Pass the Book Program Wins MAE Award
Stephanie Kuenn | February 15, 2011
The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) named Katie George the winner of the 2011 MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens. The MAE Award provides $500 to the recipient and $500 to the recipient’s library and is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust.
George, a public librarian, implemented the Pass the Book program at the Howard County Library in Columbia, Maryland. Pass the Book was inspired by the Pass the Book website and Pass the Book at Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library. The Pass the Book program is based on the “power of peer recommendation,” George explained. Launched during Teen Read Week, George and her colleagues released 600 copies of The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld to the teens of Howard County. Teens who read the book could register the book’s number and track the book on a the library’s Pass the Book website. The book could then be passed on to a friend for further enjoyment. Participants could return to the website to see where their book had traveled. There were opportunities to participate in online discussions and challenges as well as attend special Pass the Book events at the library branches. Not only did the library collaborate with local teachers to promote and support the program, but even the author, Scott Westerfeld, passed a book!
The program’s accomplishment—324 teens read The Secret Hour and the accompanying Pass the Book website received 13,600 hits—has confirmed what George knew all along. Teens are the best marketing tools librarians have. George noted, “The fastest, most effective way to promote reading…or anything else…among teens is for a teenager to make a recommendation to another teenager.” This program was definitely a fresh new take on encouraging reading and embracing technology in order to successfully reach teens.
“The days of cajoling and arm-twisting teens into reading are passing us by,” Katie George stated in her winning application. “No longer do we promote reading as if it were broccoli (I know it tastes bitter, but it’s good for you). Now, teens are coming to us, requesting books and, even better, passing them on to other budding bibliophiles.”
“The committee was really impressed by George’s program. It is such an innovative idea and not only endorses reading, but includes an online aspect which appeals to a lot of teens,” said Bailey Ortiz, chair of the MAE Award. “It is really something to see how the teens were so eager to share and pass a book on to someone else. You have teens connecting globally to discuss a book. Talk about advertising by word of mouth. It can’t get any better than that.”
Stephanie Kuenn is Web Services Manager for ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.