Make the Most of the Summer Semester

5 min read

| By Gale Staff |

K-12 educators and staff typically enjoy extended summer vacations, but university employees have all kinds of responsibilities to tend to during the break. As an academic librarian, your role is crucial, even when most students are away for the summer. We’ve compiled a list of ten great ways that librarians can maximize their summertime impact and keep students engaged with the campus library.

While tedious, shelf reading is vital to the library’s organization. Slower summer afternoons at the library mean more time to ensure that titles are labeled and shelved correctly. Put on your deerstalker hat and play detective—find those missing books! You can even gamify the search: pull a report of any books declared “lost” from the academic year, and as teams, try to relocate as many as possible. It’s no easy task; one librarian from the Library of Congress compared it to “finding a needle in a pile of needles.” However, you may be surprised by how many turn up.

A slower summer schedule provides an excellent chance to refresh your library space for the coming year. Without students around, you have time to reflect on how students use the space and consider ways to reconfigure the furniture to create a more welcoming and productive environment. Do students queue up at the printer? Are there ways to improve the flow of traffic around the circulation desk? Summertime is your chance to play with the feng shui.

Books, especially in-demand textbooks, experience wear and tear throughout the academic year. Spend some time over the summer repairing any damaged bindings or torn pages. Taking time to fix these books gives them a second life and saves money in your budget. Of course, while you weed through your library shelves over the summer, overly damaged titles aren’t worth saving; weeding is vital for any healthy library collection. Removing unused and damaged books creates space for new resources and helps your library stay current.

Your library’s media resources require upgrades, and your campus may want to invest in new technology for the coming year. Actions like updating operating systems, installing new software and hardware, and mastering these assets take time. Equipment may require a lengthy reboot. Campus engineers may need to retrofit aspects of the library to accommodate increased power demand from additional equipment. Maintaining and improving your library’s tech is necessary, but it demands attention and time you don’t have during the busy school year.

The end of another academic year means it’s time for assessment. You collect data throughout the academic year—everything from how many students walk through the door to which databases get the most traffic. Take some time to gather and assess your data for year-over-year comparisons; identify any significant areas of growth and create reports for leadership. Your conclusions will help inform and support decisions around how many new computers to purchase, database subscriptions to renew or cancel, and general budgetary needs for the next fiscal year.

Academic librarians often teach classes and continue supporting students, even during the summer months. However, if you have some additional time, why not plan and host a workshop for the entire community? Invite a guest speaker or local expert to help facilitate. It’s a great way to engage your community and get folks through the doors. Workshops could include a feature on your library’s special collections, a presentation on research best practices, or an overview of university history or research.

Do you have a professional development budget? Take advantage of extra time during the summer months to hone your skills by attending webinars, workshops, or conferences. Consider an area where you would like to expand your professional know-how (e.g., social media, AI, DEI initiatives) and look for local or online opportunities. The Association of College and Research Libraries has several asynchronous and affordable online courses. Or, sign up for one of the major national conferences, such as the American Library Association’s RBMS and the Association of Research Libraries’ semiannual association meetings.

Every library has asks beyond your annual budget, so consider seeking out grant opportunities for additional funding opportunities. The American Library Association maintains a list of relevant grants. Proposals could cover research ideas, new materials, programming, or even staff travel. If you’re unsure where to start, ask your staff team and patrons what new initiatives they would like to see in the library and browse possible funding sources. Grant writing is hard work, so meet with your university’s development office for any tips on filling out grant applications.

Update your library’s website and social media platforms. To generate interest, host an online summer reading contest with your students both on-campus and away for the summer. Create a fun hashtag for your library’s social media site and encourage students to post photos of themselves reading books in unusual or silly locations. Get your followers to vote on their favorites. You could award fun prizes for the most popular posts (such as campus bookstore gift cards or cool campus swag).

Successful employees need recognition and appreciation to commit to and thrive at their jobs. You have a summer staff team and likely have a few student workers, so consider planning special events for them. Even small gestures can make a big difference. You might take the crew out for ice cream or allow them to leave early on Friday afternoons throughout the summer months. You could also host a summer retreat for employees to share feedback and develop certain professional skills.

Regardless of your productive summer semester, remember to make space for personal time off and self-care. An increasing number of higher education staff and faculty report experiencing burnout, and turnover is especially high in the industry. If your vacation time allows, spend at least a few days in the summer sun.

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