Reading Activists in Swansea made great use of social media to promote the Summer Reading Challenge. Volunteer Coordinator, Laura Cornish, gave us an insight into how they went about promoting the programme online.
We had so much fun
The Swansea Library service had so much fun with this year's Summer Reading Challenge. We took on 35 young Reading Activist volunteers this summer, all aged 14 to 24. Several of these took on the role of Summer Reading Challenge reporters. It was their responsibility to decide on what we would share on our Facebook, Twitter and Blog page that we had created. We wanted to celebrate the crafts, events and activities that the other volunteers (Summer Reading Challenge Assistants) had been running in the Swansea libraries to make the Challenge as fun as possible.
As the Swansea Library Service is part of the City and Council of Swansea, branding had to be strict. We aren't usually allowed to use social media to promote our library services as there is a lot of red tape involved! The council and library logos had to appear on every scrap of promotional material. We also had to feature the GwirVol logo as they provided the funding for our volunteers. Once those boxes were ticked we used the amazing images Chris Riddell created for this year's Creepy House theme. We used the same images for the Twitter, Facebook and Blog for continuity and to reinforce our message.
On the Twitter and Facebook feeds, we encouraged people to use the #TeamSwanseaSRC and #SRC2013 hashtags to promote the event and their involvement.
Creating and posting material
The Reading Activists volunteers were responsible for coming up with the material for the blog, but they sent it to me to do the actual posting so that it could be checked for appropriateness, spelling etc. As I only worked part time as Volunteer Coordinator, this meant that we couldn't update the pages as much as we might have liked, but it seemed safer than having all 35 volunteers posting willy-nilly on the sites.
In future years, it would be a great idea to have one or two of the older Reading Activists to take full responsibility for updating the social media sites, as they would have more time to do so than I did this year!
A creative team
Our young Reading Activists were incredibly creative, and we were very lucky to have their great ideas as part of our library team. They wrote original spooky stories for children, tweeted spook-themed jokes, posted puzzles and colouring pictures for our library users and Summer Reading Challenge participants to print off and use, and even created video tutorials of the activities that they had devised. That way, kids who hadn't been able to make it into the library for some of the events could still have a go at home.
Celebratory photo-stories were also created. These made fantastic and fun use of the hundreds of photos that had been taken during the Challenge. The Reading Activists were sure to get the appropriate parental permissions for every image taken of our young library customers, demonstrating their confidence in approaching customers and their organisational skills.
This was our first experience of working with Reading Activists and the experience was positive for everyone involved! As a library we were able to celebrate the services we have to offer our library users and to gain fresh ideas from creative young minds. The volunteers gained valuable work experience and also got to experience how fun working in their community could be. And of course, the children taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge were able to be encouraged by some older youngsters who understood how savvy they are with all things technology-shaped.
We laid a solid foundation of using social media to promote and celebrate our service, as well as to encourage young participants of the Summer Reading Challenge. It was also particularly rewarding to read original stories by some of the volunteers who happened to be aspiring (and very talented) young writers. We look forward to offering opportunities like this in future, and taking this solid foundation to new levels.
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