Friday, May 8, 2015

50+ Ideas for Summer Reading Swag That Will Make Your Patrons Dance

It's almost time for Summer Reading! If you're like me, you've had the programs and projects booked and planned for months (who can wait?), but you're just now thinking about prizes. Of course, there are as many ways to award prizes as there are prizes to choose from. Do you do raffle prizes, weekly picks from the Treasure Chest, or a combination of both? Here are some favorite items that have been given out in libraries around the country.


I'm not talking about the Children's Room Treasure Chest (that's later); these toys are more popular with teens or adults. Any of these items can be personalized with your library name or logo, and given out as weekly incentives or door prizes at programs.
  • Books of sticky notes; some nicer ones, like these, have a notepad, sticky notes, and sticky flags in a plastic cover.
  • Note pads - always useful, especially if they come with a pen
  • Flash drives (perhaps in bracelet form, though those are a bit more expensive)
  • Screen cleaners that stick to the back of your device (genius!)
  • Flashlight keychains
  • Travel mugs
  • Tumblers or other drinking glasses
  • Water bottles - many options available! I used to prefer the aluminum ones to the plastic ones, but lately I'm a bigger fan of these neat collapsible types that take up almost no room at all.
  • Tote bags. Never under-estimate the appeal of a good-quality reusable tote bag. I personally can't resist them, and neither can most teens and adults. And you can always go with the theme.
  • Laptop bags or tablet cases
  • Can koozies
  • Headphones or ear buds
  • Lip balm. One library reports having great success with this, to the point that people would come in asking for the lip balm and ultimately end up getting a library card.
  • Stress balls, especially in unique shapes
  • Electronics chargers, like this multi-charger or this portable Power Bank
  • These amazing book-themed buttons, sold on Etsy

Treasure Chest Loot

But speaking of the kids, the Treasure Chest is great for the kids who want a prize now. In my library, kids can earn either a Treasure or a raffle ticket to use for a chance at a larger prize. These treasures include:
  • Finger puppets
  • Super bouncy balls
  • Small plastic toys or characters
  • Keychains
  • Plastic sunglasses
  • Bubbles (especially the ones that smell like ice cream)
  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • PEZ dispensers are a big hit, and come in both DC and Marvel
  • Art supplies, like crayons or colored pencils
When you want something a bit more substantial as a prize, maybe as a raffle prize, you might want to go a bit bigger. (In some cases, a lot bigger.) You can put together a Bag O' Swag, filled with any of the above items, or you can get something different entirely. There are a few different genres of prizes to choose from.

Unique Items

For the "where did you get that?!" factor, try something a little bit different.
  • Giant candy, like this 5 lb. gummy bear
  • Or this 1 lb. York Peppermint Patty
  • Or this huge Snickers bar
  • Or this gigantic Box of Nerds
  • One library we spoke with makes their own 3D printed awards - how cool is that?!
  • These Water Dancing Speakers are a big hit with teens
  • The Create Your Own Superhero Kit is perfect for this year's theme
  • Board or card games, like Superfight!, the superhero card game
  • Posters, like this awesome one, featuring minimalist superheroes
  • Again going with the theme, try action figures, like the ones by FunKo - good for all ages!
  • LEGO sets are always popular, and come in countless designs
  • For the kids, try something to get them outdoors, like this Plasma Car
  • Groups of smaller things work well, too. Try a stuffed Curious George and a couple board books for the smallest library patrons, or some coloring books and Super Heroic Crayons. For some reason, getting a bag of prizes - even if it's all little things - makes it seem more special.
  • Signed books
  • Cosplay items, such as this Link hat from the Legend of Zelda (bonus points if you get the shield, too!)
  • Jewelry from popular manga or anime series
  • Anything to do with Minecraft will have a following, like this foam pick-axe

Gift Cards

Money is always good! Local businesses will often donate gift certificate for a prize or two if you ask them nicely. We have gotten coupons for free ice cream cones, free rounds of Mini-Golf, etc. Last year, Chipotle gave us coupons for free burritos! Or you can always go with:
  • iTunes
  • Toys R Us
  • Simon Malls (or your local mall)
  • Comic book or music stores, like Newbury Comics


Because everyone wants the latest toys. 
  • Kindle Fire or other e-reader (why the Fire? Because it's also a tablet, so it's an e-reader, but it's also so much more!)
  • Samsung Galaxy or iPad
  • One library is raffling off an Apple Watch! That's one way to get noticed.


Things are nice, but it's nicer sometimes to have an experience than an item. Whether it's a trip somewhere or a party at your library, these prizes make memories that will last far longer than plastic finger puppets ever will.
  • Tickets to movies, aquariums, museums
  • Tickets to amusement parks, like Six Flags or Cedar Point
  • Games at local arcades, mini-golf courses or bowling alleys
  • A pizza party at the library
  • An all-night lock-in at the library
  • Moving to #1 on the hold list for a book or movie of their choice

Thanks to ALATT, Programming Librarians and Teen Librarians Facebook Groups for your insight and experiences!

What prizes can your library patrons win? Tell us in the comments!

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