Summer Reading: Did it Work?

Let’s talk about Summer Reading as a whole first. I mentioned earlier this year about how I stepped out of the SRP Box by starting May 1st. Wow, am I ever glad I decided to do this.  My numbers skyrocketed to say the least.  We had  531 teens who read 958,920 pages and 2218 hours! That’s quite a boost from 323 teens in 2012. (Teens were able to choose hours or pages this year so I don’t really have an accurate comparison from last year.)

Since I changed my time schedule, I thought it would be interesting to post stats that were from May to June & stats from June to July.


# of teens

completed level 1

200 pages/2 hours

completed level 2

400 pages/4 hours

completed level 3

1400 pages/14 hours



306 (95%)

277 (86%)

203 (63%)

May- June


487 (92%)

422 (79%)

261 (49%)

June- July


375 (96%)

337 (86%)

211 (54%)

I definitely lost some teens, almost all from the schools I visited (I’ll talk more on that later), but even looking just June to July I still saw a nice 21% increase. Can I accredit all of this to making the start date May? Probably not, but when looking at school visit numbers there was a jump across the board. These are the places where I would have pushed the May 1st start date the most.

My completion numbers also saw a bit of a dive; mainly when looking at the 1400 page/14 hours mark. My gut reaction is that again this may have to do something with the schools. There were extra incentives for a couple a schools that I feel when they hit the benchmark for that prize they stopped. Of course, 1400 pages/14 hours can be a lot for my community of struggling readers and I was able to get some of those teens to participate so that may be part of the issue. However, I’m not willing to knock that number any lower because it’s our lock-in prize level. I’m already nearing 90 kids who come and I’m not sure I want to make it easier to earn! It’s already a slight struggle to properly staff it as it is. Too many more kids and all my helpers may finally jump ship and run far, far away; something I’m trying very, very hard to avoid!

As for the actually school visit numbers themselves, I am quite pleased at what the stats show. Again I worked up the stats to show May- June (1st line) & June – July (2nd line).


# of teens seen

# that signed up

# who heard from


return %

change from 2012


3 days/490

70 (↑1066%)
18 (↑200%)



↑ from %0.7


4 days/265

66 (↑43%)
52 (↑13%)



↑ from %4


2 days/402

104 (↑333%)
43 (↑79%)



↑ from 5%

I did do a 4th school visit, but since I only talked to 8th graders they were a bit harder to track. The high school I believe most of them would go to saw a 50% increase. However, many of my regulars would also being going to that high school, so I’m not sure I can give any credit to the school visits.

However, for the other schools, I am thrilled with these numbers. While I love that I saw an increase in participants, it’s the increase in return rates that make me the happiest. (For the return rates, I only use the number who said they heard about summer reading at school/from me) While the June to July numbers still aren’t my ideal 10%, every school saw at least a 3% increase.

I do need to think more about why I lost so many teens once school ended and if there is anything I can do to solve it. Even in school 3, where there was a promise of a pizza party for hitting 1,000 pages/10 hours, I still lost 60 teens! This is where I need to talk more with the school librarian and see what we can brainstorm. Is it transportation, access, or the lack of someone pushing them to do it/holding it accountable? Or maybe they just don’t care once summer has started. I’m sure it’s a mixture of all those things and more, but it would be interesting to see if there is anything more we can do to stop the huge drop rates.

So, do I think stepping out of my SRP box was worth it? YES! I will without a doubt be doing this again next year. There is still some kinks to work out, but I think this is the correct path to getting my teens more involved in summer reading.


Show Me The Awesome: Stepping Outside the SRP Box

I’m kind of late to the game, but I wanted to do a post for the series, “Show Me the Awesome!”, that was started by Kelly, Liz, & Sophie. (For more AWESOME, please check over at their sites for the official link-up and check out the #30awesome on Twitter/Tumblr/Vine/Instagram)

I want to talk about stepping out of the summer reading box and trying something different. For my library, June 1st has always been the start date for SRP, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it didn’t work for my teens. Well, let me rephrase that. It didn’t work well for teens I saw during my school visits. I was spending my entire month of May getting the teens hyped at the schools and expecting them to keep that excitement for 2 – 4 weeks. When in reality, the hype for most only lasted, if lucky, until that evening. So, I did something kind of scary, and made my start date May 1st.

You have no idea how many crazy looks I’ve gotten when I’ve said that. And it’s almost always followed by a WHY or ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Yes to both, but I thought…what do I really have to lose? My program is online so it wouldn’t be adding any additional work to my co-workers since teens only have to go to staff members to claim prizes. It meant that I had to have the level prizes (candy/book/lock-in) ready to go on May 1st, but that wa a piece of cake. (Programming still doesn’t start until June since I’m in the schools so much) On the other hand, it would mean I could tell teens they could sign up when they went home; in some cases I would even be able to sign them up on the spot. For me, all the pros outweighed any cons I could possibly think of.  Plus, if I failed, I failed. It would mean I would just go back to June 1st next year. Nothing would have been wasted except a bit of my time.

Failure, however,  is not in the cards. It’s basically been 1 month and I have 215 teens who have already logged books (422 who have signed up!). With two months left to go, I am about 100 away from my overall total from last year. Considering a lot of my summer crowd hasn’t even come in yet, this is huge.

The real success to me, though, is how the numbers have soared in the schools I visited. I can’t even believe how high the numbers already are.

School One:

Last Year: Over 2 days I talked to 249 teens and had 24 participate in the program. (9.6%)
This Year: Over 2 days I talked to 402 teens and have 77 who have already logged time. (19.2%)

So, I did talk to more teens this year, but the return rate is considerably higher already. Of course, I have to give a big hand to the teachers who have been helping kids log in during school hours and to their School Librarian who will be treating any of her kids who read 1,000 pages/10 hours or more to a pizza party this fall. (15 have already hit this goal, with about another 20 very, very close).

School Two:
Last Year: Over 5 days I talked to 643 teens and had 6 participate in the program. (0.9%)
This Year: Over 3 days I talked to 490 teens and have 63 who have already logged time. (12.9%)

This was the school that made me depressed last year. I spent a week there and only got 6 teens to participate! Already, this year is looking up! The percentage may be a little off as the School Librarian talked to the kids I missed, but even figured she talked to another 100 teens or so the return rate is still 10%. Considering I did even make it to 1% last year, this makes me extremely happy. With this school, allowing them to sign up/log books right away has been the difference. Now that they see how easy it is, I hoping they’ll continue this trend.

School Three:

Last Year: Over 3 days I talked to 585 teens and had 47 participate in the program. (8.3%)
This Year: Over 4 days I talked to 265 teens and have 26 who have already logged time. (9.8%)

While the number is lower, at the moment, the percentage is already higher. This School Librarian is also offering a breakfast/more prizes for just participating in my program, so it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers change. Also, I have a LOT of regulars who haven’t logged anything yet, so I’m positive the end number for this school will be higher

Now, I haven’t run down the exact numbers of how many signed up because of a school visit (see 2012), but I figure this is a good start. I am very anxious to see how many of the teens continue to log once school is out. Most of them put in an email address, so at least they’ll be including in my reminder emails throughout the summer.

While a lot of this may just seem like stats, for me it’s proof that stepping outside of the SRP box was worth it. It’s so simple to keep things the same because it’s easier and it’s the way that things have always been done, but sometimes even small changes can bring about big results.

If you have any comments or questions or just want to get a conversation started don’t hesitate to leave a comment or reach me @YALibrarianDrea on twitter.


Let’s talk about School Visits

Wow, I can’t believe it’s September already. School visits, summer reading, and life in general kind of sucked up all my time. Of course, I would like to say that things are slowing down, but, honestly, they’re just as busy as ever. In fact, right now I’ve been buried in a cave trying to get ready for the presentation I’m doing at the YA Lit. Symposium in November with several friends. (I’m sure I’ll be talking about that more later.)

What I want to talk about today, though, is school visits. Do they make a difference? This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. I love going to schools and having teens get to know me, but am I bringing them into the library? Do the school visits directly boost my stats?

This May I spent 3 weeks going to three different school and talking to 1477 teens in all. I told them about summer reading and ended with booktalks. My hope was that I would see a boost in numbers regarding those schools, especially since they could sign up and do all logging online. I even got smart and had the teen select how they heard about the program when they signed up; the options being: Andrea visited my school, at the library, from a friend, from school, from parent/adult, or on the website/facebook page.

Looking at just those 3 schools, I’m slightly disappointed by the results. I only had 77 teens from those school sign up, which is roughly 5% of the kids I talked to. However, only 46 of those teens they heard about summer reading from me or at school. That means my return rate was around 3%. Considering how much time I put into the visits, I was really hoping for more. While 10% would have been ideal, I would have been happy if I had netted 100 teens from school visits, which is roughly ⅓ of my total summer reading participants. (For those interested, the 46 accounted for about 14% of my total participants.)

The breakdown by school is where is gets really depressing for me:

 School # of teens seen # that signed up # who heard from
return %
1 5 days/643 teens 6 (↓53%) 5 0.7%
2 3 days/585 teens 47 (↑67%) 24 4%
3 2 days/249 teens 24 (no change) 13 5%

School 1 is where I feel like crying. Now granted, that number could be a little higher consider some of the kids were going into high school, but it’s still a major let down. Throw in that the overall school number went down is even worse. I have a very good working relationship with the school librarian and I’m going to talk with her and see if we can put our heads together and figure out how to get this number up. I know this school tends to be more lower income, but I really do hope to see those numbers change in the future.

As far as programming went, I didn’t see a lot of new faces that would have be brought directly from the schools. However, I did decide to look at the circ stats of the books I talked about. I wasn’t able to get stats just for the summer on these titles, but the count I have would cover mid-June to today, which is about 14 weeks. (We switched system in June & I’m still learning what information I can gather from reports.)  Keep in mind our loan period is 2 weeks, so if a book had 3 checks outs it’s has been gone 6 out of the 14 weeks.

Overall, the numbers aren’t bad. However, I have no idea if any of these can be attributed to my booktalks or not. And I don’t have any stats from May when I know several kids were coming in asking for books. Still, I think the numbers are interesting to looking at. I think next year I may try to get the circ numbers before I book talk and then once summer is over.

Title # of copies # of check outs Average grades/
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick 1 3 3 8th
Blizzard of Glass 2 0 0 6th, 7th
Chopsticks 2 5 2.5 8th
Commercial Breaks 1 3 3 6th, 7th
Croak 2 8 4 8th
Eleventh Plague 2 11 5.5 6th, 7th, 8th
Emily the Strange 2 5 2.5 6th, 7th
False Prince 2 4 2 6th, 7th, 8th
Fault in Our Stars 3 12 4 8th
Friends w/Boys 3 8 2.6 8th
Ghetto Cowboy 1 2 2 6th, 7th
Grave Mercy 2 8 4 8th
Possessions 1 2 2 6th, 7th
Powerless 8 27 3.3 6th, 7th
Pregnancy Project 1 1 1 8th
Ripper 2 10 5 6th, 7th, 8th
Statistical Probability of Love 2 7 3.5 8th
Super Sized Slugger 2 4 2 6th, 7th
Unwanteds 2 8 4 6th, 7th

I still don’t know how I feel about what the numbers to reflect, but it’s something to keep in mind as I continue to visit the schools. I do plan to try to keep watch and see if my visits are paying off in programming. I know it must be a little, but I’d like to have numbers for it. I think I may start asking kids how they heard about the event and use that as a starting point.

I’d love to hear what others think and if anyone has ways to make school visits more effective.


Pay It Forward

So, I am officially back from ALA/Anaheim. I’m going to try to post a wrap-up this weekend, but there is something more important I would like to talk about. And that’s paying it forward. I don’t want to discuss how many ARCs you got, but more about what you can do with them after and how to support ALA/YALSA via membership.

I’ve seen the posts and it looks like librarians, teachers, and bloggers alike had a blast at ALA Annual this year. Did you know you could support ALA beyond buying exhibit passes? That you could enjoy the resources they offer all year long? While ALA stands for American Library Association, you do not need to be a librarian to join. Even as a blogger/teacher you can join as an associate/friend and, frankly, it’s relatively cheap. For $84 a year you can get membership to BOTH ALA and YALSA. (You can do different divisions, too, but I know the most about YALSA) Here are some of the benefits of joining ALA/YALSA:

  • access to member only areas such as webinars, archived list-servs and access to ALA Connect where you can join discussions w/various interest groups
  • discounts on educational classes, webinars, and conferences.
  • the ability to get further involved in YALSA such as volunteering to be on a committee or various task/advisory groups
  • plus a whole bunch of other member only benefits

Even if you don’t think you’d use most of those resources, you’d still be supporting ALA/YALSA. This means you’ll be supporting the committee members who create the fabulous award lists such as Printz, Morris, and Best Fiction, those who give presentations, and those who create educational resources to be used by all. And I know some of you will say, but that’s a lot of money! But I hope you think about it a bit and come to realize how little it is. After all, $84 would barely (if at all) pay for a single night in a hotel room. This is for a whole year membership and would help support an organization that does so much.

The second thing I want to talk about is what to do with the ARCs once you’re done with them. I know there are hundreds of things you can do, but I recommend giving them to your local libraries or schools. And I know many of you do this, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to say it again. Teachers are always desperate for classroom books. While the ARCs are not finished copies, teens still get a thrill of reading something before it’s published (just as all of us do!) and could easily spark interest in reading among reluctant readers.

As for the library side, I want to talk a little about how I use ARCs. Buying books for libraries is a huge job. I can spend an upwards of 5 hours or more ordering teen books for my two libraries. I try to order 3- 6 months ahead. This means I have to find out what’s coming out, which ones I should order, and if any of them needs multiple copies. Do I order everything that is coming out? No. I don’t have the shelf space or the budget to do that. So, how do I decide what to order? Well, some of it is skimming review journals and blogs, knowing my population, and feedback from the teens.

One of the many ways I get feedback from the teens is via ARCs. I have a teen reviewers program, where teens have access to the ARCs I receive at conference. They get to keep them for two weeks and in exchange they fill out a short review form for me. Based on the teen’s responses I know if the book is going to be a big hit or not. If I get 6 or 7 teens telling me they all loved a book, then I know I need to buy more than one copy. Reviews are shared via our teen newsletter and blog (when our site is up), which creates even more buzz among the teens.

I, of course, read the ARCs as well. I try not to focus on the ones that my teens are requesting though since I get quite a bit of feedback from them. The market is exploding and it’s becoming harder to keep up. Sometimes a blurb and cover isn’t enough to catch my eye. In fact, I almost completely missed Divergent. I had the ARC for months before I read it and promptly kicked myself for waiting so long. It became one I’m still hand selling to my teens and the star of last summer’s book talks. Without the ARC, this teen favorite may have slipped under my radar for months before I caught it.

ARCs are also used as prizes. Right now, the focus has been on using them for the reading programs, but I hope to expand the prize use of them. One of my goals this year is to get a TAB (Teen Advisory Board) up and running and I plan to use ARCs for raffles as a way to thank them for their time. Of course, they aren’t the only way to get teens into programs, but they can be a valuable one and one of the reasons I spend my time on the exhibit floor to get print ARCs. (My personal preference is e-ARCs, but those are impossible to share with teens!)

This, of course, is just how I use ARCs. It may not seem like much, but believe me every little bit of feedback or excitement from the teens is worth its weight in gold. It helps me do my job just a little better. I am not saying that only librarians/teachers should get ARCs (far from it), I’m merely encouraging anyone and everyone to pay it forward. Many schools and libraries are hurting and those ARCs you’ve read/don’t want still have mileage to them.

I guess all I wanted to say is there are so many ways to further your involvement in the literary world. As always, if there is anything you would like to know more about, please ask. There are no stupid questions and I would love to give answers/information when I can.


Teen Summer Reading: How mine works

As many of you know I am a teen librarian, which means I’m currently knee deep in summer reading. I’ve had a couple of people asking how my program works and thought it’d be a nice to post a general overview of how I run mine.

This will be the fourth summer reading program that I’ve run. I’ve made a few tweaks over the year, but generally it has stayed the same. Before I came, my predecessor made the teens turn in review slips for every book they read and did weekly drawings. They were normally small gift cards and there was one winner at each location. There were also prizes once they read 4, 7, and 10 books. I believe the level prizes were random prizes like water bottles and themed prizes, but I’m not positive. While this program worked, I had two major issues with it. One, someone who read a 200 page book would earn the same thing as someone who read a 500 page book. Two, there is a way higher pool of teens at the branch than the main. I felt like this issues made it slightly skewed and unfair and decided to redesign from scratch.

Taking the issues I had, I looked for the best solutions. First I tackled the book issue. I know that reading minutes/hours would be the most fair, but I also know that teens forget things often. If I can’t keep track of my own reading time, how could I expect a teen to do so? Pages, why maybe a little unfair for slower readers, was my best option. If a teen forgot they could look up the pages on the catalog and it would create a better balance for those reading shorter books vs. those reading longer ones.

The next issue was the uneven distribution of prizes. I easily have triple the amount of teens at my branch than my main location. Looking at our 2007 number (when the previous program was in place) the branch teens would have 1 in 99 chances of winning vs. 1 in 35 of winning. Now I know that teens can turn in multiple reviews and up their chances, but the main kids had better odds of winning. Plus, with it being weekly they were forced to finish a book a week or lose a chance at a prize. For some teens, this is a hard feat to manage. Plus, one $15 gift card isn’t the most fabulous prize. I really wanted summer reading to be huge so I scratched the weekly prizes. Instead the “big” prizes would be given at the end of the summer. This way teens would have all summer to work towards reading as much as they could. I also combined all participants and made no distinguish between main or branch (and so far I’ve always had winners from both). This also allowed me to buy bigger prizes. In the past, I’ve given away a mini laptop, iPod touch, and much more.

Okay, now that you know a little background to how I got where I am, here is how the program actually works. Teen signup and log their books via our online system. This year I’m using Evanced and absolutely love it. I’ve tried Library Insight (hated it) and paper (way too hard) without much success. I’ve found Evanced to be both patron and staff friendly and makes life much easier for everyone. Teens are to log books as they finish them and only need to report the title, author, and page numbers. They may write a review but it is no longer required. (I felt like reviews were too much like schoolwork and dropped them last summer). Teens may count the pages of a book they started, but can’t finish for whatever reason. Evanced tallies the pages automatically so there is no additional work needed.
There are two types of prizes. The first are level prizes. Everyone can earn the following:

200 pages = a small prize (either candy or a coupon) & an invite to the final party
400 pages = a free book
1400 pages = an invite to the Lock- In (this run from 8pm to 8 am)

Most, if not all, teens hit at least the first level. The majority will earn all of the level prizes. Mainly  because the  teens love the lock-ins and work hard to attend them.

The other type is our “big” prizes. These are raffle style where teens earn a ticket for every 100 pages that they read. I’ve found the raffles are a huge incentive to keep the teens reading. After all, the more they read the higher their chances; although, I tell teens all it takes is one entry to win. In the past they had to decide where they wanted their tickets to go, but since Evanced can do random drawings all entries will roll over from prize to prize until the teen wins or all prizes have been won. The following prizes are what I’m giving away this year:

iPod Nano
$25 BN Gift Card
$25 Movie Gift Card
$25 iTunes Gift Card
$25 GameStop Gift Card
Spa-themed Basket
Book-themed Basket
Game-themed Basket
Candy-themed Basket

As you can see these are some fabulous prizes. I can’t tell you how often I hear teens talking about what they hope to win. I love that they’re so excited about prizes and therefore reading.

I can hear several people going “But doesn’t that cost a lot more?” and the simple answer is no. Looking at the 2007 request and my 2012 request, there is only a $400 difference. I know this may sound like a lot, but this includes all programming as well. Also, I have to account for how my participates and programs have exploded since 2007; in 2007 we had 133 participants and 10 programs vs. in 2011 where we had 304 participants and 23 programs. Throw in the cost of inflation and it’s honestly not that much more.

I know this type of program isn’t for everyone, but for us it works incredibly well. Last year, I had an 80% increase! Now I don’t except that much this year, but 2 weeks in I already have 264 teens signed up (179 have already logged books) and there are still 5.5 weeks left. And usually most teens don’t sign up until halfway through the program! If we continue this path it will certainly be a record-breaking summer.

If there is anything else you would like to know, I would be more than happy to answer any questions. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if you want to more information. I’m always happy to share anything that I do.