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Outcomes-Based Summer Reading: Outcome One
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Outcome one: Children [Teens/Adults/Families] belong to a community of readers and library users

Outcome one helps you demonstrate that summer reading participants feel a connection with the library and reading, and with other readers and library users. You can link your results from outcome one with data showing the benefits of being a reader and library user, and thereby demonstrate the value and impact of your summer reading program.

Outcome one builds on research conducted by Dominican University, and our findings from the first pilot year of our outcomes project—both of which found that public library summer reading participants tend to be active and engaged readers who already use libraries.

We are aware that people who come to identify as readers are most often those who have found a social setting in which their peers also enjoy reading or those who are more introverted and like the escape that reading provides. This outcome speaks clearly to the first category of reader. It also allows for a more subtle interpretation of the library as a haven for those who find reading to be a more personal and private activity.

“Community” is broadly defined. It assumes that any child, teen, adult, or family group that chooses to participate in a library summer reading program identifies with the library and with the summer program, thereby becoming part of a community of interest. While the focus of the summer reading program is obviously on reading, it also aims to increase library usage and to draw new users into its community. Reading can be defined according to local library practice; it may include media other than traditional print on paper.

We believe that librarians who use the language of “community” to present the summer reading program to elected officials, teachers, and other significant stakeholders will find that it resonates with current political and educational values. It positions the library as a place for readers—not just children and teens, but families as well.

Libraries and community

The concepts of community and libraries and reading are very closely linked. Spend time in any library and watch how people young and old interact with this public space. You will see parents reading to young children or playing with them in the new Family Space sites popping up all over California. Parents tell us how much they appreciate the library as a safe and comfortable place to bring their children. They see storytimes as opportunities to network with other parents and feel like they’re part of a community. You will see people spontaneously helping each other at the Internet stations. You will see school children sharing homework assignments with classmates who forgot to bring the instructions home with them. You will see patrons chatting with clerks at the circulation desk as they check their books in or out. Even the people sitting quietly by themselves with a book or a magazine or their laptop in front of them seem to be enjoying the feeling of being part of a community.

In our complex society, there are many kinds of communities besides the geographic ones in which we live. These communities of choice may be based on religion, voluntarism, hobbies, cultural or leisure activities, or ethnic pride. With the new emphasis on community and community building that we have proposed for the California Summer Reading Outcomes Initiative, we are positioning the public library as a significant community of interest.