Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Are you up for the Slupree challenge? (Heather Booth)

My library is in the process of examining our services and revamping our marketing strategy.  We’ve done surveys and focus groups and had lots and lots and lots of meetings.  It can be an interesting process to take a close look at why we’re doing what we’re doing, how to do it better.  I’ve been especially interested in the intersection between underutilized services and unmet needs, and it’s at this crossroads that my summer pet project was born. 

Are you up for the Slurpee challenge?

I love Reader’s Advisory (see how I capitalize it? I love it that much).  It’s my favorite part about being a librarian and I think I’m pretty good at it.  I’ll be bold and say it – I think my RA skills are an underutilized service, and my Slurpee Challenge is my gamble that there is an as-yet unmet need for good book suggestions in this town, especially for reluctant readers. 

I issued this challenge to the teens in my community:  If I can’t find you a book you enjoy reading by the end of the summer, I will take money from my own pocket and buy you a Slurpee at the 7-11 down the street.

Now tell me, how many hard case teens do you know who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to prove an uppity librarian wrong?  It’s the book version of a dunk tank at the fair, plus they get a Slurpee out of the deal.

I’m willing to admit defeat, but only after a fair fight.  There are conditions to be met!  It’s only open to teens that have library cards with us, and it’s only good this summer.  I get up to three tries, and promise to suggest five books each time.  They must agree to read at least 30 pages from at least three of each of the books, and they have to agree to tell me what they like and don’t like.  I have to accept that they’ll reject some (or all) of my suggestions.

By the end of the summer, for the toughest challenger, I’ll have suggested up to fifteen books (RA statistics!), they’ll have checked out at least nine (increased circ!), and in their quest to prove me wrong and claim their icy blast of colored sugar water, the most reluctant reader will have read 270 pages by August (summer reading!).  I’d call that a win-win, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is. 

At the very least, the giant poster with a cherry red Slurpee next to the desk is a curious enticement and a good opener to potential RA interactions.  The Slurpee Challenge is detailed on the back of every “good summer reads” bookmark, and at the end of the Summer Reading Club promo material too. 

I’ll report back as the summer progresses.  But in the meantime, wish me luck!  Have you tried any offbeat or unusual ways of engaging in teens with books over the summer?  Share your stories! 


  1. I can't wait to see how this goes! Very clever way to both engage teens in a playful way and boost the necessary statistics to please the higher-ups. Best of luck to you!

  2. Genius! What a great enticement. I just hope they don't break your bank. But, no doubt about it, you're going to create new readers. 🙂

  3. Brilliant! I can't wait to see what happens. Do you have a list of books that you like to recommend or sites that you use to help? Thanks!

  4. @Ardith, that's a great question. I do have some go-to lists, but for this project I'm trying not to rely on them and instead really trying to listen to what the kids are asking for… or not asking for. I think that if they're willing to make the effort on their end and are exasperated enough to do it I should really work to break out of my sure-bet recommendations. Novelist is the tool I've been using most heavily for requests for specific things, and I'm digging deep to pull out things that these kids might not have tried before.

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