Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Accidents (aka My Online Book Club)

You know how you sometimes will come up with a great idea and your execution is perfect, but your participants take something totally different than your goal away from it?  That is what happened to one of my ongoing creations.

In 2008 I wanted to add an ongoing program for school-aged kids to our lineup, but we were overscheduled as it was.  If we wanted to add a program, we needed to get rid of something else and that is hard to do when you are talking about cutting a story time.  My brilliant solution was to start an online book club.  I looked around online and the few people that had tried it before did not have success with it.  I figured that it was worth a shot and started one up.

How it Works 
I based the design of our club on our newsletter cycle so it comes out three times a year (winter, summer, and fall).  I buy extra copies of the books and make a nifty display in the same place in our juvenile fiction area.  Every book that goes on the display has a bookmark with 4-6 discussion questions and directions on how to post kids' answers online (see example).  Our IT guys also set up a special email address so kids could just email me their answers (in case their parents didn't want them online) and I would post their answers.

What Happened? (or the Happy Accident)
I am sitting here 4 1/2 years later and I have gotten under 10 posts over that time frame.  You may wonder why I don't scrap the program.  Here's why:
  1. I can't keep the display stocked with Online Book Club selections.  While other displays are hit-or-miss as to whether customers take the titles-this one is a definite winner.  In addition, the bookmarks with the discussion questions are always removed when the books are returned (which leads me to think that at some point, someone is pondering those questions).
  2. The Kids Read site is getting consistent traffic.  It's not just librarians searching for discussion questions that end up here.  People in our community are actually looking at the site with the direct web address or coming over from our library web site through a link.
  3. It takes about 2-3 hours on my time to set up the books, questions, displays, and bookmarks each time it changes.  In the grand scheme of things, that really isn't a lot when I am still getting interest.
You can see why this is a happy accident.  Do I get results like I thought I would?  No.  Do I get something that may be better?  Definitely, yes!  I learned from this that it is always worth trying something out.  You never know what you will get.

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