February 16, 2018

Reading Is Its Own Reward | One Cool Thing

Whether it’s a summer reading program for kids, adults, or all ages, librarians often debate the appropriateness of prizes; do they take away from the point by substituting external motivation for internal? But in 2016 and for several years earlier, Iowa’s Lake City Public Library (LCPL) found a clever way to split the difference.

The library, which serves a small community of about 1,700 people roughly halfway between Sioux City and Des Moines, gives public honor and a reward to its most diligent participants while still painting reading as an intrinsically pleasurable activity.

The library’s solution was simple: for each book a participant read (and proved they had read by discussing briefly with a librarian), the patron got to choose the next book that the library purchased. A book plate in the front of the new copy proudly proclaimed their pick, and the patron got to be the first person to check out their selection.

LCPL director Michele Deluhery told LJ that the library obtained some 30 or 40 titles this way. While some “big readers” got to select more than others, Deluhery said every Summer Reading participant got to select at least one or two new titles for the library’s collection.

More than half of those choosing books had titles in mind, said Deluhery. “They know what they want to read.” That concept works better for the library as well, she added, because that way the book is guaranteed to circulate (at least once).

For those who didn’t know what to pick, the library compiled a list of books it did not yet own and wanted—primarily from series in which the library needed the newest addition or to fill in gaps—and let patrons pick their favorite from the list.

The idea came from Assistant Director Kim Olson, said Deluhery, and she believes Olson in turn was inspired by another library, though she’s not sure which one.

This year, in pursuit of keeping things fresh, LCPL is not repeating the effort, despite its success. But the 2017 prize still sent the message that reading is a reward in its own right—the library gave away a Kindle ereader device to the lucky winner.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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  1. Kasey Gilbert says:

    Wow, what a great idea! The library I work for serves 289,000 people so I don’t know if it would work for a district this size, but it is a really great idea for smaller communities. I bet those kids are so excited to see their names in the books.

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