Badges for Teens – A TTW Guest Post by Steve Campion 5

Every year Pierce County Library System unveils a new Summer Reading Program. This year we’ve taken the teen program online (Teen Summer Challenge and challenged participants to explore their interests, their library, and their community through activities and masteries. Challengers can share their experiences, earn badges and achievements, interact with friends, claim their mastery of an activity group, earn library fine rebates, and share reviews of the books, music, movies, and places they love. Best of all, teens throughout out county library system can participate in the challenge together in one place!

The program has been going for more than a month so far and involvement is more than twice what it was last year. David Durante, one of the project managers, has promised the Youth Services librarians not to shave for a year if we exceed 2000 participants, and of course that’s elevated enthusiasm levels. What’s most remarkable to me is that this elaborate, interactive website was built on WordPress for less than $250. Kudos to librarian Patrick McVicker, its principal designer, for that. (Contact him at

We asked staff to beta test all of this in May. Over 150 did so, and they loved it. A few staff found themselves playing late into the night. Now that the teens got a month’s headstart, librarians outside Pierce County are welcome to sign in and try it out if they’re interested. Earn a badge or two.
Steve Campion is Library Trainer and IT Specialist at Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA. He is a principal contributor to the library’s social media sites and author/editor of Mostly NF and

5 thoughts on “Badges for Teens – A TTW Guest Post by Steve Campion

  • John

    This is a wonderful summer reading site. I have a couple questions though.

    How did you arrive at the total cost of this project as $250? Does that include graphic design, site design, back-end development, staff time, etc?

    Will you all make the code available to other libraries to use?

  • Patrick McVicker

    @John: The $250 only covers the cost for new resources for the projects (plugins, themes, other WordPress-related goodies). As you likely suspected though, the most significant investment was staff time.

    This included my own time for design and development, 40-80 hours over six months (a wide range as much of the development period was exploratory for not only this project but others as well), and the time of our Teen Summer Reading Program team, which was going to be invested in some kind of summer program either way (so I don’t really look at that as an additional cost).

    The platform hinges on three WordPress plugins, all of which are free: Buddypress (for the social network component), Achievements (for badges and points), and Contact Form 7 (for the badge claims).

    As I consider this year’s run to a bit of a “beta”, there’s no plan to go into any detail yet on documenting and formally sharing the project with other libraries. Perhaps next year we can put together a pre-packaged set of resources to distribute to other libraries. In the meantime, virtually all of the resources (excluding graphic and theme design) are freely available at, and I’d be more than happy to provide a shopping list of plugins for any enterprising library staff.

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