Gamifying and Growing a Community Health Program at Springvale Public Library

Liz Morris /

One of my favorite things about public libraries is how visible and tangible learning is in these community spaces. Patrons from all over question, consider, explore and persevere within the information universe. Perhaps most invigorating for public library staff is when their efforts ignite inspiration for the entire community, which is what happened at the Springvale Public Library in Springvale, Maine (service population 20,836).

Several years ago, Assistant Director Dawn Brown and one of her colleagues started an in-house wellness program for the library's small staff. This program included challenges such as getting up and walking around the library several times a day, parking farther away in the parking lot, etc. In order to make the effort both fun and easily trackable, staff members marked off their accomplishments on a bingo board of healthful activities.

Library patrons saw staff participating in this active and engaging program, and expressed interest in having something similar made available to them. Shortly thereafter, the Let's March into May program was created!

Let's March into May

Library staff have fun with the "blender bike" at the program culmination celebration.

One of the core priorities at Springvale Public Library is to be a place where community members can ask for any type of support or programming that comes into their head, and an organization that will work diligently to accommodate the community's priorities. In order to respond to patrons' requests for a local health program, Brown connected with local partners to plan and implement Let's March into May, a ten-week program held from March to May 2015 encouraging people to engage in healthy activities and come to the library to have their progress stamped. The full scope of this exciting program was featured in local news stories, including the fantastic community collaboration and patron impact.

All partners worked together in a kick-off meeting in early 2015 to scope the program. A local graphic artist designed an interactive game board for participants to track their progress completing 20 holistic health activities—this gamification aspect of the program was a big hit with patrons. A local bank, the Sanford Institution for Savings, contributed financial support for food and prizes at the culminating community celebration of the program held in May 2015. A local health agency, Partners for Healthier Communities, donated pedometers for participants to incentivize activity.

Another local library, the Goodall Library, collaborated at every step of the way, including promotional and material support with items such as descriptive fliers and bookmarks. Ultimately, 120 community members participated in the program, and Springvale Public Library built a strong foundation for future health programming.

Extending Program Expertise

In the coming months, the library will incorporate many of the elements of Let's March into May into additional programs. The 2016 Adult Summer Reading theme in Maine is Exercise Your Mind – Read. The library will customize a similar game board format with exercise-related topics and resources to align with and promote summer reading activities.

This September, the library intends to work with local partners again to activate STEP-tember, a program replicating the prior approach with a more consolidated timeline and an emphasis on movement and mobility. With creativity and collaboration, Springvale Public Library has responded enthusiastically to their community’s demand for health programming, in a sustainable (and FUN) way!