summer Matters: We Are Stronger and More Effective Together
Chapter 8    Lunch at the Library
Conclusion    The Never-Ending Story

About the Authors

Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole is a library programs consultant at the California State Library. Previously, she was interim executive director at the California Library Association where she also led the California Summer Reading Program and the Lunch at the Library program. She received her MA and PhD in Librarianship from the University of Sheffield, UK.

Virginia A. Walter

Virginia A. Walter holds an MLS degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in public administration from the University of Southern California. She is a past president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and a former public librarian and professor of information studies at UCLA. She has written more than ten professional and academic monographs, two books for young people, and numerous articles. Her other LIS books include Young Activists and the Public Library: Facilitating Democracy (ALA Editions, 2020).

”For well-cited research about summer reading, or readers who are looking to revamp their programs, this is a comprehensive place to begin."
— Booklist