Librarian Amy Boese has a modest goal for teens participating in this year’s Ramsey County Library summer reading program: finish one book.
It may seem like a low number, but summer library programs should offer more than tallied pages, Boese said. Digital savvy and cultivating career interests must be thrown in the mix as well, she added.
Through its innovative approach to reach teens and young readers, the library — which kicked off its summer reading program in Roseville on June 11 — is turning the page on traditional models of library engagement and receiving national recognition for it.
“Reading is essential and important and absolutely the baseline for libraries, but digital literacy is key to being a successful human right now,” Boese said.
The “Bookawocky” summer program is used by libraries across the metro area, but librarians at Ramsey County Library’s seven branches are pushing for teens to track their progress exclusively online this year.
Teens are also encouraged to attend a series of tech-focused camps and use the library’s “makerspace,” an area with a 3-D printer, vinyl cutters, sewing machines and computer software for music mixing and video game design. The hope is that teens can be creative while also learning to wield words in a digital age, Boese said.
For younger readers, the library provides an activity booklet of tasks — try a new vegetable, build a pillow fort and, of course, read a book for prizes.
While book clubs and story time readings will still be offered this summer, Bookawocky aims to provide children with a wider variety of activities, said Monica Stratton, coordinator of the library’s children’s programs. And with more than 7,000 children and teens participating in the summer program last year, Stratton said the approach seems to be paying off.
“The library is a place that they can come and have a rich summer experience that may involve books and reading, but it’s so much more than that,” Stratton said.
Ramsey County Library’s efforts to reinvent summer reading programs are part of a push to modernize libraries and keep them relevant, Stratton said.
And the Roseville library has been a leader on that front, winning kudos from “Library Journal,” a national trade publication, for everything from its architecture to its attendance.
“It’s a beautiful library,” said Rebecca Miller, the journal’s editorial director. “It has this currency and hipness and is very usable and intuitive.”
At this year’s summer kickoff festival in Roseville, the library’s colorful hallways looked more like a lively community center than a hushed building full of books.
Face painting, science demos and live animals kept kids like Matthew Brown of White Bear Lake careening from one activity to the next. Brown, 9, and his mom made a special trip to Roseville to attend the festival.
“I’ve learned pretty much a lot from the library,” Brown said, folding colored paper at the origami station.
Brown already knows what he wants to read this summer — a book from the “Geronimo Stilton” series. It’s more than 100 pages, but he’s sure he can finish it.
And how long will it take?
“Two days,” Brown said. “But if I really want to get into the details, it may take a week and a half.”