Thursday, July 8, 2010

On turning people away

I always knew dealing with rejection was hard, but I never realized how difficult it could be to reject people. This is the second week of the summer reading program, and for the first time, my colleague and I have had to turn people away from programs. Well, maybe we didn't have to, but we decided our programs would run better if we were more strict about the age ranges.

Just last year, we would have been thrilled to have too many people for a program. Last year, there was no such thing as too many people! People were the measure of our program's excellence! But this year, we have enough people coming that we're getting picky. We're also running out of supplies, so we're requiring sign ups. But we've always been so loosey-goosey that a lot of our regulars are coming without signing up, because there's no precedent for it.

So. Rejecting people. It's hardest when the parent doesn't speak English, because A) I want to be extra welcoming to people who might be outside their comfort zone, and B) I have no idea what their children are actually translating to them. I try to smile a lot. And then there are the people who kindly explain to me how they should be allowed to bring their child because they didn't know we had sign-ups, therefore the sign-ups do not exist in their reality. That's not exactly what they say, but that's what it sounds like to me.

And I just feel so bad. But here's the big revelation (yes, there is a point to all this agonizing!): turning people away has helped me understand the community's needs better. Suddenly, I'm aware of gaps in our services. For example, we don't have any programs that really target kids between 9 and 12. We have kid programs, but they tend to attract 4- to 7-year olds, so the 10-year-olds are way too sophisticated. And then we have teen programs, at which we talk about sex a lot. So that's not right either. I need tween programming!

And it's true that the programs run better when we have enough materials for everyone and when the kids are within the same age range. Then they require less help and are less likely to get bored. So it's good, but it's hard. We've entered a new stage with our programming, and I should be proud. At the moment, I still feel kind of crappy, but I'm going to reread this post a few times until I believe everything I'm saying.

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