Friday, March 6, 2015

Scratch Tickets for the Win!

This week on YA-YAAC, there was a discussion about the different ways to run Summer Reading. The focus was on a Summer Reading Bingo card, which I have tried at my library and it bombed. I think it was too complicated for our patrons and Circulation Staff, though I know other libraries have had great success with it. However, I mentioned to the group that I use homemade scratch tickets for my Summer Reading and the interest it garnered prompted me to write this post.

The beauty of this idea is that any librarian can do it, for any age group. It is a fun activity for patrons and it makes a small prize budget go very far. (Our teens were happy to scratch a losing ticket because it meant they got into the Grand Prize Raffle.)

When we did the Bingo card program, I had 46 participants. The year afterwards, I decided to revamp my Summer Reading and take a very simple approach with scratch tickets. It paid off with 269 teens participating. Last year, we beat that number and had 321 teens in the program.

This is how we did it:

Our Goals

  • Make Summer Reading easy!
  • Increase participation.
  • Focus on fun.
  • Eliminate the barrier of registering to participate.
  • Encourage teens to return to the library all summer.
  • Make teens aware of all the library has to offer, most especially reaching those who only come in for their school’s Summer Reading books.

Benefits of Scratch Tickets

  • No registration needed—statistics were gathered on the back of losing tickets or the prize sign-in sheet. (I do have a registration form, which if they fill out, they'll get 3 extra tickets into the Grand Prize Raffle.)
  • It is simple to implement. Staff ask if teens are going into grades 6-12 and automatically hand them a ticket.
  • Teens instantly participated.
  • Staff were excited to have a winner.
  • Prizes were collected right away, eliminating hassle of hunting down winners later.


New 2015 Design!
  • It is time consuming to make so many tickets! But volunteers can easily do it.
  • Circulation staff participation are important since they are the ones handing out the tickets.
  • This program only rewarded those who came to the library often. 
  • Prizes may be a challenge for some libraries, depending on what your budget is. If this is the case, you can adapt this program where instead of having each library item have a certain prize, they can pick a scratch ticket for whatever prize they are hoping to win. I know of another library who holds an auction at the end of Summer Reading and these scratch tickets will award different amounts of book bucks to the patron. So, there are many different ways to use this!

How It Works:

  • You can buy Scratch Ticket Stickers on Amazon. I used to paint them, but when I learned of this in June of 2015, I completely redesigned our tickets to use them -- it worked out great! (If you prefer to make your own, we had used this tutorial: To save on time, we just painted a square over the words instead of painting the whole bottom like they did in the tutorial and we didn't use tape for clean edges.) 
  • 7 categories, 7 major prizes. Fiction and Nonfiction each had 2 midlevel prizes and free books.
  • All categories had lots of small winners, just candy and Summer Reading trinkets.
  • We started off with 2/3rds losing tickets and 1/3rd winning tickets and made more when needed (usually more losing tickets, but I was ready to buy more candy if needed).
  • ALL losing tickets qualified for the GRAND PRIZE RAFFLE, not listed on the Prize Board above.
  • One ticket per day, handed out by Circulation Staff. If they checked out multiple categories, they picked what ticket they wanted.
  • If they lost, they wrote their contact info on the back and the losing ticket would go into the grand prize raffle.
  • If they won, they had to sign a sheet before claiming their prize. (Helped with keeping stats on winners)
  • We made a Prize Board on the wall next to the Circulation Desk and entrance that clearly stated each category and the prizes. As teens won them, we taped "Claim" over the prize. This greatly influenced teens try check out different items based on what was available. 
  • I tallied our participant numbers based on the names on the losing tickets and prize sheets.

NOTE: We only put one major prize in the raffle per week, right on top of the pile so we could control when the big prizes were claimed and could spread it out throughout the whole summer.

What We Learned:

  • There were some teens who were disappointed that they couldn’t log their hours, but as one said, “I loved that [logging hours] when I was younger because I would constantly read in hopes of doing well in the program, but with my job and the crazy amount of summer work we have to do for APs, I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked.”
  • To accommodate those who are big readers but cannot come to the library often, next year, we are creating a category for book reviews.  One ticket per review.
  • Despite the fact that we give out prizes for non-books, books by far were the top checkouts. In 2014, 82.6% were book/audiobook checkouts. Of course, we didn’t release the major prize in these categories until towards the end of Summer Reading to encourage reading.
  • In 2014,  41% won at least once. All major and midlevel prizes were won by a different person.
  • We used to add the Summer Reading theme to the tickets, but decided to go generic so we can reuse the leftovers the following year!


You can double click and copy our free template to get started! We just ask that you comment on this blog that you're using it. The circles on the left fit the 1 inch Scratch Ticket Stickers from Amazon. Just add your text and you're ready to go!

Follow Up Information:

I have been getting a lot of similar questions, so here's additional information:

1. How did you stagger your winning tickets?  Was there a rhyme or reason?
Did you ever find you had a bunch of unclaimed prizes?

I staggered the small prizes with the losing tickets (this was candy, Summer Reading swag, and free books). However, my $25 gift cards and the bigger prizes, I kept out of the pile. I had enough so that I only gave away one gift card each week and then sporadically added the other prizes in.

To ensure these big prizes were claimed, I laid them on top of the pile so the next person would win it (I didn't want to worry about people never reaching the prize. I guess you can say the random part was for me -- I never knew which teen was going to walk through the door and win it). Everyone walked away with their prize, so I didn't have any prizes leftover... except for candy and the other small prizes, since I never could be sure how many people would participate and I wanted to give them choices.

2. Did you base how many winning tickets you had on the number of teens
participating or was it random?

I had no idea that first year how many people would participate, so I counted up my summer reading swag and looked at the candy piece amount listed on the bags and made that many winning small prizes. I doubled that number and made the rest for losing tickets. So, basically, every third person should win something. I ended up having to make more halfway during summer reading, but you'll know how many more to make when you check the piles. Once you complete one year, you'll have a good idea of how many tickets to make the next time. (And, honestly, halfway through the summer, I just add in more losing tickets since I figured by this point, teens don't have to win so often. They should be hooked!)

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts on Summer Reading!

17 Ways to Accomplish Summer Reading
50+ Ideas for Summer Reading Swag that Make Your Patrons Dance
Ready to Go Book Display: Villains, Superheroes, and Everyday Heroes


  1. Jess,
    This looks AMAZING! I've never done a Summer Reading before, but I've heard about the ones we've done in the past. I think this is brilliant -- I'm going to run the idea by a few people to see what they think! Thanks!! :D

    -Garrett P.

    1. I'm glad you like it! It is so much fun to do and our staff really enjoy when they hand the teen the winning ticket. Let me know how it goes, if you decide to do it. :)

  2. I thought of another question! How did you distinguish the winning tickets once they were painted? did you just keep them separate and fold them in as needed? or did you number them and keep a list elsewhere...?

    1. Each category is a different color and then we put small symbols on the back. So, a circle would be a $25 prize and a triangle would be a small prize, etc. We always collect tickets, so no one has picked up on our system. :) But it has been helpful for me to know which ticket is which. But numbering them would be fine, too.

  3. I am definitely going to use this with our teens at the library this summer. Its often hard to get them involved even though we have plenty who visit the library. I am excited to see how they respond to something a bit different.

    1. Glad to hear you're going to try this! Let us know how it goes. :)

  4. I do scratchoffs too, and to answer Liz's comment--Mine are business card-sized, so that I can print 10 to a sheet of cardstock; I use 1 inch-size stickers from I keep my stickered tickets in separate 5x7 manila envelopes labeled according to type of prize ("sorry try again," or "you've won a book!" or "You've won a giftcard!" etc). I write on the envelope how many I start out with in each packet and tally them as I remove tickets to put in to play at circ. We hand them out 1 ticket for every three books/audiobooks/mags/comics the teen checks out. It's been very successful here! I also do a grand prize drawing at end of summer and all tickets, winning and losing, are in that. My tickets are doublesided so they can put name & contact info on back for the drawing.

    1. I just learned of scratch ticket stickers and redesigned our ticket so we could use them. Totally worth the little bit of money and to skip all the painting and drying. Interesting idea to have teens check out three items at once to get a ticket. How many individual teens participated last year? There's a large portion of teens who only participated once during the summer -- I think they only came in for the Summer Reading Book and wouldn't have participated if they had to do any additional work. But at least these teens walked away from the library with a positive experience! :)

      We used to print double sided tickets, but I redesigned it this year so it is only one side. Less printing with less ink and less time to get the tickets ready.

  5. I'm excited to try this at our library! I've been searching for a new way to engage teens and I love the "instant gratification" aspect of this idea!

    1. Glad to hear you'll be trying it! Let us know how it goes!

  6. Love this idea. I was looking for a fun and fresh way to award prizes to our middle graders. This is definitely 'the ticket'(lol, *groan*) Thank you!

  7. Ha! Yes, indeed. :) Let us know how it goes.

  8. Just so I'm positive, they get a ticket when they check items out...not when they report reading?

    1. You are correct. While we want to encourage reading, it made everyone happier to not have to police it. I kept track of the statistics to see if people were abusing the system, but a majority of our teens came to the library only once or twice during our Summer Reading program and my big readers (who I already knew) came once a week. So, there wasn't a need for us to make them jump through hoops to get a scratch ticket. I have considered that possibility (and you can certainly change up the program to do that in your library) but there are only two people in my Teen Department and I didn't have time to follow-up on 300 teens. It was easier to count on Circulation Staff to hand out tickets immediately than hope our teens would report back.

  9. Loved this idea! We tried it as an adult and teen Summer Reading Challenge combined with Rate the Book. (If you filled in a book review you got another scratch ticket.) Adults LOVED it! We had to order more scratch stickers twice. Teens loved it too, but this year we had tough competition with Pokemon Go! We will definitely do this again.

    1. Hanna, thank you for letting us know how it went! We're glad to hear it was a success. Yeah, tough to compete with Pokemon Go. Who knew it'd be so big?

  10. OMG Scratch tickets!
    Scratch tickets, OMG!
    I work in a very small public library right now, and I think last year's teen participation was something like four people. Since we are so small, I decided not to do different colors for different genres, but rather, "check something out, get a ticket!" with a one per day rule.
    I just counted everything up today, and we had EIGHTY-THREE participants! HOLY SCRATCHIES, BATMAN! That's more than twenty times what we had last year! <3

  11. What an awesome idea. I'll be implementing this with my teen program this year. Thank you!!

  12. Thank you! I've been struggling with teen programming. Trying this - it just might be the ticket! :)

    1. Sorry, missed your comment until now. I hope this program helps you have an awesome summer reading! The simplicity of it should help take away a lot of barriers for participation. Let us know how it goes!

  13. I'm gonna try this out for this year's SRP. Thanks for the idea! :D

  14. This is my first summer reading program and I love this idea so I am going to try it out.

  15. I love this idea and I am going to try it for this year's SRP.

    1. Awesome! Please let us know how it goes!

  16. LOVE this idea and will be trying it with our Teens this year! My SRC goal across the board (kids, teens, adults) is to increase circ and increase participation. This looks like a great way to do that - thanks!

  17. Thanks for commenting! Let us know how it goes.

  18. Just got approval from my manager to use this for summer reading for my teens.

  19. I love this idea! I can't wait to incorporated the scratch tickets into my summer reading program this year. Thanks so much for sharing.