Amid the chaos and stress of the past year, my library has found a way to establish personal relationships with patrons and create an enthusiastic fandom—and boost collection use at the same time.
Since September 2019, our Binge Box service has provided personalized book selections to people of all ages, along with treats and gifts to brighten the recipient’s day. Full credit for the basic idea goes to our former Youth Services Librarian Laura Spradlin. Binge Boxes were originally designed for middle schoolers as a cross between the ideas of teen book subscriptions and binge-watch movie collections. Due to popular demand, the service was soon expanded to serve kids, teens, and adults.
And then the world changed.
As we began planning for reopening and summer reading simultaneously, we understood that our community wanted two things: a sense of connection and for us to make their lives a little easier. Binge Boxes are a perfect fit. They contain books we choose specifically for one reader, they make the library easier to use (the majority of adults who sign up for Binge Boxes have no other checkouts on their accounts), and they celebrate the comfort and joy of reading.
The fine print:
Patrons may sign up for one Binge Box a month. They select their preferred formats and genres, and we ask for examples of books they liked and didn’t like. Children can request books that fit our Super Readers Club requirements. Adults can choose a regular Box or a rotating theme (past themes include “Bark Boxes” filled with pet treats and toys, Black History Month, and All Holiday Books). All Boxes include 4-5 books, a snack, and a few other fun tchotchkes. Adults also receive notes on each book explaining why it was chosen for them. All of this is neatly packaged in a custom-printed box, which patrons are encouraged to keep and reuse.
Adult Librarian Jessica Elder says, “There's one big thing that really make this: Effort. It's going to take a lot of time picking out the books, personalizing the notes, making the box look full of treats and handouts inviting them to continue exploring our programming and collection. Without the effort, patrons will not return for the service, and they will not give their effort back to building their relationships with the library. Go for the wow factor where there's the opportunity for this great of an impact.”
Don’t just take our word for it:
Between June and December, Youth Services averaged 108 a month, for a total of 3,765 checkouts. Adult Services averaged 57 Boxes a month, resulting in around 1,598 checkouts.
Patrons also spontaneously share their joy with us by sending notes of thanks and even photos of themselves with their Binge Boxes.
- “Just wanted to say thank you for preparing the binge boxes for my kids. They absolutely love getting them. This time Jules (my 1.5 year old) was so excited looking through hers. It was perfectly tailored to her. Thanks so much! We really appreciate everything the staff at CSPL does for us.”
- “Loved getting them!!! I found new authors and ended up during COVID reading all of Tom Clancy, David Baldacci, Sarah J. Maas, Cassandra Clare and I’m not sure who else. And I kept the big sturdy boxes for mailing Christmas presents!”
There is no better proof that we have established a trusting relationship with these patrons. And while we don’t do it for the kudos, it sure feels great to brighten someone’s day!
Allison Porch, Marketing Coordinator, Carol Stream Public Library