‘Six Book Challenge 2012’ – Early experiences in a Health & Social Care Library

HLG Nursing Bulletin Vol 32 (2)

Jodie Knight,
Library & Information Services Manager
Institute of Health and Social Care Studies Library
Health & Social Services Department
Princess Elizabeth Hospital,
Rue Mignot,
St Martins

The Institute of Health & Social Care Studies Library in Guernsey, along with many other health libraries in the UK, has decided to embrace the Reading Agency’s initiative, the ‘Six Book Challenge’ during 2012. The Reading Agency launched the Six Book Challenge nationally in 2008. Since then an estimated 47,500 people have registered for the scheme and 17,000 have completed it. Ninety workplaces in the UK are involved in delivering the Challenge to their staff, including over twenty NHS Trusts. (Read – The Reading Agency, 2012)

The Six Book Challenge is a project that aims to engage people in an enjoyment of reading. It supports and encourages less confident readers, readers who might be rediscovering reading or those who may be getting into reading for the first time. The scheme invites participants to keep a note of whatever they read. It could be a book, an e-book, a poem, a magazine or newspaper article, a website or even a digital game. The Reading Agency believes that this “can be particularly effective if participants are right at the start of their reading journey and need material that is both accessible and of interest to them”. (ibid)

Other key aims and possible outcomes that attracted the Institute Library to run the challenge include the following:

  • to increase library membership and use among learners
  • to support skills development and progression to further learning
  • to inspire more learners to talk and write about their reading experiences, possibly within a reading group
  • to meet corporate priorities for educational attainment, quality of life and civic participation
  • to provide a simple but powerful tool for partnership working, in this instance with the Public Library

The Institute Library moved into its current location in November 2009. The move saw the Library physically re-united with its parent, the Institute of Health & Social Care Studies, after a period of more than ten years separation. The relocation produced a welcome increase in the number of visitors to the Library and the number of book loans for 2011 was the highest recorded since the Library automated its loans more than a decade ago. However, the Library Service would like to see usage improved further and has started making more efforts to highlight new and existing items in stock. Methods include the use of web services to create interactive book lists that are subsequently e-mailed to target audiences and made available on the organisation’s intranet; and subject displays with the usual incentives offered to encourage people along to browse – mostly involving food!

For some time the idea of incorporating a fiction collection in the Library had been mooted. On being made aware of the Six Book Challenge through an e-mail discussion on a Library mailing list, the Library & Information Services Manager approached the Public Library in Guernsey to find out more.

Fortunately the Public Library had been gearing up to promote the scheme to workplaces on the island and so the Institute Library took the opportunity to be the first by introducing the challenge within its parent organisation, the States of Guernsey’s Health & Social Services Department.

In order to launch the scheme the Institute Library organised the loan of a collection of fiction from the Public Library. This will be refreshed biannually and contains mostly fiction materials, including Quick Reads, Latvian and Polish and Portuguese literature, and a range of genres such as romance, adventure, crime, comedy, chick-lit and biography.

A launch event took the form of an open day in the Library where people could find out more and sign up for the challenge, whilst browsing the new fiction collection whilst eating cake and biscuits! This was marketed on the organisation’s intranet and by displaying posters within the Institute. An article to advertise the launch event was submitted to the organisation’s staff magazine but due to a delay in publication was not included in the final edition. However, twenty people signed up on the day, the majority of whom were student nurses, lecturers, trainers and administrators at the Institute. Subsequently a few employees from other areas of the wider organisation have registered.

Each participant received a free Six Book Challenge Diary to help them keep a record of what they have read and what they thought about it. In order to prompt them to consider what to read next, they are encouraged to get their diary stamped in the Library after reading each ‘book’. If participants read 6 ‘books’ by the end of the year they will receive a certificate to formally acknowledge they have completed the ‘Six Book Challenge 2012’.

Since the original launch event, Library Users Group Representatives have been provided with more information about the scheme and have shown an enthusiasm to promote it in their work areas with the help of publicity materials in the form of posters, leaflets, bookmarks and drinks coasters. A meeting with the Housekeeping Manager has led to work being underway to translate the poster into Latvian, Polish and Portuguese to help market the scheme within that particular department and so promote the Library to a group of staff who have previously under-utilised its facilities. An article has been submitted for the summer edition of the staff magazine in order

to advertise the scheme and a second open day aimed at encouraging people to take up the challenge before their summer holidays. Anybody who signs up to the Challenge on the open day, and those who have previously enrolled, will be entered into a prize draw for an Amazon Voucher.

The first participant to complete the Challenge has been invited to receive their certificate of completion at the event. This will provide a photo opportunity with hopefully a further article for the autumn edition of the staff magazine. Two participants have in fact completed their Challenge. The first, an administrator who described themselves as “not really a reader”, has “really got into this” and felt that “starting with the early reads got me into reading a much longer book”. They sum up their experience with the words, “Brill – Thanks”. The second participant, a laboratory technician saw the challenge as a reason to rediscover their previous reading habits and “to read more than (they) have been of late”.

With six months to go before the Challenge for this year is over the Institute Library is already fine tuning the plan for next year. Future ideas include: limiting the period of time allocated to the challenge to six months, possibly between January and June to tie into competitions and prizes organised by the Reading Agency; use of a monthly raffle which can be entered by participants when they borrow a book; a mobile library where the books are taken to different areas of the organisation (particularly relevant to those departments not on the main hospital campus where the Library is situated); the introduction of a collection of mood-boosting books; and the creation of a reading group, in particular one aimed at staff who have English as their second language.

In conclusion, the Institute Library’s Six Book Challenge 2012 has experienced some early successes, with continuing marketing hopefully further developing awareness of the initiative within the organisation. This will hopefully result in an increase in the number of employees who register and share their reading stories with the Library Service this year, and provide the building blocks for achieving more of the key aims of the scheme in 2013.

Read – The Reading Agency (2012) The Six Book Challenge: About. Available at: http://www.sixbookchallenge.org.uk/about/ (Accessed: 20 July 2012)

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