Having gotten in my first full year at my current library directorship - and a very good year it was - I decided to step up my game a bit. First, with my advisory board's blessing, I implemented an adult summer reading program. Similar to other local libraries, I made it a summer reading raffle - people could enter a raffle for books they read or listen to, to win prizes from local businesses. Overall, the businesses I approached were very generous. And nearly all of them were in the small city where I work, which is of course an added bonus. People have mostly been interested in this. I'll have the first drawing for a prize on Monday.
Second, I mass-distributed flyers about the classic summer reading program at the local elementary school. The assistant principal is a cousin, so it was easy to get a head count. There has been a slight uptick in children signing up for the program, which rewards every hour (or fifty pages, for chapter book readers) read with a prize, and program completion with Pizza Hut Book-It! coupons and a free book.
But the best thing so far is what I want to tell you about today: a completely innovative, out-of-the-box idea for a presentation. Feel free to use it. It may be a little difficult to pull off, depending on how a particular local demographic may be, but please, if you like the idea, have at.
This year's summer reading theme is, "Every Hero Has a Story." This is wonderfully broad; it can incorporate superheroes, community heroes such as firefighters and police officers (or teachers and librarians), veterans, and those who help animals. Some other local libraries have booked the animal welfare shelter, the raptor rehabilitation center, and other really neat venues.
I went a little more personal. My father has a service dog. While many people in the community know enough to ask before petting the service dog, I realized that it's important to educate people on what a service dog is and does. Furthermore, a lot of people confuse service dogs and therapy dogs, since they both go to places you don't typically see animals (schools, libraries, hospitals, etc.).
|This is my father's service dog, Anthem. He takes care of my father in many ways.|
Getting the resources together was fairly easy. My dad was cool with it; mind you, he's not your average veteran with a service dog. A lot of other local people with service dogs would not be comfortable addressing or being in a crowd. If you want a service dog and his or her handler to come and talk at your library, you may want to find someone who has a service dog for diabetes or seizures, or even a guide dog for visual or aural impairments.
My community is also blessed with a great organization, Superiorland Pet Partners. They have quite an assortment of teams who do everything from hospital visits to reading programs at schools and libraries. During exam week at Northern Michigan University, they even go to the university library to offer comfort for the students while they study. It's an amazing group of handlers and pets. I emailed them, and quickly found myself with someone to help coordinate my event.
I had a few new nonfiction books on therapy and service dogs in the library collection, which I was prepared to read. Initially, I was hoping to have the presentation on the lawn outside - my assistant is allergic to furry creatures - but it rained that day, so it was held inside. A little cramped, but it worked.
I had a turnout of five handlers, six dogs (one service dog and five therapy dogs), and thirty attendees of all ages. For my library, that's awesome.
After everyone was settled (including the news crew from a local TV station), I made opening statements, then had each handler introduce himself or herself and their dogs. Some stories were shared. Then I sat on the rug and read Tuesday Tucks Me In, the children's book by Luis Carlos Montalvan. The children had the opportunity to pet or cuddle the therapy dogs while I read this wonderful book that illustrated a day in the life of Tuesday, the service dog, and Luis, the disabled veteran he does so much for. I highly recommend this book for a presentation like this. Kids and adults alike gleaned a lot of information about service dogs from it, and it was both funny and moving.
|I read the story. Bijou is in the chair behind me, and Roxy is in the foreground.|
When the book was finished, I turned the floor back over to the handlers. They had many stories to share. We also took questions. Some community members attended because they were curious about service and therapy dog certification, and what a person needs to be qualified for a service dog. I believe they went away with a lot of good information.
If you want some key points, here they are:
- Service dogs take care of one person.
- Service dogs are highly trained. Anthem and his litter mates, for example, spent the first 18 months of their lives in training, before being placed.
- You need a prescription for a service dog, and the dog needs to take care of at least three medical issues that could not be otherwise met.
- Therapy dogs provide comfort to many people.
- Therapy dogs need to be certified to enter places such as hospitals and other medical facilities. Superiorland Pet Partners does regular training, evaluation and certification.
- To be a certified therapy dog (at least around here; laws and regulations may differ regionally), the dog has to be owned by the handler for at least six months, be at least one year in age, and pass an evaluation. Dogs are reevaluated every two years.