When the Library declared it would reach 16,000 kids and teens through this year's Summer Reading program, it quickly became an all-hands-on-deck proposition. Reaching more readers than ever would require advocacy at all the branches, with staff promoting it from the front desk to the childrens' areas and beyond.
It would also take the biggest Summer Reading Outreach campaign to date, with a team of librarians led by Outreach Manager Carrie McDonald conducting reading programs at 20 non-Library locations in hopes of signing up 2,500 kids.
It would be nothing less than Building a Community of Readers from the ground up. And when the numbers were tallied a few weeks ago, the Library found that it had built an even bigger community than it planned.
According to Children's and Youth Services, 20,770 children and 4,724 teens participated in Summer Reading through reading, program attendance, or both, for a total of 25,494. (Last year's total was approximately 15,000, according to Youth Services.)
"The results more than met any of our expectations," says Helma Hawkins, director of Children's Services. "We definitely brought in kids we hadn't reached before thanks to the Outreach program, and we also reached new children inside the Library."
And that, Hawkins says, was thanks in large part to the efforts of frontline employees. "The staff was enthusiastic in promoting reading all summer long," Hawkins says.
Additionally, the completion rate (children who read 12 or more hours) increased over last year from 49% to 53%.
Teen readership also saw a significant increase.
"We changed up the program this year, which seemed to be attractive for teens as we more than doubled our participation from last year," says Crystal Faris, director of Teen Services.
Instead of asking teens to log reading hours, the Library asked teen participants to write book reviews - via handwritten card, email, or SMS text - to earn Library Bucks and entries into a drawing to win a Netbook. (See examples of reviews on the Teen Blog.)
Here are some more numbers from a truly landmark Summer Reading Program.
Children's participation: 20,770
Children's enrollment in reading: 9,505
Children enrolled through Outreach: 2,700
Children's completion rate (read at least 12 hours): 53%
Children's program attendance: 8,707 (at 177 events)
No. of Royals tickets awarded to families of readers: 8,000
Teen participation: 4,724
Teen program attendance: 2,501 (at 168 events)
Teen book reviews submitted: 2,233
Teen book reviews submitted via text: 180