Cookies!Teen Read Week is the preferred week in our library calendar, largely because students refer to it as “cookie week”.’  I am not above using shameless bribery to get kids into the library, particularly during the first two months of school, and I am the first to admit that my killer recipe for chocolate chip cookies has played a key role in my success as a librarian.

To my mind, theme weeks are a gift from the ALA gods.’  Banned Books Week is my preferred method for teasing newbies into the library space in September (my library advisory board’s favorite display is all the books taught in our English curriculum which are banned in other schools or public libraries – it makes them feel like James Dean-esque rebels), but October is all about reading for fun, and that means playing up Teen Read Week in a big, big way.

My planning for TRW begins in early September during my first meeting with my library advisory board.’  We discuss that year’s theme and do brainstorming sessions with whiteboards and markers to figure out how best to fit it to our audience.’  This year, Picture It @ Your Library has been morphed into an anime/book to film theme due to the presence of two active student clubs (Anime Club and Film Club) which happen to meet weekly in our space.’  Anytime you can partner with specific student groups, you’ve got a bunch of advocates doing verbal advertising on your behalf.’  Collaboration=Strength in Numbers.

So we will be having key displays, the first showcasing books and videos relating to anime (we have a few of the drawing characters books that always prove popular) and the second display will have color printouts of book covers with the corresponding movie poster (I use the movie posters we have access to through our site movie license subscription).’  Students will vote on their favorite book to movie adaptation, entering them into a raffle for one dozen fresh-baked cookies (I’ve also done iTunes or Barnes & Noble gift cards as an alternative raffle prize to good effect).

But hands down, the favorite day of Teen Read Week is “Get Caught Reading Day”.’  A few days ahead of the chosen day, some of my LAB members make an announcement about how Teen Read Week celebrates recreational reading among teens and they highlight any raffles or events we are doing.’  Then they announce that runners will be scouting around campus looking for students who are reading for fun, not for class.’  Students are encouraged to have a magazine or fun book at the ready to browse all day and many of our faculty get in on the act and do the same.’  My LAB members, after reading the volunteer instructions, are given a stack of coupons to hand out as they find likely candidates.

The usual places to find students are in the hallways, the student center, the dining hall, our dorms (we are a boarding school), and, of course, the library!’  It’s a source of never ending amusement to watch kids position themselves in our sight line and exclaim over what they are reading.’  Students flock in throughout the day to redeem their coupon for a fresh baked cookies.’  In a school of approximately 430 students, I will bake around 250 (mostly chocolate chip but also some oatmeal craisin for the no chocolate people).

What is the point of these empty calories?’  There is a method to the madness.’  My LAB members know that part of what we are doing is massive library PR.’  We want to bring the new students to the school into the library (they pretty much all come through with classes throughout the year, but often not voluntarily in the first couple of months) and reward the students who are our regulars.’  Teen Read Week coincides with our midterm grades, resulting in a bunch of students freed from study hall who can now go anywhere on campus during their free periods.’  Post-Cookie Day, our foot traffic numbers go up because students realize that the library is a friendly, welcoming place that occasionally has awesome cookies and always has great computers!

Some key points to keep in mind if running your own food reward program for Teen Read Week:

  • Be sure to make EXACTLY the same number of coupons as you have cookies.’  Disaster can occur otherwise.
  • Pick runners you trust and reward them with a cookie.
  • Be sure you have access to a vacuum cleaner so you can clean up the crumbs on the library carpet and your cleaning person doesn’t have clean up after you.’  It will make them more excited about food programming, trust me.
  • Make sure whoever is at the desk is uber-friendly.’  The whole point is to make a good impression!
  • Strike up a conversation about what people were reading when they got caught.’  Sometimes we even keep a tally at the desk with categories or titles in case we need to add to our collection.

Teen Read Week gives every librarian an opportunity to entice our potential patrons and reward our existing ones for their regular visits.’  Whether it’s cookies or something more suited to your library, let your teen audience picture just how terrific you are!

— Courtney Lewis, Director of Libraries, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School, Kingston, PA and Teen Read Week Committee Member

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation