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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Battle of the Books...For Adults?

So later today [after the ARRT Crime Fiction Genre Study meeting], I will be attending my school district’s Battle of the Books final.  My son’s team won at his school, and we are all gathering to cheer him on against the other 3 schools’ winners.

For those of you who don’t know what battle of the books is, here is a quick primer, although please note, while many school’s run a program like this, the exact details and procedures may vary.

In our district, it is 4th grade that participates in battle.  The 4 schools’  LRC directors meet with the staff from the three different public libraries that serve our school district. Together they pick a list of 15 books with an effort to have fiction, nonfiction, and a range of reading levels included.  Here is the link to our district’s information including a list of this year’s titles.

At the beginning of the school year the children are given the list and told they must read at least 7 of the books by the end of January.  They are placed into teams of five and spend 1 lunch period a week working together, memorizing authors and title, and practicing their teamwork under the guidance of the LRC director.

At the end of January, the kids participated in 2 rounds of battles at their home schools, answering questions about the 15 books, questions whose answers were always a title and an author. The questions were asked by the public librarians, who came to the school for this.

I could go into a lot more detail about the scoring, and procedures, but this is the gist of it all [again, more details here too].  The point I want to make here is that this program focuses on reading, teamwork, and collaboration between a few different libraries, both school and public-- and it is very fun. The kids had a great time and learned how to handle losing well.  Many of the 4th graders who did not make the final, will travel to the Jr High today to cheer on their schoolmates.

This sounds great Becky, but why do I, the adult librarian care?

Being a part of the battle of the books this year has been a wonderful “outside the box” learning opportunity for me, as well as a librarian mom’s dream come true.  While I was watching the kids compete in the preliminary rounds, I was also watching the parents get into it.  Surprisingly, they were not being all “stage-mommy” and competitive, rather, I saw them thinking about the questions and seeing if they knew the answers as well. [Many of the parents read along with their kids to be a part of it too.]

Then I thought, why can’t we adults have fun doing this too? I know Oak Park Public Library [up the street from me] has staged a very popular Spelling Bee for adults in the past. This is in a similar vein. Of course a battle of the books for adults would be slightly different since there is no school involved, but I have thought this through a little.

Why can’t 3-5 nearby libraries (I have at least 4 within 3 miles of my building) get together and pick a list of adult books?  Or, even better use a list of high interest titles that are not too difficult but still have substance like The Alex Award-- maybe not the newest one, but like 1 or 2 years ago’s list so the books are easier to get through ILL.

Then each library recruits participants and they meet monthly, like a book club, to talk about the books they have been reading.  Depending on how many people each library gets to participate, they make teams and have local battles until 1 team of 4 remains from each library. And then the winners from each individual library meet somewhere to battle each other.

Like the school battles, the librarians from each participating library would need to meet regularly to plan and prepare the quiz bowl style questions that would be used for the actual competitions.

All I see are positive outcomes for everyone in this hypothetical program:

  • Adults can get together for a more interactive book club experience. I could see the competitive angle drawing a younger and more male crowd than we usually get.
  • Libraries would work more collaboratively together; an activity that would increase all users experiences in the neighboring communities.
  • Communities that neighbor each other would come together for a shared program where neighbors can meet neighbors.
  • Voting age residents would have a fun and educational library experience which translates into fiscal support in the future.
  • It is fresh, modern, and outside the box library activity that is still solidly cemented in our core value as a book and reading based institution.  
I know it will take time and effort to turn this idea into an actual program, but I am going to give it a try. 

Let me know if anyone out there has done something similar with adults at their library.

And at the very least, I hope this post inspires you to think about some book based programming for adults to try at your library. Why should the kids have all the fun?

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