Now that we are a few weeks beyond the end of summer reading, my library’s tech specialist and I have playing with the data side of the Great Reading Adventure (GRA). (See more about our first summer using GRA here.) The numbers are valuable, not just for data geeks, but also for those interested in the financial side of things, local school staff and administrators, and those of us involved in the summer program’s long term plans. The numbers aren’t the whole picture, but they will help us paint a clearer, more expansive one.
For each piece of data we’ve looked at so far, I’ve explained it below, mentioned who it interests, and posed questions as a result of seeing the info in a new, detailed way.
For families, the Great Reading Adventure digital log was the one and only place to register for the 2016 summer program. Once registered, they recorded reading minutes for the reading challenge in the digital log. (Note: We did offer a one page log, for families who wanted to log time online only periodically, at the library for example.) Additionally, families used the platform for a few other things.
- The GRA was one of several places they could find details about events (in addition to the library’s online calendar, etc.). We did not use it for event registration since most events did not require registration. (We used a web form on our library’s site in those cases.)
- All registered family members could earn digital badges for specific amounts of reading time and when they entered secret codes found around town at events.
- Participants could message the two of us managing the GRA with questions about the digital log, about the summer program, or library services in general.
As I mentioned, we used the GRA, in part, for the data! So here’s what we have learned so far:
- We were able to look at the number of kids and teens who registered for the reading challenge and picked up at least one prize versus kids and teens who registered, but didn’t participate at all. Interestingly, almost every child and teen who logged time and picked up the first prize was hooked and kept participating.
Who: This info is helpful for me, the one who plans the budget and buys prizes, etc. It’s also helpful for the library director and the Friends of the Library, the main funder of the summer program.
Questions: Why didn’t some children, teens, or adults participate after registering? How many prizes do we need to buy for 2017? Can we incorporate more digital badges into the prize schedule, replacing some of the physical prizes and saving money?
- Many kids and teens self-reported their school affiliation at registration which let us share some general data with schools about numbers of kids participating, total minutes logged, etc. (More on the school connection later.)
Who: Obviously this is of interest to school administrators who want to support summer learning, but also to both me and the library director.
Questions: Are we reaching families at schools with low participation? If not, why?
- We analyzed the number of kids, teens, and adults registered in total and when they registered. This was important for knowing when and where to focus our outreach, marketing, and money. I have traditionally attended multiple Spring community events, intending to register lots of families. Last year I finally admitted that attending these events has value, but the registration numbers at these events are not an indicator of how many families will ultimately register or attend events. Now I had proof that I was right! This data is already helping guide our plans for 2017. The increase in family participation, the consistent number of child participants, and high general success with the digital log supported our decision to move from paper to digital.
Who: This information is most valuable to me as the person who does all of the outreach and makes the overall decisions about the summer program. It is also useful to general library staff and families who might have questions about the switch from the traditional paper log booklet (for kids) and archaic digital log (for teens and adults) to the robust digital log for all ages.
Questions: How can we make the digital log even easier for families to use, even with limited internet access? Can we have a designated logging station? Will the app in development meet more families’ needs?
- We integrated the GRA digital badges into our summer program and were able to identify which badges were most popular- those accessed using secret codes posted at city parks as part of a community-wide scavenger hunt. This part of the summer program was even more of a hit than we thought it would be.
The posted secret codes advertised the summer program to passersby and made a connection with the city’s parks and rec department staff and program.
Some families collected secret codes at all of our library events also, but that part of the program is still in its infancy and will be developed more for next year.
The scavenger hunt aspect of the secret codes was a nice, but unexpected, segue into Pokémon GO fever which hit the country and our community at the tail end of the summer program. Families hunted for codes and completed a Maker Club-made scavenger hunt in the library and then started playing Pokemon Go with us at the library and around town. It all made for an active summer!
Who: This information was useful mostly for me, as the program manager. Other staff and city employees are also interested.
Questions: How do we develop more opportunities to engage the community in the summer program beyond the library’s walls? How do we harness the attention these secret codes received to include more families in the reading challenge and the summer program in general?