When Programming Goes Digital

At the library where I work, the summer reading program experienced a huge change. For the first time, the children’s department decided that the summer reading program would be done entirely online. That meant that instead of filling out a reading log using paper and a pen, the children created an online account and fill out their reading records online. With this feature, children were also able to collect badges and write online reviews for the books they read. When they reached the required amount of reading each week, they would be notified to come into the library to collect their prize.

This method drastically changed the program for many patrons in the children’s department. What’s interesting to note is how the program affected patrons in the children’s department versus the YA department. In our department, the children still had their parents help them with the reading logs used to record what they read. Many parents complained that they were sad to see the program computerized. They used to enjoy writing out the reading logs with their children, and felt a disconnect using the computers. There were also many adults who weren’t comfortable with technology, and they would come into the library to ask for help with the reading logs.

The teens, on the other hand, were much quicker to adapt to the change. The YA librarians received few, if any, complaints about the program. The teens had no problem logging into their summer reading accounts on the computer or on their phones. If they did come in with issues, it was often because there were glitches in the system rather than because they didn’t understand how to use it.

The teen response to our summer reading program shows that teens in our library are capable of adapting, especially when it comes to adapting to technology. This isn’t very surprising, as teens have grown up with technology, as opposed to the adults who may be more comfortable with the old way of things. The teens complained less about the new digital format than the adults did (how’s that for teens being the “difficult” patrons at libraries?)

Technology has become a huge part of the role of libraries. Most teens are comfortable with technology. It’s important for the library to note that when developing programs and services for teens. We can also take advantage of that. Perhaps that cool new program that involves heavy computer usage won’t be as scary to YA librarians, while librarians in adult programming might shy away from it. If programs that teach patrons how to use computers is like any of the other programs, than it is costly and time consuming to develop. YA librarians can likely skip over this one, and focus on other, more exciting programs for their teens.

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