Blogger Emily Mroczek-Bayci

Spotlight on: Summer Reading Prizes

Now that most summer reading programs are in full swing: let’s talk about prizes. There’s many aspects of this conversation, some of which have been focused on before: accessibility, going prizeless, outcome based prizes, etc. etc. Today I want to focus on experience or interactive based prizes- where finishers don’t get an item but instead get to “do something” in the library. (Another version of “experience” prizes is a ticket or pass to a local museum, a free party, a personalized bookplate etc.)

An interactive Plinko game at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL. The board is about 5 feet by 6 feet and has ten different slots. This illustrates an interactive prize.
An interactive Plinko game at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL.

Some examples of “experience or interactive prizes” I’ve seen include

  • Tossing a nerf ball into a basketball hoop
  • Putting stickers on a collaborative mosaic
  • Voting in a fun election, where winners are posted weekly
  • Spinning Wheel with a challenge instead of a prize
  • Plinko
  • Weighing the amount of books you read
  • Participants adding their names to a collaborative bookshelf or collage

My library was veering in the direction of these prizes, before COVID-19 hit and made them much harder to implement. Now, I think it can be a good way to get people back in the library. They also can be a good alternative for people who don’t need physical prizes or can’t afford coupons. Many people missed the physical prizes, but we did offer a mix of physical prizes and experience prizes depending on the level.

Has your library done experiences or activities instead of actual prizes? Let us know what you’ve done in the comments.

This post addresses the ALSC Competency: Commitment to Client Group.


  1. Nicole Caudill

    We tried Community Prizes, where Patrons can donate their tickets to a cause of their choice, instead of actual small cheap coupons or prizes. Sadly it was not very well received and they asked to have prizes back the next year. Personally I thought it was a great idea to help out a non-profit Organization and support them in their mission to help the people in their community.

    1. Emily Mroczek

      I love this idea! But yes, change can be hard.

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