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The Contra Costa County Library Summer Reading Festival

Contra Costa County Library
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Innovation Leader: Susan Lynn, Reading & Literacy Manager, slynn@ccclib.org

Problem Statement

Doing More with Less
The Reading Festival is an integral part of the Contra Costa County Library’s Strategic Plan, written in response to a broad survey of the community, which identifies the promotion of reading and literacy for all ages as its primary role. The Library is committed to bringing this countywide reading initiative to its communities on an annual basis despite decreased resources resulting from the economic downturn.

Innovation

The Reading Festival began in 2008 as a weekend-long celebration that featured fifty authors and special programming in each of the County’s twenty-five community libraries. Several staff members at each location, along with two paid consultants, planned the event. When faced with a decrease in funding from the library budget, grants and sponsorships, the Library created new ways to plan and present a Reading Festival.

Implementing a regional planning model, that employs small teams across library locations we were able to minimize the demand on staff time by establishing platforms for cross-programming, cross-advertising & publicity, and by capitalizing on existing community partnerships for outreach. This regional approach required a shift in philosophy and work flow for staff accustomed to planning primarily for their individual community library but it has proven to be very effective.

In addition, the Reading Festival is now the kickoff event for the popular Summer Reading program. This joining of programs is resulting in a more comprehensive marketing plan for both and further establishes the Reading Festival as a reading initiative, in the public eye. In addition, this consolidation has allowed the library to focus funding and resources in fewer areas producing a higher-quality event in each of the five designated regional locations. This year there will be one major, international acclaimed author headlining the Festival. He will speak at the County’s premier venue which grants us access to professional publicity opportunities that will easily make up for the loss of the previous budget used for external advertising.

Progress

The move to regional planning and production has consolidated the library’s resources, vision, and energy and lead to an event with greater impact in our communities. What was originally thought of as a toned-down Reading Festival – a stop-gap to get through the tough years -- has actually become a stronger, more popular, and more efficiently-run event; with ever greater community appeal and a stronger than ever demonstration of the library’s commitment to its strategic plan