A lot of people don’t understand what I mean by the term “library holidays,” but I promise that you know what I’m talking about. These are the special initiatives that different library advocacy and professional groups come up with each year in order to raise awareness or provide a spotlight on specific kinds of services. These include:
- Teen Tech Week (early March)
- Digital Learning Day (early March)
- Freedom of Information Day (mid-March)
- School Library Month (April)
- Drop Everything and Read (April)
- National Library Week (April 12-18)
- Money Smart Week (April 18-25)
- National Library Worker Day (April 14)
- National Bookmobile Day (April 15)
- Celebrate Teen Literature Day (April 16)
- Children’s Book Day (April 30)
- Preservation Week (April 26-May 2)
- Choose Privacy Week (May 1-May 7)
- National Library Legislative Day (May 4-5)
- National GLBT Book Month (June)
- Library Card Sign-Up Month (September)
- Banned Books Week (September 27-October 3)
- Banned Websites Awareness Day (September 30)
- Teen Read Week (October 18-24)
- National Friends of Libraries Week (October 18-24)
- Picture Book Month (November)
- International Games Day (November 21)
And these are just the ALA days. Never mind local observances, regional initiatives, state association programs, and other regular occurrences. In the spring and fall, there is a special day happening at least once a week.
It can be easy to become overwhelmed. Trying to participate and be a part of the team and a part of something larger is a natural instinct for many people who work in libraries. But this instinct should be measured. Instead of jumping on board with the latest day that you’ve heard about, consider it the way you would any other program: does this fit our mission? Does this fit our community? Does this meet a need?
Too often, I feel like libraries jump into these initiatives feeling like they “have to” participate. Their efforts come off as rushed or lackluster or not as good as they could have been because they have simply stretched their resources too thinly. And I am certainly including myself in this. As a marketing person for a regional public library, I definitely feel the draw to have our name attached to some awesome goings-on related to these. But it often simply isn’t doable.
Here’s some of my best practices for coping with library holiday overload:
- Plan ahead. It’s important enough to say it twice. Plan ahead. When you’re coming up with you quarterly, six-month, or annual plan, check to see what observances are included in that. Begin working on them well ahead of time so that you aren’t two weeks out and freaking out. Also, if you plan in advance, many of these days have grant opportunities to get funding for programming to happen during that time period.
- Borrow and steal from others. Many of these holidays have websites that maintain best practices and lists of events of what others are doing. Even if you aren’t planning to participate this year, attending webinars and Twitter chats about these initiatives will put you in a better place to participate in the future (or use those ideas at another time at your leisure).
- Pick your battles. Your library (unless you have way more people and money than we do) can’t participate in everything. Not everything is a good fit. But some things can turn into important initiatives to meet a need in your community. Don’t try to do everything, but don’t write off everything either. These holidays highlight core library issues that remain important over time. Taking time to honor them can only help us.
As we head into April (a busy time for library holidays), take a breath and plunge in! Library holidays are great, but don’t let them stress you out! After all, they come around ever year.