In the North Country, March is the doldrums of the school year. Everyone is sick of winter, but it’s not quite nice enough to be outside yet, and it tends to be the longest stretch of the school year without a vacation. Everyone gets a little crazy. What better time to capitalize on the basketball obsession and liven up the library with a March Madness-style event? Our annual Book Madness competition is a great way to get students and staff into the library and talking about books!
Book Madness starts with the book brackets. It’s not realistic to expect the students to read all the books in one month, so I settled for a project goal of generating buzz and raising awareness of the titles. Reading goals can be achieved by choosing the books in the brackets via reading lists. Other options include student recommendations, circulation statistics, or simply librarian choice. It’s a great opportunity to generate interest in newer titles, but it’s important to include well-known, popular titles that students can root for. When laying out the brackets, be sure to avoid pitting two heavy hitters against each other in the first round. Just like in the basketball lineups, you want to see the finals come down to the most popular titles.
Students and staff are invited to fill out their brackets and turn them in during the first week. Students who get the most brackets correct are entered into a drawing to win prizes. Having a separate category for staff allows for some healthy rivalry. Books “win” each week as a result of voting, so the first week also includes the first round of voting. Voting continues throughout the month, starting with the Sweet 16 the first week, and narrowing it down to the Elite 8 the second week, the Final 4 the third week, and Finals in the final week. In order to maintain student engagement even if they are out of their bracket, all students who vote get entered into weekly, smaller prize drawings.
It’s important to hype the event. Remember, the goal is to get people talking about books! Not only did our library visitation increase, but so did circulation of the books in the bracket. The first year, it came down to The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series (The Hunger Games won). The second year I included a couple of books that had been on the summer reading list, plus I asked the English teachers what were the most popular classics they did in class. Our final two were The Great Gatsby and Go Ask Alice (Go Ask Alice won). This event could be easily scaled down for elementary school, if needed, by simply pitting two books against each other per week and allowing students to vote. Even in a school with low circulation numbers, an event like this can really generate interest in the library.
About the Author
Rebecca Sofferman is the school librarian at Colchester Middle School in Colchester, VT. A 2009 graduate of Syracuse University’s iSchool (MLIS), Rebecca was previously district librarian and technology coordinator for the Tupper Lake Central School District in Tupper Lake, NY, an elementary school librarian in Saranac, NY, and a high school librarian in Malone, NY. She is currently on the planning committees for nErDcampVT and Dynamic Landscapes, and was formerly Secretary of NYLA-SSL. Find her on the web at http://rsofferman.weebly.com/ and on twitter at @sofferbrarian.
Sofferman, Rebecca (Buerkett). “March Book Madness.” School Library Connection, January 2017