Bookscription Swag Bags

Since starting in my teen services role this past summer, I’ve been wanting to try out a Book Box service. This neat idea mimics popular subscription box services that come with treats and swag but is free for library patrons. The teen librarian at my previous library had some success with them, and I know other libraries have as well.

I work in a large branch system, and most programs and services are vetted through or implemented by headquarters staff. My manager and the teen services librarian at HQ, though, have been supportive of me trying out new ideas. For October, the teen librarian at HQ put together and distributed a “make and take” journal craft to the branches, and I used it as an opportunity to finally try the book box idea out by putting a subscription service spin on it. Thus: Bookscription Swag Bags!

HQ’s “make and take” journal crafts consisted of copy paper, assorted colored paper, and string to bind the journals together. They came in library-branded bags with instructions and writing and drawing prompts. To supplement the craft and turn it into the Bookscription Swag Bag, I added library branded swag (book lights, earbuds, texting gloves, or a water bottle), snacks, and two books that I would select based on the teen’s responses on a request form.

I used Microsoft Forms to create a digital form that asked for their names, card number, and contact info so I could verify that they have accounts, plus the following questions that would help me select their books:

What genre would you like to read this month?
What’s the last book (or books) you really enjoyed?
What’s a book or genre you do not like and why?
Bookscription Bags may include candy, a snack, or other treats. Are there any food items we should avoid for yours?
Anything else we should know?

To promote the service, I sent a flyer and information to the librarians at the high schools that I visit for outreach, and they shared it with their students either through email or their library websites. Within a few hours, I had over 25 responses to the form! By some of their responses, I could tell they were excited about the service:

Form feedback with excited responses including "I LOVE to read! I have been in a book club since the summer before my fourth grade year, and reading is a passion of mine!" and "No I'm just very excited thank you guys!"

I was pleasantly surprised, but this also meant I had a lot of work ahead of me to pick out two books for each and pack the bags. In the instructions on the form, I noted that we would contact them to let them know the bags were ready for pick up within three days. I’ll definitely consider adding a few days to that for the next round.

Overall, I’d say the pilot was very successful, but there were a few bugs I need to work out. By the time that I closed the form, we had 50 responses in all. I gave the teens 10 days to pick up their bags, and 34 were able to do so on time. Even though the instructions indicated that they’d need to pick up at my branch, and I reiterated that when I contacted them, a couple ended up at others, and one thought they could pick up theirs at their school library. I was hoping to encourage teens to visit my branch, but in the future, I plan to work with the school librarians to see how I can deliver the bags to schools for easier pickup. Getting the books in their hands is much more important.

To try to get some feedback, I also included a slip of paper with a link to another form that asked them to rate the books, the snacks, the craft, and the service overall. I only got 7 responses, but overall their ratings were very kind. That feedback and the excited responses I got for the original form definitely encourages me to continue!

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