What Is Beanstack?
The Upper Hudson Library System has subscribed to a new service on behalf of member libraries. Beanstack is a relatively new service that provides Readers Advisory recommendations and a platform to host reading incentive programs. Beanstack was initially created as a service for kids and teens, but has recently branched out to include adults. In this module, we will focus on Beanstack from the patron perspective. If you are interested in creating a reading incentive program, I will be happy to walk you through that in person. You will notice that this post is not linked to our Beanstack presence. This is because we want to make sure staff has a chance to test-drive the software before we release it to the public. When the service goes live to patrons, links will be added to this post. Until then, you can find a link to our Beanstack page in an announcement on our staff intranet.
Creating an Account
Click on the “Register” button for the appropriate age group. After you have registered, you can use the “Sign In” link in the upper right corner of the page to access your account.
Fill in the form and click “Next.” To change this information later, sign into your account and select “account” in the upper right menu.
After submitting the account information for the main user (account creator) a prompt will appear at add an adult.
You can enter info for another adult or decline. If declined, a prompt will appear to add a child.
If you do, another slightly different registration form comes up with name, age, and school. Only name is required. You can opt into email recommendations, but they will come to the adult’s email unless the child registers separately. You will be prompted to add children until you answer “no.” Then you will get a confirmation screen.
Click “Continue” to access your account.
Using Your Account
When you login, you will be taken to the account home page.
In order to make reading recommendations, Beanstack needs to know your preferences. Enter reading preferences by clicking the button “Start: Choose a reader” in the shaded box. If you did not add a second reader to your account, the button will read, “Update info and reading preferences”
Choose two things you look for in a good book – otherwise known as doorways. For more details about each doorway, click “more info” in the lower right of the doorway graphic. To change your doorways later, sign into your account and click “Personalize” in the top bar.
The programs tab shows all of the programs/learning tracks the user has signed up for, as well as indicating any goals and progress made. By default, there is a self-paced generic program to complete 50 books. Users earn badges for completing milestones. The program may or may not have a prize or drawing associated with it. Select sub-menu items on the left side of the page to view more information about badges and rewards for that program.
When librarians set up programs, milestones can be set for anything, and activities can range from reading a book to attending a program. Raffle tickets and prizes can also be configured for the programs. For now, though, we will focus on the patron experience.
This tab shows all badges earned, regardless of associated program.
See which books are recommended for you based on the doorways you selected when setting up your account. Each entry provides a plot summary and buttons to get the book from our catalog and view a more detailed description. On the detailed description page for a book, click “add to the log” in the upper right corner of the screen to log the book for a program. Enter the indicated information.
Other options available in left menu on the recommendations page include viewing book lists (curated by librarians) and viewing available learning challenges for the user’s age group.
Users can also keep a personal log of books, unrelated to reading challenges. Navigate to the log in the upper menu to add to this general log. The log form is the same as for a program.
This area is for a list of items you have marked to read. In order to mark items for your wish list, either click “find books” on this page or go to the Book Lists page from another link.
Open a book list, and select “wish list” under the title.
If a book from the wish list gets read, you can log the book directly from the wish list screen and it will be removed from the wish list. If you want to remove a book from your wish list without logging it, use the “remove” button.
Reading Incentive Programs
Because we want to make sure staff is trained on the patron side of Beanstack, I haven’t mentioned much about the reading incentive programs. These programs have a variety of possible implementations. For example, some UHLS libraries are using it to track the “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” program. Others plan to use it for summer/winter reading programs. In addition to earning virtual badges for milestones, patrons can get virtual raffle tickets for individual tasks and the end-of-program raffles take place with the click of a button, rather than drawing a ticket out of a canister. There are many options for configuring a reading program. If you are interested in starting one, I would be happy to walk you through it.
UHLS has vetted several reading lists for use by member libraries. The lists all have at least 10 titles on them, and they can all be found in the UHLS catalog. We can pull those lists into our Beanstack page from a Google Doc UHLS maintains. I have pulled in a couple of lists already, and plan to add more. Librarians can also create book lists and add them to the Google Doc for other libraries to consider duplicating. For instructions on duplicating and creating lists in Beanstack, refer to this helpdesk article.
- Create a Beanstack account with your work email. This is important because we will want to add you to our team in the admin interface.
- Choose some reading doorways and then go back to look at your recommendations. Are they books you are interested in reading? If you do not want to receive emails with reading recommendations, be sure to turn it off in your account preferences.
- Log a book in the ongoing program.
- Visit the Beanstack helpdesk and explore some topics. Many of them are admin-focused, but there are several helpful topics for assisting patrons, creating programs, and reporting on usage.
- Create or copy a book list into our Beanstack site using the instructions in this helpdesk article. If you have created a new list, let me know in your blog post and I will show you how to add it to the UHLS Google Doc.