Refreshing Media Mashup: Using Library Cards for Freebie Fun!

June 4, 2010 It’s hard enough to get kids thinking about ‘summer reading’ when kids are gearing up to break loose from school for fun in the sun, but this cool idea prompting families into libraries to check out freebie ‘staycations’ is brilliant.

You know how local attractions sometimes offer ‘free admission days’ that turn into hordes of over-crowded frenzied folks prompting many of us to ‘find the day and stay away?’ Well, this Family Pass local prototype enables you lots of FREEdom, to ditch the deluge, enjoy hometown favorites, AND nudge people back into using their library systems. (many battling to stay relevant in today’s digital media mix)

Here’s how it works in San Francisco, which seems logical to be replicated in YOUR hometown. (actually, they mirrored the idea from smaller cities like Boston, Phoenix, Minneapolis)

Visit any branch of the 25 public libraries in SF to ‘check out’ a slip of paper granting a week-long window to take advantage of any of 18 top attractions on a first come first served basis (e.g. aquarium, zoo, spots that often rack up big bucks with family fees)

There’s no reserving passes in advance, but to prevent it from being a chaotic scramble akin to a Filene’s basement firesale, they’ve leveraged the online digital catalog where people can ‘search out’ which branch still has passes to a given attraction. (e.g. if you really want a day on the bay when Aunt Nellie’s in town, but your local library only has Cartoon Art Museum passes for example, you can put your keyboarding prowess to work to hunt down which branch hasn’t used the Blue & Gold Bay Cruise yet)

Cool, huh? I could see this working in any city, not just tourist towns like ours…

In Hawaii, we used to have ‘kamaaina discounts’ for locals, so we could afford the treasures beyond the beaches in our own backyard. This is a perfect win-win for families who can’t afford to bring a brood to cultural art, history, and science offerings and I could see how each town could customize it for year-round appeal. (SF wraps up Dec. 2010)

Maybe even toss in an incentive plan to get kids reading for summer and use the outings as ‘prizes?’ (yah, that’s a bribe, similar to what SmartyCard is doing with their ‘earn your screen time’ notion to keep academic skills sharp —Learn. Earn. Play—but it does give kids control and a sense of agency, far more fun than a ‘workbook’ approach)

What would you do in your town?

How long since you’ve ‘been to anything’ in your own local environs?

Other staycations involving libraries, freebies, and media fun? I’ve got one…We host free screenings every month of parent/youth media documentaries on a variety of topics in an informal ‘house party’ mode.

This month it will be Where Do The Children Play? (see updates on our sidebar under the clapboard at right) More ideas for freebie summer media fun?

I like the ‘flick and float’ set up of screening a dvd outdoors in community pool environs, like I wrote about here, “Night at the Museum Turns Into Night of History Lessons” floating around on rafts. Fun. Free. Trying that here next…

Related Resources

Free Summer Lunch for Kids/Teens and CheckOutSF Flyer

Library Webhead: Making Libraries Relevant in the Future

Libraries Engaging the Community (w/TEDx video)

The Analog Divide: (Responding to Seth Godin’s Library Post)

Staycations: Alternative to Pricey, Stressful Travel (CNN)

Top 10 Summer Reading Lists for Kids & Teens (

Top 10 Great Graphic Novels for Teens (YALSA)

Read, Kiddo, READ! (James Patterson’s site; new EarlyWord GalleyChat)

Summer Freebies Families Love ( blog)

30 Great Books for Girls (New Moon Girl Media) Personal plug: I highly recommend New Moon Girl Media….an ad free, subscription-based magazine and online community for tween girls (8-12+) which could use some serious “fiscal fitness” to survive on the financial front! Please consider adding this to your local library’s shelves! Click the link on our sidebar or go directly to as we’re donating any/all leads toward their survival.

Visual Credit: PasadenaNowTV


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