ASSOCIATES (2009, November, v. 16, no. 2)

Feature

Sponsoring Contests: What We Did Right, What We Did Wrong, and Why It Turned Out OK Anyway

cangletonwaggonerbwCarol Waggoner-Angleton
Special Collections Assistant
Reese Library Augusta State University, Georgia

and

Members of the Reese Library Inreach Committee
Jennifer Boone, Michelle DeLoach, Mary E. Kerins, Francine McCoy, Camilla Reid, Charles Sulzycki, and Matthew Whittington

Introduction:

Once upon a time, the Inreach Committee of Reese Library, as part of their community outreach remit, decided to become a contest sponsor.

After several years of sponsoring a fundraiser for the local rape crisis organization, feedback from the library staff prompted the Inreach Committee to search for a new community outreach project.

In the feedback, the staff agreed on three pivotal points:

Most libraries public and private recognize outreach as part of their mission and obligation to the community (i). Further we felt it was a valid opinion “that academic librarians should… participate in literacy outreach programs for children and youth in order to help build these skills [reading and reading comprehension] and encourage lifelong learning. Academic librarians, as a group, should maintain their primary mission of supporting the research and technological goals of their university. However, they can do more to contribute to other university goals, especially to those involving outreach to young people beyond their campus.”(ii)  The Inreach Committee felt that we should search for a service project that complemented this philosophy.

However, we felt that we should direct our service efforts toward an existing program rather than building one from scratch. Thanks to the rape crisis fundraisers, we realized that the library lacked enough personnel to be the primary contact on a service project.

Project History:

We approached the campus literacy center to ask if there were projects where library participation would be welcome. While this was a fruitful meeting, which resulted in ways we could increase publicity for the literacy center and help patrons contact the literacy center if necessary; the literacy center’s most pressing need was for volunteer tutors to work with individual clients. We felt we could not meet this need. Staff could not be released each week for the hours it would take to have a successful tutor/student relationship.

Working through a contact from the university’s Adopt- A-School Committee, we were offered two opportunities through one of the committee’s selected schools. An elementary school media specialist was looking for volunteers to read to classes during American Education Week and Children’s Book Week; this activity would expand the Guest Reader program already supported by the University’s Adopt –A- School Committee. Also, the Committee wanted to provide prizes or incentives for participants in the school’s Accelerated Reader program.

The Inreach Committee felt that we could accommodate the school media specialist’s request for additional readers for the Guest Reader program. Library staff was encouraged to sign up to read to children at the elementary school during American Education Week. Thanks to an enthusiastic response, we were able to send someone to read each day of American Education Week. Staff response for the Guest Reader Program was supportive. When the Guest Reader Program coordinator on the Adopt-A-School Committee was unable to continue, the Inreach Committee stepped forward to take over coordinating the program during the spring semester. We continued the process for this popular project, drawing volunteers from all over the campus and scheduling them to read on Wednesday for an hour to the assembled kindergarten classes. Having taken over the coordination of the guest reader program, we elected not to send extra readers during Children’s Book Week.

The request to provide prizes or incentives for Accelerated Reader participants proved a bit more problematic. Inreach was reluctant to commit to a service project that involved fundraisers. One of the criteria for a replacement project was to scale back the amount of time the library spent preparing for a major fundraiser.

Rather than providing some sort of incentive for all the Accelerated Reader participants, the Inreach Committee had a brainstorm to provide a special prize for the child who accumulated the most points in the Accelerated Reader program. A tailor made solution was at hand. We could fund a scholarship for one child to attend Augusta State University’s KIDS University program, for a one week themed session that reinforced reading, math and science concepts through unique learning opportunities. This plan was appealing for several reasons:

Inreach contacted the director of the Kid’s University program to secure the support of the Department of Continuing Education in reserving a registration spot for a scholarship recipient. Having secured their cooperation, Inreach contacted the school media specialist and offered the scholarship as a prize for the child who accumulated the most points in the Accelerated Reader Program. The offer was accepted.

Inreach decided to hold a series of mini-fundraisers to raise the scholarship. We decided participation would be limited to library staff only. Knowing how much all our library staff loves to eat, each person in Inreach took on a mini-fundraiser. One fundraiser was a lunch of bean soup and cornbread. Another fundraiser was a breakfast of fruit and various homemade muffins. As a change from food, one fundraiser was a Valentine’s basket containing a stuffed bear, with chocolates and flowers. No donations were suggested. Staff who ate the goodies put whatever they felt was appropriate into the fundraising basket. The process stayed very low-key and no one person took on a disproportionate share of the work. Six mini-fundraisers provided enough return to fully fund the scholarship by April, one month before the May award deadline.

A certificate designating the top Accelerated Reader the winner of the 2009 KIDS University Scholarship sponsored by Reese Library was created by ASU Continuing Education. This was presented by Reese Library staff at the annual school awards assembly. Continuing Education provided a “welcome” packet for the scholarship winner; the packet included information about KIDS University, registration forms for the child’s parents, and contact information.

The winner enjoyed a week in July exploring in the morning the geography, plants and animals of the Australia and the world’s major deserts, as well as creating Australian bark art and loom weavings. The winner also participated in an archaeological dig on the ASU campus coordinated by KIDS University and the anthropology department. A happy winner and a community service project that didn’t leave library staff grumpy and burnt out means a win-win situation right?

Yes, but we have to admit we had a good outcome mostly by happy accident. We found later that there were many steps we should have been conscious of before we planned our project.

Let’s look at our title again: Sponsoring a Contest, What We Did Right, What We Did Wrong and Why It Turned Out OK Anyway.

Project Evaluation:

What we did right.

What we did wrong.

What we will do better next year.

Project Conclusions:

Why we feel the program turned out OK anyway.

All in all, some pretty solid outcomes, and with the lessons learned, outcomes worth repeating and improving.

Additional thanks go to:
Arlene Schler, Program Coordinator, Augusta State University Continuing Education
Dr. Marion Chapman, Media Specialist, Lamar-Milledge Elementary School


(i) Schneider, Tina. Outreach: Why, How & Who? Academic Libraries and their involvement in the community. The Reference Librarian. 2003 82: p.199

(ii) Malanchuk, Iona R. and Marilyn N. Ochoa. Academic Librarians and Outreach Beyond the College Campus. Southeast Librarian 2005 53:3 p.23-24

(iii) Reese Library, Augusta State University. Reese Library Mission Statement. Online: http://www.aug.edu/library_administration/admin-mission.html. (July 30, 2009) para 2-3

(iv) Imhoff, Kathleen R.T. and Ruthie Maslin. Library Contests: A How to do it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2007 p.4

(v) Imhoff, Kathleen R.T. and Ruthie Maslin. Library Contests: A How to do it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2007 p.74

(vi) Imhoff, Kathleen R.T. and Ruthie Maslin. Library Contests: A How to do it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2007 p.48

(vii) Imhoff, Kathleen R.T. and Ruthie Maslin. Library Contests: A How to do it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2007 p.5


Bibliography

Augusta State University. Mission Statement. http://www.aug.edu/president_office/Strategic%20Planning.htm. (July 30, 2009)

Imhoff, Kathleen R.T. and Ruthie Maslin. Library Contests: A How to do it Manual. New York: Neal-Schuman. 2007

Malanchuk, Iona R. and Marilyn N. Ochoa. Academic Librarians and Outreach Beyond the College Campus. Southeast Librarian 2005 53:3 p.23-25

Reese Library, Augusta State University. Reese Library Mission Statement. Online: http://www.aug.edu/library_administration/admin-mission.html. (July 30, 2009)

Schneider, Tina. Outreach: Why, How & Who? Academic Libraries and their involvement in the community. The Reference Librarian. 2003 82: 199-213

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