Posted in Passive Programs

Subscription Boxes for Libraries

Owlcrate has blown up and I subscribed at one time but $30, no thanks.  If I don’t want to pay $30, I’m guessing teens don’t either so we decided to give teens a free alternative to Owlcrate.

What’s In Our Box?

Our box contains one book and three small bookish/themed items. Just like Owlcrate, we atozqaRvSOKj+gBVw552eQhave everything wrapped in tissue paper with a postcard explaining what’s in the box.  We also include information about joining our book club or other teen programs.

How Did We Get Our Stuff?

We get our books from conferences, donations that come from other libraries, and publishers that give us books to review (we read and review them first).  You can also solicit publishers for free books and swag.

Another library uses library books and the teens have to check out the box like they would check out a book.

Our swag came from websites, Five Below, and Target dollar section. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative:

  • If you or a colleague is going to ALA, comic cons, or other bookish conferences, have them grab a bunch of bookmarks, pins, buttons, bags, notebooks, or other bookish swag.
  • Publishers will sometimes send you swag if you inform them of your program.  Go to each publisher’s site, scroll down, and look for “Contact Us.”
  • Ask your director or circ coordinator if you can include library promo items.
  • If you have a button maker, make buttons.
  • If you have a Silhouette Cutter, make vinyl decals.
  • We ordered our pins from Pinmart. 
    • If you don’t want to buy pins, you can make pins using Shrinky Dinks
  • Ask for donations from local restaurants or coffee shops for a one free treat coupon.

We ordered our boxes from but the got expensive. We decided to go with colored parcel envelopes from Amazon. We get them big enough to fit a book.

How Do You Begin?

  • The first thing we did was look at our budget to see how many boxes we could do 66QK3pRqR8e30v5b1OojKAper month.  We decided on ten boxes but you can more or less than that.
  • We then needed a catchy name.  We are terrible at naming our programs and if you are too, ask staff or your teens.  Our subscription box name is Ship in Volume. I got this name by Googling book idioms.
  • If you are familiar with Owlcrate, you’ll know that their boxes are themed.  The next thing we did was create three themes.  Since our name is a take on shipping book couples, our first theme was romance.  Subsequent themes include fantasy and contemporary. Our promotions looks like this:
    • April- We Ship It:Romance
    • May-All the Feels: Contemporary
    • June-A Whole New World: Fantasy
  • Time to promote! Here’s the description in our newsletter:
    • Have you wanted to sign up for OwlCrate but don’t want to drop the cash? Then sign up for our Ship in Volume Book Subscription Box and you will get a new YA book and a box full of themed goodies. What’s even better? You get to keep the box and everything inside!
      This subscription box will be limited to ten people per month, and you may register for all three months. If no spots are available, you will be placed on a waiting list. To subscribe to our subscription box, simply email INSERT YOUR EMAIL or message INSERT YOUR HANDLE on Facebook or Instagram with your name and email address. We will notify you when your box is ready for pick up at the library! Your box will be held for pick up at the desk in INSERT LOCATION for one week after you have been notified. If you fail to pick up your box, it will go to the next person on the list.
    • After the newsletter was released for a couple of weeks, we still had boxes available so we promoted it on our Instagram.  We received most of our signups through Instagram.
  • Time to Assemble!
    • Inside most subscription boxes, there will be a postcard describing the contents.  We did a postcard but instead of informing where to buy, we wrote cheeky descriptions.
    • We also created a logo using Canva and made it into a sticker.  To make the o0Vsf+4pQXyLyvTq%PNjogsticker, we printed the logos on sticker paper and cut them out using the Silhouette Cutting Machine.  If you don’t have one, print your logo on printer paper, cut it out and glue stick it.
    • We do not have ten copies of the same book so we chose books based on the reading habits/interests of our teens.  We knew most of the teen participants so it was easy to customize but if you are receiving new teens to your subscription box, you can include a survey in the email you send them.
  • Other Ideas
    • You can include a book review sheet for teens to fill out and return. You can put those reviews by the books in your stacks or on your social media/website.
    • You can include a sentence asking teens to take a pic of their box on their social media and to use a hashtag.

So far the teens who are participating are REALLY excited about the boxes.  They were calling them Owlcrates at first-LOL.  We even had a mother email us asking if her homebound teen could participate.  Our goal for this program is to reach readers who are too busy to attend library programs but still want to participate. So far, we are seeing a mixture of our regular teens and teens who are in high school or college and are too busy to attend library programs. We hope the word gets out and that it grows.

Update Since This Original Post

As of February 2019, our subscription box program has become very popular and we have grown from 10 teens/month to 31 teens/month. We were able to get a local sponsor though a literacy organization to help with expenses.

What’s Next?

Since it is a very popular program and it’s reader’s advisory that reaches teens who don’t attend programs, we will be expanding the program just for the summer.

The summer box will be called YAAASS Box-Young Adult Amazingly Awesome Summer Subscription Box. This will be available for 50 teens for June and July.  We are encouraging teens to read the books and ask that they attend a FB or IG Live discussion or attend our normal monthly teen book club. There are other rules that teens must commit to before they may register. If you are interested, please see the information below.

What is the YAASS Box? It is the Young Adult Alarmingly Awesome Summer Subscription Box! Sign up to receive a YAASS Box and you will get a new YA (young adult) book and a box full of themed goodies. What’s even better? You get to keep the book and everything inside. 

To receive the box, you must be able to:
  • Commit to reading the book and participating in an online or in-person discussion about the book from this month’s box. 
  • Post about the book to social media (Facebook, Instagram).
  • Sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Challenge. 
  • Pick up the box by the deadline. 
June’s books are (you pick one): 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (best suited for teens in grades 8-12) 
Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Faith Hicks (best suited for grades 6-8)
Registration is a first come, first served basis- spots are limited and they fill up quickly. You will automatically be registered to receive the YAASS Box for June AND July. 
To sign up to receive our subscription box: email ___________ or message ZB Teens on Facebook (ZB Teens) or Instagram (@zbteens) with your name, grade or age, and your choice of book from the list above. We will notify you when your box is ready for pick up at the library from the email or social media platform where you originally subscribed! Your box will be held for pick up at the desk in The Sandbox for one week after you have been notified. If you fail to pick up your box, then you also forfeit the box. Additionally, if you fail to complete the requirements listed above, you will not be eligible to receive the YAAASS Box in July. 






YA Librarian. Maker. Slytherin. Mgn of YALSA Programming Hub. Podcaster at The Novel Universe.

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