“The Book is Just the Beginning,” Part 2

Mihaela writes: In the first segment of this two-part entry, we explored the variety of events offered by the Chicago Public Library at neighborhood branches during their One Book seasons. Over the years, the library has increased the number of events at physical branches. But CPL has also created innovative digital programs to encourage participation via Twitter chats, digital blog posts, and CHIRP Radio. This post is about such online programming.

For the 2014-2015 season, on Michael Chabon’s The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, OBOC launched chapter-by-chapter online “Reading Sprints.” The sprints encouraged people to read the book according to a paced schedule announced through Twitter, creating in the process an evolving, but also temporally specific, collective reading experience throughout the city (and anywhere else around the globe where the Tweets inspired people to participate).

One Book One Chicago “Reading Sprints” created designated segments of text, and times, for people to post about their reading online and join a collective conversation about the selection by tweeting responses, opinions, favorite quotes, and other reactions to the narrative. These sessions were designed to motivate patrons to set aside an hour to read “together” in the CPL web Reader and prompt those who have fallen behind to catch up before the section’s availability expired. (A “Reader Session” is defined as any site visit where a patron has opened the Reader and continues to interact with it.)

How it worked: Each of the six sections of Kavalier and Clay was accessible in a CPL-branded web Reader during specific availability windows. Once an OBOC ‘copy’ of the title was checked out by a patron, CPL automatically checked in and checked out the sections for the patron on the scheduled dates of availability. In order to encourage patrons to continue to engage with the content of the book once they finished reading, CPL devised six ‘missions’ for each of the six sections of the book. Readers posted their results to the library over social media (particularly, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook) using the #OBOC and #readingsprint hashtags in combination with a mission specific hashtag (#mission1, #mission2, etc.). Posts were featured on the CPL OBOC page. To encourage participation, CPL librarians using the @1book1chicago Twitter account also joined in on the reading sprints.

Reading sprints encouraged participation in an online reading experience and generated Twitter buzz for the OBOC program in general. The reading sprints, along with associated Twitter chats and assigned “missions”—i.e. trivia questions about the book—attracted the audience that the OBOC team wished to have.

Inspired by the buzz the reading sprints were generating, CPL partnered with BiblioCommons to become the first library system in the nation to offer an innovative online platform of free in-browser “social reading” of the entire novel. To participate, one needed only a system library card available at one of their branches or online. This pilot program attempted to integrate two types of reading experience: a traditional, paper-based, physical reading experience and a screen-based social media analogue.

Kavalier and Clay was released online at onebookonechicago.org in six serialized installments, with the first section available from February 2nd to May 3rd and subsequent installments available for two weeks at a time. The first reading sprint took place on Thursday, February 5th. Statistics from the CPL/BiblioCommons archives covering the period from Feb 2, 2015 to Feb 22, 2015—that is, from the OBOC public launch of the online reading experience through the end of Part 1—show 1624 total reader sessions for Part 1 of Kavalier & Clay, 1189 unique reader sessions, 7411 program page total views, 5921 unique views, and an average time on page of just over two minutes.*

While past OBOC seasons relied mainly on physical book discussion events, and the 2012 Gold Boy Emerald Girl season on media and blog coverage, advertisements, and art exhibits, the new online activities pioneered for Kavalier and Clay made the Online Reader and the Twitter Reading Sprints an important part of the digital programming for Third Coast and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Because the reading sprints for these later books did not attract the same level of engagement as the 2014/15 season, CPL’s OBOC team will experiment again for the upcoming 2017-2018 season, featuring Twitter chats as well as an online scavenger hunt for program offerings.


* Statistics on Kavalier & Clay Reading Sprints come from CPL files and BiblioCommons. Thanks Jennifer Lizak, the Chicago Public Library’s “One Book One Chicago” Coordinator, for contributions to this report.

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