Did you know that, according to the American Library Association, summer reading programs began in the 1890s to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading?

Now, Summer Reading is a cornerstone program for most libraries in North America. It has much the same focus as it did in the 19th century: Helping to preserve literacy skills over the summer break. Many libraries also view the program as a valuable outreach tool for the entire community. It’s a chance to bring community members of all ages to the library.

We know how important this program is for your library. That’s why, each year, NoveList puts together this guide. This year, we’ve divided it into two categories: Everything you need to work with readers, and all the tools you need to promote your library’s Summer Reading program.    

Working with summer readers

Make sure your collection is ready.  

Books, as you well know, are a transformative experience. Summer Reading is a chance to spotlight your collection and provide stories that readers can relate to, as well as stories that spark the curiosity of readers to explore outside their own experiences. Pick one area if you want to start small, and use your tools to diversify your collection in time for summer.  

Find books for everyone this summer. 

Start by checking out the Summer Reading search strategies. They include focused search suggestions for the CSLP theme (Adventure Begins at Your Library) and the iRead theme (Read, Renew, Repeat), as well as TD Summer Reading Club (To the Stars). 

Need more help matching books to readers? Check out all of our NoveList search strategies here.

Read about these 4 ways you can use NoveList Plus to keep up with books during the busy summer months. 

If manga is popular with your summer readers but you’re not certain how to help them, we’ve got you covered! NoveList Plus has updated manga genres and themes to reflect popular and well-known terminology.  

Connect with readers 24/7.  

Worried you’ll miss the chance to connect with readers when the library is closed? You can add a custom search box to your library homepage so readers can find great reading recommendations using NoveList Plus anytime, anywhere (even the beach!)   

Remind your readers that they can find recommendations and series information anytime in your catalog thanks to the refreshed, easier-to-use NoveList Select.  

Incorporate a reading challenge. 

Get readers to step outside their comfort zones and make connections between books and the world around them. Readers of all ages can complete a reading challenge. For your adult summer readers, check out the 2024 NoveList Reading Challenge

Build your book recommendation skills. 

A successful summer starts with confident staff members. Take an online course from Learn with NoveList and improve your skills working with readers and promoting your library. Use code SUMMER24 at checkout to get 20 percent off any individual seat course through August 31, 2024.  

Want to get full access to training for your entire staff? A staff subscription is the perfect option! Reach out for details and a free trial. 

Promoting your Summer Reading program

Get your marketing materials ready. 

LibraryAware customers, spend 30 minutes learning how to quickly create emails, social media posts, reading logs, and more in LibraryAware to promote your Summer Reading program. LibraryAware has lots of templates designed specifically for libraries to help you create effective marketing materials. If you have LibraryAware, find this year’s templates by searching Summer at the Library. New to LibraryAware? Schedule a demo to learn more!  

Libraries should be sure to include passive promotions like calendars to make it easy for readers to get information and participate.

And add info about your library’s Summer Reading program to your library newsletters! Summer is the perfect time to incorporate these tips to improve the effectiveness of your newsletters and reach more community members. Need inspiration for emails that draw visitors? Check out this list of award-winning examples. 

Use merchandising to make it easy for summer readers to find a great book. 

Book displays are a lot like end caps at the grocery store: They are designed to make it easy for readers to make an impulse checkout! Put these expert tips to use and create enticing displays to catch the attention of summer browsers. Need an easy idea to start with? A display featuring the Summer Scares Picks will appeal to teen and adult readers.    

Not sure where to start? NoveList librarians understand! Here’s a list of 7 easy ideas for book displays. 

Stay up to date all summer long.

Get inspiration and news for everyone working with readers, promoting their library, and looking for staff training opportunities by signing up for NoveList News

Did we miss anything? Let us know! We wish you much success with your library’s Summer Reading program in 2024!

Angela Hursh is Manager of Library Engagement, Marketing, and Professional Development. She is currently listening to The General and Julia by Jon Clinch.