Hybrid summer reading program a huge success

BCPL

News release

Every summer the Boyle County Public Library provides the community with an exciting Summer Reading Program (SRP), complete with reading prizes, fun activities, and special events. This year was the second summer of planning through the pandemic. Following the success of last summer’s virtual SRP, this year in early spring the decision was made to offer a hybrid Summer Reading Program in 2021 featuring numerous virtual programs, a wide variety of take-and-make kits, outdoor scavenger hunts and some in-person events, while continuing to utilize the Beanstack website and app to track reading progress.

Through Beanstack, participants could earn badges, free books and raffle tickets for prize bundles. Every participant who completed the reading challenge had a chance to win one of the prize bundles, which included art packs, board games, LEGO sets, Melissa & Doug items, Disney items, outdoor games, grilling accessories and a drone. In addition, gift cards to local businesses were distributed as weekly prize drawings to challenge participants who logged at least one day of reading each week of the summer. The Beanstack app encouraged families to participate together and provided an easy way to log reading progress and register to win prizes.

The hybrid program not only worked well — it surpassed the previous years’ reading and giveaways, making it the most successful summer reading program the library has ever hosted. Over 575 people used Beanstack this summer for the program. Of those who registered, 403 completed the reading challenge set by the library. This year the reading challenge for all ages was to read for 10 days. Collectively, the number of days read over the summer was 16,740, which set a new record of reading by participants. There was also a new record set of prize books given away, which meant participants were able to add more new books to their homes. In total, the library gave away over 1,330 new books to readers of all ages during the program this summer.

“My favorite part is fulfilling prize book requests for those who completed our summer challenge,” said Youth Services Librarian Kinsey Hisle. “Our goal is to help families expand their home libraries so they have readily available reading material anytime they want.”

This year’s Summer Reading Program began with an in-person kick-off event in June that included the first outdoor storytime of the summer with Children’s Librarian Libby McWhorter. That day over a hundred people stopped by to pick up a Book Buddy plushie and a popsicle. Throughout the summer, hundreds of people participated in the free, virtual and in-person programs, and more than 2,100 activity kits were distributed.

The outdoor weekly storytime was the most popular program on-site, drawing 60-120 people each week. McWhorter also prerecorded the weekly storytimes for those who were unable to attend the in-person events. Each storytime video that was posted to the library’s YouTube channel this summer had an ASL interpreter and featured the same stories and activity kits as the weekly in-person sessions.

“This summer we were able to build on the virtual experience of last year to provide consistent and more expansive reading challenges and programs while maintaining patron safety,” said Hisle. “Our community once again surpassed our expectations to participate at record levels. We had more readers complete the summer challenge and more families with multiple members reading together. We were able to make our summer program portable so patrons young and old could take home activities and participate in the reading challenges anywhere they went this summer.”

The library also hosted numerous live-virtual and pre-recorded events, including Silly Safari, NASA’s Artemis Project, the Toledo Zoo, yoga lessons for kids, STEM activities, drawing and crafting tutorials, and weekly ukulele lessons. Virtual field trips brought viewers to Shaker Village, Perryville Battlefield State Park, Heartland Veterinary Hospital and Mammoth Cave Wildlife Museum. Most of these videos are still available to watch on the library’s YouTube channel.

This summer over 50 teens participated in the reading challenge, and 138 teens took home LibCrates book kits and Take-and-Make craft kits. The library also resumed in-person Teen Dungeons & Dragons and had a good attendance for the in-person Axe Throwing event. “I had one patron say multiple times that they love the summer reading program and the things we are doing,” said Young Adult Services Librarian Bretton Smith. “This was a parent who brought their kiddos to storytime and were winners of one of the grand prizes.”

This year there was an impressive increase in the number of adult participants in the summer reading program. Public Services Librarian Caleb Conover reported that over 180 adult readers participated, with nearly a 70% challenge completion rate. Adults logged a combined total of 6,027 days of reading. Almost 150 people participated in taking the historical treasure hunt kit to visit historic sites around Boyle County. An additional 390 kits related to eight different programs were distributed.

In addition to the kits, many people participated in a matching game activity and drawing for two tickets to Pioneer Playhouse’s Clue: On Stage performance, and close to 80 participants enjoyed in-person pop-up programs. Pop-up programs included seed planting at the Germination Station, and making homemade bath bombs. Early in the summer the Great American Swing Dance drew 96 people who enjoyed the start of a dance lesson but then experienced a massive downpour which dramatically ended the fun for the evening. From DIY and crafts to hiking and in-person events, the library offered something for everyone to do this summer.

“SRP 2021 was a long time in planning, meaning that we did the best that we could with the information relating to COVID-19 restrictions at the time,” said Conover. “I believe we had a wildly successful reading challenge, enjoyable programs, and a loyal patron base who continue to utilize the library to the fullest. I couldn’t be more proud of our team of program staff who have pulled together to make the summer activities possible.”

During the summer, the library’s outreach team brought the Bookmobile to various events in the community, including the HUD Block Party, the Gladys Project’s Literacy Event and the Boyle County Farmers Market. With expanded borrowing options available through the Sweet Reads initiative, many new patrons were able to utilize the Bookmobile and participate in Summer Reading. Outreach staff also provided storytimes and early literacy visits, and served two summer day camps.

The Summer Reading Program, with its expanded activities and prize-winning options, is the library’s biggest multi-generational program series of the year. The library staff are very thankful for the Friends of the Library who are major financial contributors to the Summer Reading Program and helped turn program planning dreams into reality.

The library would like to thank all of its program partners including Kentucky Historical Society, Art Center of the Bluegrass, Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge, Boyle County Cooperative Extension and Great American Brass Band Festival. The library would also like to thank the organizations that donated prizes for a variety of activities, including Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Danville Cinemas 8, Plaid Elephant Books and Pioneer Playhouse.

Now that summer is over, program planners are gearing up for Library Card Sign-up Month in September and are in the process of developing new programs and activities for library patrons. As COVID-19 cases are back on the rise, planning for the fall is proving to be a challenge. “We’re not sure what the future holds in terms of COVID or how that will impact programs going forward,” said Conover, “but after all of 2020 and pulling off SRP 2021, we know we can make things work and improve lives in our local community.”

The library is currently open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. In addition, free WiFi is available in the library parking lot 24/7. Chat with library staff using the live chat service on the library’s website or by texting 859-545-8398.

BCPL serves the city of Danville and the surrounding communities and is actively committed to enriching the lives of its patrons. The library is located at 307 West Broadway in Danville.