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Guest Post: Awesome Box

Thanks to Ben Miller, director of the Sauk City Public Library, for this AWESOME guest post!

The Awesome Box is a simple way to solicit and share patron recommendations.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Your patron reads a book, watches a movie, or listens to audio materials from your library. 
  2. They return the item and indicate that the item was, in fact, mind-blowing or awesome. 
  3. Your staff scans the item’s ISBN into the library’s Awesome Box site. 
  4. The item is then populated on your library’s Awesome Box page and links to the record in LINKcat where other interested patrons can place a hold on the item and have their mind blown as well. 

But don’t just take it from me. Here are the creators, Annie Cain and Matt Phillips, explaining the Awesome Box concept: http://youtu.be/WE6eSGUq3WU

Awesome BookmarksBecause we’re a small library, we’ve traded the concept of a physical box for returned Awesome items with a laminated bookmark. Patrons just slip the bookmark in a book they think is great and it alerts our staff that we need to mark it as “Awesome.”

We also share patron recommendations for Awesome stuff in three ways. Online we have a link to our Awesome Box site: http://saukcitylibrary.awesomebox.io/ (this link is now accessible on LINK catalog computers, so patrons can browse the Awesome Box and place a hold without logging onto an Internet station) and newly awesome items generate a tweet on our Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/SaukCityLib/status/364479556444770304 (they’re working on the wording to make it more indicative of being an Awesome Box book.) In the library, we have a physical display for books. We check out items to an Internal card for a week if it is simply returning to that library and not filling a patron hold.

The Awesome Box was developed by Harvard Library Innovation Lab and is completely free for libraries to sign up and use. To sign up, go to http://awesomebox.io/ and enter your email address and wait for a response from the folks at the Innovation Lab. While you wait, you’ll want to gather some information

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Username (used to log into the system) 
  • Email Name of your library 
  • Your library URL 
  • Requested Awesome URL (SOMETHING.awesomebox.io) 
  • Catalog ISBN lookup URL (yourcatalog.com?isbn=) 

For SCLS libraries you can use this URL for the last item on the list:

Patrons seem to really like both the act of declaring a book Awesome and finding books that other patrons have deemed Awesome. As a selector, I feel like I have a much better feel for the kind of books my patrons like because we’re actively soliciting their opinions.

In the end the Awesome Box is just, well…awesome.


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My library is considering starting the Awesome Box, but have only been thinking about it for adult members. Do you have any restrictions on the type of materials (in terms of ages that the book would be of interest to?) that can be awesomed?

As far as I know, it isn't possible to restrict the type of materials that can be "awesomed" in the software itself, but you could set up multiple branches that could act as age categories / interest types. We just have one "branch" but you can look at McMillan Public Library's use of the Awesome Box to see how they set up lots of different categories (http://www.mcmillanlibrary.org/awesome-books). Ultimately, you'll just have to create signage and make sure your staff know the guidelines if you decide to implement any. The Awesome Box interface does allow you to remove items from the Awesome Box if they don't fit the intended criteria.

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