Inspired by BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs the Libraries at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals ran an initiative called Castaway Books. We asked our users what 3 books they would take with them if they were to be Castaway to a remote location & the reasons why.  A blog was created using WordPress to record our users choices. You can have a nosey via this link;

Castaway Books ran for a full year. Each season we changed the     Castaway location, in order to keep it fresh, updating the blog &        promotional materials to reflect the change. During the first         Summer, users were Castaway to a desert island, in Winter a remote cabin, in Spring a remote cottage & lastly in the final Summer, a remote farmhouse.  We ran the initiative with a prize draw element for the first two seasons. At the end of the Summer desert island iteration a winner was chosen to win a cash prize of £50 & at the end of the Winter remote cabin iteration a winner received £30. In Spring & the final Summer, we ran Castaway without the accompanying prize draw element. Unfortunately, but maybe unsurprisingly, we saw a reduction in participants.

Throughout the year we had various Castaway displays in order to advertise the initiative. Any books our Castaways chose that we didn’t have in stock, we bought for our stock. On the blog, each book recommendation was linked to the book on our catalogue. At the end of Castaway, a final display was created which summarised the initiative & showcased all the books our Castaways had recommended throughout the year. A QR code was included in the display for quick access to the blog. Over the year, the blog had over 2000 views & a total of 783 visitors to the blog.  Books that went out from the final display were ‘Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone’ by J. K. Rowling, ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’ by Jenny Colgan, ‘A Good Catch’ by Fern Britton & ‘1984’ by George Orwell.

After the conclusion of Castaway, we sent out a survey to those who entered the competition. The feedback was positive. In particular, feedback indicated users enjoyed reading others Castaway choices. Responders requested that Castaway continue. However, we just didn’t have the participation throughout the Spring & Summer iterations to justify continuing the project. A case of preaching to the converted?  If we were to re-boot Castaway, there are some things we would consider doing differently in order to reduce barriers to entry & encourage more participation. Such as;
- Reduce the requirement of three books down to one. We appreciate staff are under immense time pressures, writing a review for three books was possibly too much to ask of our users.
- Allow anonymous entries. We included the names & job titles of our Castaways on the blog. Although feedback indicated users liked the community feel this created, we appreciate it could also be a deterrent to those wishing to participate but not wanting to put their information ‘out there’. We could run a totally anonymous Castaway or leave it up to the Castaways whether they wish to be named or anonymous.

Overall Castaway Books was a fun initiative, that both users & Library staff enjoyed, which we hope to resurrect in the future!

Georgia Coupe
Library Assistant
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust