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Child's Play: Youth Services on the Public Library Annual Report (Part 1 of 2)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

At the start of the calendar year, library directors begin work reporting on the previous year's library activities on the Wisconsin Public Library Annual Report, affectionately referred to as the "Annual Report." For those who have attended a training session led by the Public Library Development Team's Data and Finance Coordinator Jamie McCanless and myself, you are aware of the adage that the "Annual Report is an opportunity to reflect and report" versus an annual burden like completing one's taxes.  View slides from a recent training session.

As the Youth and Inclusive Services Consultant, I spend January and February each year helping library directors, system staff, and youth services staff to reflect and report on library activities related to programming, which include traditional programs, drop-in activities, and literacy offerings.

This two-part blog post will focus on a few frequently asked questions or "Aha!" moments that have stemmed from conversations in the field.

Photo of a colorful abacu
An abacus offers an old-fashioned way to
 count (Pixabay)

Enlightenment Concept #1: Ways to Count

The Annual Report asks for quantities, or counts, of specifically defined elements; e.g., program attendance. However, the Annual Report does not specifically define how to count these elements. For example, regarding attendance at a program planned for children such as a Wednesday story time, a library should keep track of the number of attendees (which, by the way, includes ANYONE who attends the program--children, parents, nannies, teen siblings, etc.). A library might choose to perform a head count during the program, offer a sign-in sheet, or utilize a mechanical tally counter. What matters most is that a library counts consistently from program to program, and reports counts consistently from year to year on the Annual Report.

Child reading book in the grass
Drop-in activities, like reading records
are designed for individual participation,
 rather than group attendance (Pixabay)

Enlightenment Concept #2: Drop-in Doesn't Mean Dropping By

The Annual Report element "Drop-in Activity and Participation" received this name both as an intentional deviation from the federally defined "Program and Program Attendance" and in consideration of previously unreportable library activities informally called "passive," "stealth," or "informal" programs. Traditional programs can be thought of as events scheduled on a specific date and time for a group. Drop-in activities, in contrast, are planned for participation by individuals and scheduled with flexibility for individuals (versus a group). "Drop-in" suggests that individuals can drop-in and participate when they like, for as much or as long as they like. The most familiar example of a drop-in activity is a reading record. Usually, a library assigns a reading record sheet to an individual for her/him/they to utilize independently, and often off-site. Reading records usually have a time period, such as a "Summer Library Program Reading Record." An individual might read for 3 or 30 hours over the course of the summer. He/she/they might read at the library, at home, or on the bus. The experience is up to the individual to determine. This is what primarily differentiates a "Drop-in Activity" from a "Program."

Want to learn more or test your knowledge? Here are three resources that are intended to support your data collection throughout the year, as well as during reporting season.

Handouts: Wisconsin Public Library Annual Report Input: Youth Services Definitions and Examples

A Closer Look at Literacy Offerings

Online Learning Module: Wisconsin Public Library Annual Report: Youth Services

(Note: includes quizzes and suggestions of "Ways to Count")

Webinar Recording: Just to Clarify: Youth Services and the Annual Report

Still have questions? Direct your queries to

Wishing you a calm and consistent reporting season!

Written by Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, Public Library Development Team



For questions about this information, contact Tessa Michaelson Schmidt (608) 267-5077