Let’s talk about School Visits

Wow, I can’t believe it’s September already. School visits, summer reading, and life in general kind of sucked up all my time. Of course, I would like to say that things are slowing down, but, honestly, they’re just as busy as ever. In fact, right now I’ve been buried in a cave trying to get ready for the presentation I’m doing at the YA Lit. Symposium in November with several friends. (I’m sure I’ll be talking about that more later.)

What I want to talk about today, though, is school visits. Do they make a difference? This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. I love going to schools and having teens get to know me, but am I bringing them into the library? Do the school visits directly boost my stats?

This May I spent 3 weeks going to three different school and talking to 1477 teens in all. I told them about summer reading and ended with booktalks. My hope was that I would see a boost in numbers regarding those schools, especially since they could sign up and do all logging online. I even got smart and had the teen select how they heard about the program when they signed up; the options being: Andrea visited my school, at the library, from a friend, from school, from parent/adult, or on the website/facebook page.

Looking at just those 3 schools, I’m slightly disappointed by the results. I only had 77 teens from those school sign up, which is roughly 5% of the kids I talked to. However, only 46 of those teens they heard about summer reading from me or at school. That means my return rate was around 3%. Considering how much time I put into the visits, I was really hoping for more. While 10% would have been ideal, I would have been happy if I had netted 100 teens from school visits, which is roughly ⅓ of my total summer reading participants. (For those interested, the 46 accounted for about 14% of my total participants.)

The breakdown by school is where is gets really depressing for me:

 School # of teens seen # that signed up # who heard from
return %
1 5 days/643 teens 6 (↓53%) 5 0.7%
2 3 days/585 teens 47 (↑67%) 24 4%
3 2 days/249 teens 24 (no change) 13 5%

School 1 is where I feel like crying. Now granted, that number could be a little higher consider some of the kids were going into high school, but it’s still a major let down. Throw in that the overall school number went down is even worse. I have a very good working relationship with the school librarian and I’m going to talk with her and see if we can put our heads together and figure out how to get this number up. I know this school tends to be more lower income, but I really do hope to see those numbers change in the future.

As far as programming went, I didn’t see a lot of new faces that would have be brought directly from the schools. However, I did decide to look at the circ stats of the books I talked about. I wasn’t able to get stats just for the summer on these titles, but the count I have would cover mid-June to today, which is about 14 weeks. (We switched system in June & I’m still learning what information I can gather from reports.)  Keep in mind our loan period is 2 weeks, so if a book had 3 checks outs it’s has been gone 6 out of the 14 weeks.

Overall, the numbers aren’t bad. However, I have no idea if any of these can be attributed to my booktalks or not. And I don’t have any stats from May when I know several kids were coming in asking for books. Still, I think the numbers are interesting to looking at. I think next year I may try to get the circ numbers before I book talk and then once summer is over.

Title # of copies # of check outs Average grades/
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick 1 3 3 8th
Blizzard of Glass 2 0 0 6th, 7th
Chopsticks 2 5 2.5 8th
Commercial Breaks 1 3 3 6th, 7th
Croak 2 8 4 8th
Eleventh Plague 2 11 5.5 6th, 7th, 8th
Emily the Strange 2 5 2.5 6th, 7th
False Prince 2 4 2 6th, 7th, 8th
Fault in Our Stars 3 12 4 8th
Friends w/Boys 3 8 2.6 8th
Ghetto Cowboy 1 2 2 6th, 7th
Grave Mercy 2 8 4 8th
Possessions 1 2 2 6th, 7th
Powerless 8 27 3.3 6th, 7th
Pregnancy Project 1 1 1 8th
Ripper 2 10 5 6th, 7th, 8th
Statistical Probability of Love 2 7 3.5 8th
Super Sized Slugger 2 4 2 6th, 7th
Unwanteds 2 8 4 6th, 7th

I still don’t know how I feel about what the numbers to reflect, but it’s something to keep in mind as I continue to visit the schools. I do plan to try to keep watch and see if my visits are paying off in programming. I know it must be a little, but I’d like to have numbers for it. I think I may start asking kids how they heard about the event and use that as a starting point.

I’d love to hear what others think and if anyone has ways to make school visits more effective.


One comment

  1. At my library, we used to do very elaborate school visits (to the elementary schools) and bring a play based on a picture book (complete with props, costumes, etc.) to each school. That was all before my time and now we just do very brief visits at each school, usually part of their regular morning assemblies. I’ve found that the visits have not had a significant impact on participation. One of our elementary schools stopped allowing us to come visit two years ago and it had minimal impact on the number of signups from their school (it did have a slight negative impact). We also have much lower participation from kids that go to our Title I (low-income, low test score) schools and I’m still trying to figure out how to reach them. I’m thinking that concentrated outreach to their neighborhoods might help, but it’s hard to know how to start and they’re often the hardest schools to connect with because they need to utilize every moment of classroom time…

    For the middle schools, we typically visit and set up a table for the kids to sign up for the SRC right there… but I have urged our new teen librarian to take a good look at the stats to see if that’s worth it. We’re spending several hours in each school and I just don’t know if it’s the most effective way to reach the kids (although I don’t know that I have better ideas!).

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