Staff engagement in any library program or event is hugely important, but especially so for virtual programs like reading challenges. Your public library staff have valuable and free facetime with community members day-in and day-out. They can use those interactions to promote your challenges and tip the scales toward a successful summer reading program or seasonal reading challenge—if they’re knowledgeable and supportive.
When surveyed after summer 2021, 65% of top-performing libraries recognized outreach, staff, and/or training as their “secret sauce” for summer reading success. To share experiences and best practices for creating staff engagement, senior library client success manager Tracy Johnson gathered a group of public librarians for a virtual roundtable discussion this spring. In the video call, Beanstack clients from around the country candidly shared their struggles and successes nurturing supportive and enthusiastic staff buy-in for their reading challenges.
Lead With Your Mission
Framing is important. So when Beanstack is introduced to staff, incorporate your library’s larger mission into the discussion. Are you focused on promoting diverse collections or boosting circulation? Make sure to highlight the concrete ways Beanstack helps you and your team further that goal, like with book lists, reading list challenges, and book reviews that help readers find recommended books.
Or maybe your library’s mission is fostering lifelong learning and innovation. Get staff excited about all the gamification and motivational tools built into the Beanstack mobile app, or show them how easy it is to link to all the library’s resources and custom-made activities within challenges. Whatever your “why” is, tie it into Beanstack so that the app stands out in the sea of responsibilities and software on your staff’s plate.
Incentivize Staff Training With Rewards and Recognition
Rewards don’t have to be solely for library users! Motivate library staff with prizes and recognition for participating in Beanstack staff trainings and for testing your reading challenges before they go live. Even small prizes and shoutouts can go a long way.
Staff at Lincoln City Library branches in Nebraska were treated to warm cookie deliveries once everyone at their location was trained up on their summer reading challenge last year. “We have an actual test that they have to take, and it’s not just about Beanstack,” shared library coordinator Vicki Wood on the call. “It’s about, when are your events, how do you find the FAQ, how do you earn tickets, what are the prizes for adults? We make them learn everything.” This year, they upped the ante and will send a pizza delivery once each branch completes their tests.
Another Nebraska librarian discussed plans for a Beanstack “SPEED” challenge for staff. “We have our test site set up specifically for staff, where they have to do the adult challenge within two weeks, that way that helps us test the links and make sure everything is good to go,” said librarian Samantha Rundle from Hastings Public Library. “We plan on having gift cards to local businesses as prizes … it’s very much [to] get everyone familiar with the program, but also make sure there’s no kinks that we need to work out beforehand.”
Johnson and other librarians shared more creative and compelling reward ideas, like a week of wearing jeans instead of following the more formal dress code, small treats like doughnuts, conference swag like tote bags, an extra long work break, and even donated prizes from the community.
Make Your Challenges Year-Round and Centralized
Instill Beanstack as a central presence at your library, and not a siloed responsibility for only one department or a seasonal software for only spring and summer. When your whole staff knows how to use Beanstack, then they can all answer challenge questions, help community members, and promote the app. And when your staff uses Beanstack year-round, you can avoid re-training the basics every year and instead focus on building engaging challenges and promoting your programming. Or on the other 100 things you’re juggling!
To foster this holistic approach, make sure to involve your whole team when planning challenges and keep them updated on your challenge calendar and Beanstack details. You can include information in staff newsletters, flyers, and meetings. And you can easily offer year-round challenges for all ages with our reading challenge templates to engage different populations and departments in the reading and logging fun.
Some libraries go all-in on centralizing and promoting Beanstack use among their staff by transforming their staff onboarding into reading challenges. At Troy Public Library in Michigan, new hires in the youth services department participate in an activities-based training challenge during their first six months on the job. Their activities include nitty-gritty details like how to input their first timesheet and fun explorations of library resources and responsibilities.
Encourage Participation, Friends, and Leaderboards
Beanstack already has engagement features hardwired into the app. Encouraging staff members to participate in challenges alongside your community can not only increase their knowledge of your challenges, but can also boost their excitement and buy-in.
Connecting staff members with our friends and leaderboards feature is one of the most powerful ways to motivate them to use Beanstack. Johnson shared that, here at Zoobean, our team religiously logs their reading, jostles for top position on the leaderboard, and peruses colleagues’ recently read titles to find their next book.
Santa Clarita Public Library in California similarly hyped up their staff with friends and leaderboards during a staff challenge. “We had people competing and we had prizes at the end,” shared senior librarian Zoraida Martínez. “Everyone was participating like crazy and they loved it. And they added each other as friends, and we had a whole thread going on, [asking] ‘what’s your friend code?’ and everyone was inputting it. It was really great to have that, because our staff was really engaged with it and asking when our next staff challenge is.”
Youth services librarian Danielle Masterson at Wilmington Memorial Library in Massachusetts goes all-out sharing her friend code, and not just with staff. She added her friend code to her personal email signature and social media accounts to encourage readers in the community to add her. Then, she shares updates about their progress in library communications and builds community excitement for reading.
During the roundtable, there was also an enlightening back-and-forth in the chat about how libraries should deal with staff members in their challenge participation statistics. One librarian felt like their participation could skew data results, but another responded that they believe that staff should count as part of a library’s service community. Just like staff can use library resources, attend programming with their family, and check out books, they can also be included in challenge participation. And Johnson reminded participants about Beanstack’s robust reports and insights, which you can use to filter out staff participation if needed.
Want to relive the discussion yourself? Check out the recording of the webinar here! And if you want to learn more about how Beanstack can help you foster staff engagement with less effort at your library, get in touch with our team to book a demo today.