The Ramapo Catskill Library System (RCLS) has conducted a Regional Battle of the Books each year since 2008 spearheaded by our terrific Youth Services consultant, Randy Enos. If you search ‘Battle of the Books’ on the Web the results list includes many public library websites. ‘Battles’ challenge youth to read specific books, do their best to remember the details of them and then compete against teams from other libraries that have also read the same books in a Family Feud type setting where team members buzz in to provide the answers.

RCLS serves 47 chartered public libraries spread out over almost 2,500 miles. Two years ago one of the library directors in Sullivan County sought to introduce a Battle at the County level. The first Sullivan County Battle was held in April of 2013 and three teams participated. That initial County Battle went so well that in 2014 four additional teams participated – with more looking to participate in 2015. There are only 9 libraries in Sullivan County plus two branch buildings – so the excitement that has been built up around the Battles is clearly contagious. Some middle and high school librarians have partnered with the public libraries to help coach teams – leading to some libraries having so many kids interested that multiple teams per library have formed.

Book Battles gives tweens and teens that love to read an opportunity to do so in a fun, competitive, social environment where their love of reading is valued. Often loving a great book is a private pleasure; here they discuss these books – their plot lines, character development, what they understand and don’t about what they are reading, and what they like and don’t like about them, in a way that does not involve an assignment or a grade. Youth participate for lots of reasons – they like reading, they like spending time with others that like reading, they like to compete, and who wouldn’t like winning a trophy and/or prizes for doing so? In our case there is a banner to be waved by the winning library plus a cash prize that participating teams contribute toward when they register – and every participant wins books from a pool of titles that each library donates toward.

Book Battles are inexpensive and do not require you – as a trustee or library staff person – to do a lot in creating one from scratch. Here is a link to the RCLS Battle of the Books information: get you started. Forming a committee is advisable as you begin the process of creating a Book Battle in your region.

Submitted by,

Mary Paige Lang-Clouse

Director, Ethelbert B. Crawford Public Library, Monticello, N.Y. (Battle Team: ‘The Novel Bunch’)

Trustee, Sunshine Hall Free Library, Eldred, N.Y. (Battle Team: ‘Team Eldred”)