You may remember my post from last month about my library tossing the traditional approach to our Summer Reading Club. We’ve had a few brainstorming sessions and it’s already feeling really different. Our conversations about it feel lighter, more exciting, more engaging. While we’re not total renegades, we have decided to completely do away with registration for the reading portion. And we’re still ramping up our programming, but we’re really looking at how and why to track participants’ reading progress. For years, I’ve battled the dastardly demons of registration and tracking.
Should we register and track online? Should we go old school and do paper logs? Family registrations? Should we track hours or titles? Should we ask for addresses? Should participants have to create usernames and passwords? Should we offer incentives? Cheap trinkets or gift certificates? A grand prize?
The registration part is really there for us the librarians and our obsession with numbers. And those numbers are usually needed to satisfy state reports (and that’s a whole separate blog post: What SRC Stats Do States Track and Why AND How Has That Data Gathering Shaped And Limited Our SRCs?) State reports are just not enough reason to keep doing it the same way every year. Sorry Pennsylvania!
I get that tracking can be beneficial and motivating. And perhaps for many of our patrons it is. But I (and many others) would argue that the model we’ve been using is inherently designed for motivated readers. Would those kids read without your program? I know as a kid, I was thrilled to be anywhere (my bedroom, the beach, the pool, the park) with a good book (and I was never part of a library program). But there are plenty of kids where that’s not the case. So how can we support (easily, simply and effectively) our dear motivated readers and more importantly, how can we support the kids where books aren’t one of summertime’s allures? How can we make summer super-simple and energizing, full of learning and brain-expansion? Is the current SRC structure reaching the kids who need us the most?
These are the questions I ‘m putting front and center as we start planning our summer program. I don’t know if our new approach will change the answers, but I think it’s worth mixing it up to see what happens.