October 22, 2021

What librarians do to get people to read

Purple, teal new colors at library

Photos by Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Priscilla Berggren-Thomas, library director at Phillips Free Library in Homer, goes for a punk purple look at Prima Hair Salon on Friday, thanks to a challenge met by the Homer community to read more than 2,200 books this summer. Megan Williams styles her hair.

Two librarians at Phillips Free Library in Homer thought they’d be safe from coloring their hair, when they issued a reading challenge to the community — they would dye their hair purple or teal if their patrons read 2,200 books in one summer.

“This many books has never been read, not at Phillips Free Library, not for the summer reading program,” said Priscilla Berggren-Thomas, director at the 37 S. Main St., Homer, library. “Last year, the number was 1,700.”

“We figured if we picked 2,200, it (could) probably be reached, but it would be a stretch,” she said. Homer readers did better: 2,298 books.

Berggren-Thomas and Sarah Bouwens, assistant to the director, found themselves Friday at Prima Salon on Main Street, Homer Friday, doing something they have never done before: One. Getting their hair colored. And two, getting a dramatic color change.

“I think they are brave,” said cosmetologist Megan Williams, who was working her magic on the women. “And I think it’s an awesome thing to do for the kids. They are holding up their end of the bargain.”

Berggren-Thomas’ white hair “is going to be purple. White hair is easiest to accept this color.”

Sarah Bouwens, assistant director at Phillips Free Library in Homer, now has teal-colored hair. She had to have her hair bleached white to accept the blue-green color on Friday at Prima Hair Salon.

Bouwens was going for a teal, a greenish-blue color, at the shop in the back of the Bridal Barn.

Bouwens was in the process of going through pre-lightening so the teal will attach to it, Williams said. “People have to come to the library to see the final product,” Berggren- Thomas said.

“We didn’t think we’d do it,” she said. “Up to the last minute, it didn’t look like they would do it.”

The summer reading program went from June 17 to Aug. 16. Preschool children, teens and adults did the bulk of the reading, about 100 of the 250 people who signed up participated.

“We had one little girl, she’s like 5, read 360 books,” Berggren-Thomas said.

“I think it’s pretty incredible,” she said. “I don’t know how we are going to top it.”

“I think it’s fun for the people that participated and worked really hard to make it happen,” Bouwens said.

Berggren-Thomas took part in a webinar on how to get more people reading and learned that a community goal with a prize attached is effective.

“The way it worked, if they hit 2,000 books, we would purchase something for the library,” she said.

People select from a number of possibilities and voted for a telescope.

If the community read 2,200 books, the two directors would color their hair, either purple, pink, teal or blue.

“Everybody who came to our summer reading program party got to vote on the color. We pre-selected a pallet of color choices. I was not going to go for orange,” Berggren-Thomas said.