WHERE READING IS STILL RELEVANT
by Kirby Lindsay
Friends of the Seattle Public Library have created a survey they need library patrons, and non-patrons, to complete at www.surveymonkey.com. One question on the incredibly short survey – this column is longer – asks whether libraries are still relevant.
Considering the response of Fremont Library patrons to the 2009 summer reading challenge, the answer appears to be a resounding, “Yes!”
Rekha Kuver, Librarian for Fremont and Green Lake branches of Seattle Public Library (SPL), couldn’t be sure about actual statistics about participants before she left on furlough August 29. When SPL branch libraries reopen Tuesday, September 8, Kuver intends to take a final tally.
Yet, all summer a board, or a “thermometer” as Kuver described it, stood on the front table at Fremont library. At first stickers were placed carefully in slots provided to mark books read, then they were applied outside the lines. Eventually new stickers covered old stickers to denote squares that counted for double. A tentative number – of books read by adults, teens and children – counted 895. Obviously, reading still rules at Fremont.
“We haven’t really done the thermometer before,” Kuver explained. SPL has organized child and teen reading challenges for decades, but only in recent years have they offered an adult challenge. The first year, a partnership with Starbucks Coffee Company granted participants gift cards for every three books they read. Funding has fallen away, and so did prizes. This year, the entire goal, Kuver pointed out, became collective.
“Whether or not the stats will bear out” that they got a bigger response this year than before, Kuver explained, “it is a different motivation. The thermometer is more visible,” and library patrons became bound together to determine the increase of the number of stickers on the board. Also, “families can do it all together,” Kuver said.
“It is hard to tell whether people are reading more,” Kuver admitted. There can be 20 people who read 50 books each, “and the others who will read their three books and be done,” Kuver described. A collective goal provides different incentives from gift cards. “We don’t serve a specific segment of the population,” Kuver explained, “when you are trying to serve everyone, some want coffee cards, some want IPODs…”
“I think the thermometer did work here,” Kuver acknowledged, “we well surpassed our goal.” For a branch as small, and tied to a neighborhood, as Fremont this is an achievement to celebrate!
For those who participated in the summer reading challenge, and those who didn’t, please consider filling out the survey, and following the Friends of the Seattle Public Library blog at http://friendsofspl.wordpress.com They must hear from those who use the library, to continue to improve and build our library system. They also must hear from those who don’t use the library, to make the system work better.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.