This was a very wonky year for our summer reading program. It was my first year coordinating the program across all three of our locations. Also, we had a big millage vote (which passed!) and we had to back up our program 2 weeks to coincide with the vote. This was not the year to make any major changes to the program. Since I was coming at the program fresh, I did have some ideas that I wanted to try so I conducted a bunch of experiments. One of my experiments had some awesome results!
On our third week of summer reading, I ran our participation stats by school. We have 45 schools in our service area and 197 different schools who had students participate. Since I am a stat nerd, I also made a table of the top ten schools in Excel and posted it on our Tumblr page. Our community relations person saw it and posted the same chart on our Facebook page. At this point, this little chart became a BIG DEAL. We had parents asking why their schools were not on the chart. All of a sudden, we had a competition! Participation numbers were going way up. Schools in our service area who had low participation, now had high numbers. People asked in the library how their school was doing, which meant that we now had to run the results weekly and post them. This all happened because of social media and the spirit of competition.
So how much did our participation rate go up? Many of our schools increased their participation between 40 and 60%. This cost me no money to do this year and took less than one hour of my time to run the report and post the numbers online.
Now that we know that this works, we are actually going to advertise a contest between our schools next summer with a prize. I also want to come up with a better display to promote the school competition in our buildings where I can visually represent the numbers better than my Excel spreadsheet.