Monday, February 21, 2011

winter reading program

Well, the library's experiment with a different kind of winter reading program is winding down. Not that it had very far to wind.

Previously, it had been similar to the children's reading program -- list the books you've read on a paper form, and turn it in for a prize. In the case of adults, this meant about half a dozen books over two or three months, in return for a mug, or some reading-related item with the library's logo.

This year, registration was online only, and the physical prizes have been replaced by a "chance to connect with other readers ... to talk about books you love!"

This ain't gonna work. For one thing, even adults like getting rewards. Not just a "good feeling" of accomplishment, but real rewards, like physical stuff. But the physicality goes beyond that. There is the physical act of writing down the title of each book as you finish it, then physically handing the filled-out physical piece of paper to a physical librarian -- and maybe exchanging a casual comment about the books as you do so. This world of tangible books and paper and ink and librarians is comfortable, especially to older people and quiet people -- the kinds of people who are most likely to participate in reading programs. In fact, many of these people are downright uncomfortable with computers. And even for those who don't mind them, the coziness factor is missing.

I suppose a completely virtual program could be geared toward a different kind of reader -- younger, busier, at home online. But to appeal to that crowd it would have to be exciting and fast-paced. It would've been good to have a web page for the program, with a lot of glitz and glamor, and interactive cool stuff. More importantly, it would need an immersive, ongoing conversation, where participants could "show off" to friends and meet interesting new people. The Facebook discussion just didn't have enough people to sustain it. Maybe a link on the library's website directly to the discussion would've helped.