Friday, June 13, 2014

In Defense of CSLP

CSLP is the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

From their website: "The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) is a consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children, teens, and adults at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries. . . . Participants have access to the same artwork, incentives and publicity, in addition to an extensive manual of programming and promotional ideas. . . . CSLP continues to evolve, but its guiding principle remains the same, librarians sharing ideas, expertise and costs to produce a high-quality summer reading program for children."

From spring to summer, I see or hear some negative comments about the program. (Note: while my state is part of the consortium, I, individually, have not been a state representative or on the board, or on any type of official affiliation.)

The complaints run the gamut, as complaints are wont to do. Their kids/teens don't like the art, the incentives, the programs, etc. etc.

So, in defense of CSLP:

Congratulations! You and your system are so well funded and well staffed and talented in all the ways that nothing in the manual or resources are ever of use to you. Your department is full of like minded individuals who you can share ideas and brainstorm. Go, you. I'm happy for you. You're in a fortunate place, professional wise.

The there are the rest of us. In my prior place of employment, I was in a well funded library with many branches and was lucky enough to work in different sized branches in different socioeconomic areas. Even though I was there only about five or so years, and it was still all within one county in one state, I learned something very valuable: communities are individual. Teens are different. They are not cookie cutter.

And neither are the librarians who serve them. Or the libraries. Budgets vary, so what can be bought or planned vary. Staffing levels vary, and so do staffing talents. Just because a person is brilliant at storytimes for the under fives doesn't mean that person is also brilliant at all programming, or graphic design. And if that person is brilliant at all that, they may not have the time to be hunting up incentives and promotional materials.

For those librarians like me? CSLP is a life saver. A time saver.

CSLP is like a one-size fits all item of clothing. No, it's not going to be perfect for everyone. Some will have to let it out; some will have to take it in; some will bedazzle the heck out of it.

It's like any other library programming and materials someone else does: look at it, and instead of reinventing the wheel take that wheel and do what works for you and your community.

As someone who was around pre-CSLP for my state, I personally can attest to the time saving CSLP offers. It doesn't stop me from doing my own thing, but oh, the time it saves so I can focus on what matters to my patrons, my library, and me. And as someone who is now the sole librarian, it's like having a virtual brainstorming session whenever I need it.

CSLP isn't an "it" as much as a "they." And they are your state representatives who do the hard work of putting this together; and at least in my state, repeatedly ask for input and feedback. They work under various constraints and have to compromise. One person is contributing from a state where "teen librarians" primarily focus on middle school, another from high school, and another from teens don't participate in summer reading.

As someone whose summer reading program doesn't start until July, and whose summer program is entirely by mail for print-disabled children and teens, trust me, I get it: there are many things in the manual that make me go "nope, won't work for me." But I can tinker and change things. And it's much easier starting with that manual than starting with tons of books and internet searches to create summer reading materials.

So, from me: a thank you to the CSLP and to my state for participating. It saves me time, which means it saves money, and it makes my job easier and allows me to concentrate on other things.

Your thoughts -- do you like CSLP or hate it? What do you miss from pre-CSLP days? Does CSLP inspire or is just a manual you never look at?

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Keri said...

I haven't really used the CSLP handbook. I use the artwork because I have no artistic ability but I'm not big on programming to a theme.

It definitely doesn't help that the one year I did use an event out of the manual it was a disaster. When Highsmith stopped selling the Anyone's Guess kits (you can get them online now), I decided to use the murder mystery script that came in the manual. It looked a little easy but my kids used to struggle with the other kits and I thought those were easy too. But this time they solved this mystery in less than ten minutes (The "killer" read his line, groaned, and said, "Ugh, it was me."). Then I had another hour and 40 minutes to kill for kids who were not super happy.

Marge Loch-Wouters said...

Wisconsin had a statewide SLP since the early 70s (think of it as early model for CLSP). The complaints were the same. What many failed to appreciate are just the points you made - huge time saver; people pooling their ideas to create the manuals and one can pick and choose what is needed. CLSP is indeed "us". Good for those who don't need the art, ideas and creativity. Lots of libraries do and I am another who appreciate the work of the state reps(imagine 50 people agreeing on anything!?!?!)

Linda Meuse said...

When I first started as a children's librarian, I was part-time, told in May that I was doing the program, and was on my own. The now defunct South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative provided a summer reading program manual however. It was full of art and ideas enabling me to have a great summer program. Because of that experience I worked on the regional program committee until the state program started and then on the first state committee. For 15 years I was the only children's librarian so those manuals preserved my sanity. I didn't always care for the theme or much of the material, not just from the CSLP but even those I worked on but I always found something I could use. If someone is willing to do all that work and my state is willing to provide it to me for no cost, then I will make it work. It is easy to complain but quite difficult to come up with something better. It has never ceased to amaze me that my colleagues want everything done for them yet complain about the same attitude from their patrons.

Liz B said...

Keri, I tend not to be a theme--person myself but I think it's nice to have a theme in terms of having a place to brainstorm and maybe come up with new ideas. But, I also don't think there should be required reading off of theme booklists and I think some libraries still do that. Not sure. Sorry to hear about your program that didn't work out!

Marge, for some of the complaints my initial reaction is, so don't do it. But then I wonder, are some librarians being told they can only do things in the manual?

Linda, I am so thankful I can pull out the manual and find jokes, or recipes, or activity sheets already done (and that are OK under copyright). And for your last sentence: yes!

Anne said...

Hrmm... I like some things about the manual and others I would change. I think it's a pretty good starting point as far as things designed by a committee go. I used it more when I worked in smaller libraries and was just starting out. My main feedback is that it is too big and a lot of things seem to go in to take up space. A lot of the book lists are way too long--I would prefer someone really whittled those down to focus on quality and not quantity.

But, overall, as I said--pretty good starting point. I really like this year's artwork and we have had a lot of fun decorating with the theme. We don't worry about it as much for our actual programs. We tend to do a fair amount of STEM-focused programming anyway.

shelf-employed said...

I like the CSLP and get some great ideas from the handbook. My complaint with CSLP is the use of three different slogsns. It's too confusing for the patrons. I've written a post about it for ALSC today and have linked to your post.