Effective Summer Learning in Libraries

  • Do public libraries positively improve education outcomes for children and youth through their summer reading and summer learning programs?
  • How will they know?

These are the questions that the Urban Libraries Council had the opportunity to explore with diverse thought leaders from both inside and outside of the library field through the National Forum on Effective Summer Learning in Libraries, an initiative supported by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). This project resulted in a new publication, Public Libraries and Effective Summer Learning: Opportunities for Assessment, that discusses the diverse summer learning opportunities provided by public libraries and action steps for evaluating their effectiveness.

Reviewing Published Research

ULC and its strategic partner, the Metropolitan Group, first conducted a scan of existing research on measuring summer learning initiatives and compiled the findings in a literature review titled Measuring Summer Learning in Libraries. The review found a limited number of published reports on summer learning in the libraries and examined what has been measured in the out-of-school-time (OST) and formal summer learning fields to demonstrate their impact on 21st century skills, such as self-directed learning and critical thinking. The review found that more work is needed to establish a shared understanding of how to set and measure library summer learning outcomes.

Convening Expert Thought Leaders

Findings from the literature review informed discussions during the National Forum meeting, where ULC convened 22 expert stakeholders from forward-thinking city, county, and state libraries; school districts; national OST and formal summer learning organizations; universities; early literacy programs; and philanthropic foundations.

The conversation:

  • Examined current programming and assessment models in the library and OST/summer learning fields,
  • Identified learning outcomes that libraries want to achieve with their summer programming, and
  • Explored how public libraries can build their capacity to frame and assess the effectiveness of their summer learning programs.

Sharing Best Practices and Innovative Strategies in a National Publication

The key ideas from the National Forum convening have been encapsulated in a new publication titled, Public Libraries and Effective Summer Learning: Opportunities for Assessment with a corresponding Executive Summary. This call-to-action paper frames the issue of summer learning loss and describes the ways in which libraries are designing their programming to provide diverse learning opportunities that keep kids learning during this critical time. Public Libraries and Effective Summer Learning explores common summer learning goals and assessment practices, as well as successful library-school partnerships that align learning outcomes to better serve their communities. The report also provides tangible steps that library leaders can take to initiate program assessment and recommendations for future collaborations between library leaders, researchers, summer learning leaders, and educators to improve program effectiveness and impact.