By: Christina Samek, Marketing Specialist.

Welcome to 2018! For some of you this is the start of a new quarter or semester and nice deep breath after the craziness of preparing for the holidays. Perhaps you’ve made resolutions for a new classroom culture, or perhaps it’s as simple as resolving to read more books (which we strongly support!). It’s a new year and dare I say it, an opportunity for a new you! Speaking of new, if you are looking for new ideas to promote your OverDrive collection, we’ve got them.

We love hearing from our partners. In fact, we can’t take credit for some of the best promotion ideas out there, because they’ve come directly from you! One such example comes from Lynn Miller, School Library System Director at Sullivan County BOCES in New York. She introduced a reading “March Madness” to her schools and it took off like, well, mad!

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March Book Madness

The idea came to life in 2016 after Miller saw School Library Journal‘s “Battle of the Books”. The titles presented were picture books up to YA fiction and nonfiction. She thought it was a great idea but wouldn’t work exactly the same in her BOCES, which is broken up into several elementary (K-6) and secondary schools (7-12). She worked with her PR Specialist and the school librarians to formulate a plan. They decided March presented a unique opportunity with the hype around NCAA March Madness and the creation of brackets. But, instead of basketball teams, they selected a collection of books, a mix of print and OverDrive digital, and let the students vote on their favorites.

“We try to pick books that wouldn’t always be their first choice, a different author or topic they may not have been familiar with. We really try to broaden their reading horizons,” notes Miller of their diverse selection each year. The students vote on their favorites leading into March to form the final 16 (a set for elementary and set for secondary). Miller gives the students plenty of time to read leading up to their voting windows to ensure students aren’t blindly making selections.

“We established a Google form and linked it to our BOCES front page for voting, the students have to establish which school where they were from” says Miller on her strategy. “We do a two week time period for voting so kids whose book didn’t make it to the next round still have time to read the additional options to encourage them to keep voting.”

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Titles to spark student interest

Miller is entering into the third year of the campaign and so far the results have been fantastic and surprising. “Our last year was our best yet; even if the students didn’t get to read or listen to the book during the contest, we found we had circulations well past the contest deadlines.”

Their current March Madness runs January 2nd to March 23rd (with the initial 40 selections narrowed down to 16 leading into January.) The sweet 16 include Posted by John David Anderson, Orphan Island and Beyond the Bright Sea for the elementary set and Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, and The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (a nonfiction pick!).

Miller offers this advice to anyone trying a promotion like this: “You could do this with any books in your collection, but try to pick books that spark their interest but still help them relate.” Diversity is key.

“Our goal here is to make them lifelong readers and to read beyond the school day, to choose reading,” notes Miller and we love that sentiment.

Miller invites other schools to participate in their online voting: visit & scroll halfway down to make selections and cast your votes! Note, choose “Outside Sullivan County.”

We hope you choose reading in 2018!