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Volume 45, Number 3

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"Teen Read Week" Sparks Regional Cooperation in Metropolitan Richmond, Virginia

By Pat McKay and Janet Baumgardner

READ FOR THE FUN OF IT! The theme of the first national celebration of "Teen Read Week" this past October 17 – 23 provided the catalyst for three neighboring public library systems to join forces in a cooperative promotional effort designed to motivate teens to read for pleasure. This effort included the lure of TV stardom, as well as chances to win free tickets to a "Widespread Panic" concert and the opportunity to meet that popular rock group behind the scenes after their performance. How did these non-literary incentives connect to teen literacy? As usual, librarians had the answer.

When the American Library Association, the Young Adult Library Services Association, and the National Education Association announced "Teen Read Week" last summer, Janet Baumgardner, the Program Coordinator with Chesterfield County Public Library was immediately interested. In their media releases, the sponsoring organizations had stressed cooperation among schools and public libraries. Ms. Baumgardner took this suggestion a step further by inviting representatives of neighboring Richmond and Henrico Public Library systems to a brainstorming session that included the marketing coordinator from FOX 35, a local television station. The group's charge was to develop a highly visible, community-wide collaborative project that would appeal to middle and high school students. Since Teen Read Week was scheduled for the third week in October, timing was also important. The project, as developed, included the following three components:

The above segments combined to form a successful first annual Teen Read Week celebration in Chesterfield, Henrico, and Richmond, Virginia. The partnership also strengthened the bond among the three library systems and paved the way for further cooperative programs.

We are looking forward to this year's Teen Read Week celebration, October 17 - 23 and have agreed that earlier planning will result in greater community awareness. In fact, we plan to begin publicity in the summer, while teens have fewer constraints on their time, and might be visiting the library for pleasure. School cooperation was definitely a valuable component in publicizing last year's FOX 35 contest. This can and will be built upon. Expanded pre-publicity in the 2 local publications aimed at teens, or having teen readership --TAB and STYLE WEEKLY -- will also be pursued. We hope to continue our partnership with the local FOX 35 TV station. Lessons learned in dealing with TV include the importance of written, step-by-step guidelines, rather than simply having a conceptual agreement with the television station, and the necessity of a release form to be sent to the parents of the teens to sign well ahead of the taping session. This mailing should include the time and location of the taping, directions and other pertinent information.

Our experience proved that Teen Read Week is a valuable opportunity to reach an important segment of our population. Time spent in celebrating teens and calling their attention to reading for fun is time well spent. Please join us in participating in TEEN READ WEEK, 1999.

Pat McKay works at the Richmond Public Library, and Janet Baumgardner is on the staff of the Chesterfield County Public Library

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