Should Summer Reading Start Later This Year?

Masthead Waves

At the beginning of April, we hosted a Beanstack User Group Town Hall Meeting to discuss Summer Reading 2020 in light of COVID-19. Thanks to the 600+ librarians and staff members that joined us to discuss how to forge ahead in these uncertain times.

There were lots of great insights shared during the Town Hall Meeting and we’ve selected a few of them to share, in hopes that they might be helpful as you’re planning for Summer Reading 2020.


This post summarizes the considerations for determining if you should delay the launch of your Summer Reading Program and offers some tips to ensure it’s as successful as possible.


Based on insights shared during the Town Hall, we learned that many Beanstack librarians already have a launch date in mind for Summer Reading 2020. They generally fall into one of the three following camps:


1. Those starting reading challenges earlier this year in response to school closures

  1. 2. Those sticking with the typical window around normal end of school

  2. 3. Those who have chosen to delay their start date to adjust to the new and evolving conditions

  3. If your library is considering or has already decided that you’re in this third group, your program can still be successful — even more successful, in our opinion. Here’s why.


We’ve learned that preparing effectively for a challenge is much more important than the actual launch date. Our data indicates that programs beginning in mid-late June can reach just as many people as those with an earlier start date. And given this unique time, it is important to pursue the timeline that feels right for your community.



The key is giving yourself enough time to create the conditions for widespread participation and engagement. With this in mind, our team is already far along in planning with Beanstack librarians who are launching early. We also recently passed our deadline for those launching at the beginning of June. These librarians are currently getting the ball rolling on finalizing program design, preparing staff training sessions, and scheduling communications plans.


Now we are actively engaging the third group — those that have chosen to delay launch until mid-to-late June. Now is the right time for this group to be getting started, and we are here to help!


Here are some things we’re hearing from this group about their rationale, and some considerations for those planning a later launch:


  • Are the local school districts doing distance learning? Many parents are dealing with distance learning requirements on top of their regular workload. Consider giving them a break between school ending and Summer Reading starting.
  • When is the last day of school in my area? If Summer Reading will launch several weeks after the last day of school, consider reaching out to school administrators to discuss options for getting program information to students.
  • How long is my program? The average summer program length in past years was 10 weeks, but our data shows most engagement happens at the beginning. Longer programs run the risk of losing momentum, so starting later may actually allow you to see greater engagement in a shorter period of time.
  • What adjustments do we have to make to transition to a virtual program? You’ve run your Summer Reading program many times before, but it will take longer this year to adjust to branches being closed. See our other resources for ideas on how to manage prizes and marketing in light of current conditions.

Whatever you decide, rest assured knowing that starting later than usual shouldn’t have a negative impact on program engagement. Just focus on thorough preparation and creating the best possible experience for your readers.

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