Column Description: Whether you’re at the front desk or behind the scenes, learn easy ways to make your library workplace fun, positive, and energetic. Pep Talk will make you want to abandon your home office and come back to the camaraderie at the library.

In my last pep talk, I promised an update on our library’s all-volunteer, in-house production of “The Music Man.” Unfortunately, despite all my enthusiasm, the idea never really took off. For one thing, it turned out euphonium lessons didn’t fit into my busy schedule of working, parenting, and reading as many books as possible from the new release shelves. There were a few other impracticalities that got in the way (the pool table wouldn’t fit in our elevator), but at least now I know that live theater isn’t as easy as I imagined and I can move on to bigger and better ideas for summer. 

Like most other public libraries, the annual summer reading program is the biggest thing we do each summer. While our youth librarian works hard to bring the kids and teens Oceans of Possibilities, I will be spearheading our second annual adult reading challenge. The event is simple: we ask patrons to keep track of how long they spend reading each week. We tally the numbers every Friday, compare them to our competitors, and at the end of the summer, we see which library has logged the most hours. 

The hook that takes this from yet another reading challenge to a nationwide tournament of champions is that the other readers are all from libraries in areas named Clinton. Last year, in our first Clinton Versus Clinton event, we took on the North County Branch Library in Clinton, New Jersey, which happens to be my hometown library. I have fond memories of visiting there as a child every week and was happy to reconnect with them via Terry Edwards, their branch manager. This year, we reached out to Lou Bernard at the Clinton County Pennsylvania Libraries and his enthusiasm to join in on our nutty idea was off the charts. 

From a program-planning perspective, there are innumerable advantages to this idea. For one, the only thing patrons have to do is keep track of how long they read. There aren’t any complicated craft projects, expensive incentives, or lengthy reading logs. Plus, we could keep this going until my retirement. According to my research, there are at least 36 more towns, villages, and counties named Clinton in the U.S., which means our summer adult programming is set through 2056. 

There are a few snags we’ll need to work out if we want to keep this going. For lack of a better name, we called the 2021 event “Clinton Versus Clinton” and this summer we just tacked on an additional “Versus Clinton.” After year four or five, we’re going to need more paper and/or smaller font to accommodate everyone. Name ideas I’ve been floating around are Clash of the Clintons, The Tour de Clinton, or Clinton vs Infinity. Luckily I have 36 years to come up with all of them.

There’s also the question of how to recognize the winner. The running joke during last year’s challenge was that the library whose patrons read the most would receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the other library. Unfortunately, the 200-mile trip from Central New York to Central New Jersey would cost a pretty penny with today’s gas prices. Instead, we’re working on turning a well-loved trophy from a youth soccer league into a Stanley Cup-type award that could travel between the winners via US mail. 

It’s not always about the prizes but it doesn’t hurt to get a reward for one’s hard work. A clipping tucked into my scrapbook from the Hunterdon County Democrat from the 1980s reads, “The North County Branch has announced that Laura Stoll is one of the winners of its blue-ribbon friends summer reading program. Youngsters read books from a selected list and dropped their names in a hat after each book was completed.” The prize? Just what every Gen Xer wanted to show off at school: a needlepoint pencil eraser cover. 

If you are wondering, Clinton, New York won the inaugural competition with 2,492 hours read versus New Jersey’s 2,464. There’s no predicting how Clinton County, Pennsylvania will shake things up this summer but if their excitement is any indication, it’s going to be neck and neck (and neck). All I know is that I’ll be logging every minute I spend reading using a pencil I found in my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper that’s topped with my needlepoint cover. Let’s go, Clinton

Laura Stoll has worked as the Assistant to the Director/Office Manager at the Kirkland Town Library in Clinton, New York for the last five years. She received her M.S.I.S. from the University at Albany in 2020 and in 2019, was awarded the NYLA-Dewey Scholarship. Previously, she was the secretary of the Friends of the Kirkland Town Library,  worked as a reporter/editor for the Clinton Courier, and served as the president of the Jack Boynton Community Pool. When she’s not at work, she’s reading the latest fiction books, listening to podcasts, or hanging out with her husband and two kids. She loves her job at the library because it combines her passion for reading, writing, and serving the community. Although she’s never been a coach or a cheerleader, she’s excited to use “Pep Talk” to give her fellow librarians some words of encouragement.