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What is Beanstack?
Beanstack is a subscription library tool that has three functions:

  1. Digital reading program management
  2. Book recommendation emails with optional program announcements and, for parents of young children, an early literacy tip
  3. App recommendation for young children

How can Beanstack be used?

  • As a source for book recommendations for your avid adult and teen readers, including book group participants
  • As a source for book recommendations for parents of young children, who want recommendations targeted to their child's interests by email
  • As a digital tracking system for reading programs
  • As a source of app recommendations for kids ages 0-12
  • As a collaborative tool. Partner with a local agency who needs to track any type of program. They get the tracking tool through you, and you get to market your library to a new audience!

What's the benefit to the library and to our patrons of using Beanstack?
For the Library:

  • Expand awareness of library services through regular emails
  • Offer easy readers advisory service
  • Deliver early literacy messages related to the book being recommended
  • Offer a digital alternative to paper logging of reading
  • Expand awareness of library programs and build audience

For Patrons:

  • Help in choosing titles they and their child will enjoy
  • Ideas for sharing the recommended books with their child
  • A digital means to participate in a reading program

How does the reading program function work?
The digital reading program function allows libraries to set up reading programs for any age group, youth or adult or a combination.

Some examples are Summer Reading Program, Winter Reading Program for Adults, Fall Family Reading Program, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. By signing up, the reader (or parent of the very young reader) can:

  • Log reading by books, time, and other options
  • Receive electronic badges
  • Be notified of prizes earned
  • Write book reviews
  • See booklists on topics of interest to them
  • Participate in Learning Challenges

These functions may be enabled, disabled, or customized according to a library's needs. Your programs can be set up simply (no prizes) or more elaborately, with prizes and/or "learning challenges" where participants are encouraged to complete certain activities.

How does the email recommendation function work?
The email function works in two ways:
  • As part of a reading program
  • Independent of a reading program

In registering either for a reading program or simply for an account, adult and teen readers are asked if they would like to receive an email every two weeks with a book recommendation. Parents registering a young reader are asked if they would like to receive weekly emails with a book recommendation based on their child's interests.

When the user has opted in, the emails will automatically be sent by Beanstack to the user with a signature line of your library. Parents of young children will also receive an early literacy tip related to the book recommendation.

The books recommended are automatically checked against the UHLS catalog before being included in an email. So all titles will be available within UHLS libraries, although not necessarily at your library.

If the library chooses to enter program information, the emails will include upcoming programs of interest to an individual reader.

How does the app recommendation function work?
The app recommendation is self-serve for patrons. Beanstack includes a database with apps recommended for ages 0- 12.

Users get to app recommendations when a child's sign-in is active. Click the Recommendations tab, then choose the Apps heading on the left menu.

(Switch from an adult login to a child's login by choosing the Switch Readers tab at the top when in patron experience mode. You can also add another reader here.)

How can my library try Beanstack?
Find out who your library's Beanstack Lead is by checking here. (If you don't have a Beanstack Lead, email Mary Fellows ( to designate one.) Check with your Lead to find out where in the setup process your library is. If there's uncertainty, please contact Mary Fellows.

How hard is the setup?
Setup requires some thinking and decision-making on your part prior to the actual setup. Knowing your answers to these basic questions is the first step:

Do I want to offer one or more reading programs? If yes, for what ages? Starting and ending when? Will we offer prizes? At what intervals? What are we calling our program(s)?

Once you've determined these answers, see our Beanstack Setup Questionnaire. We can proceed in any of three ways:

  1. You can answer the questions posed, send your responses to Rob Carle at UHLS, and we will set you up.
  2. You can answer the questions posed, and we can work through the setup with you.
  3. You can answer the questions posed, and go through the setup yourself, using the instructions in brackets on the Questionnaire. For further help, see the UHLS Beanstack training page.

We’ve finished the setup; how do we get the live link?
Please contact Mary Fellows or Rob Carle. Beanstack has to make your link live, and they do a quick review to make sure that you’ve got everything set up to work.

What's the cost to our library?
Now through June 30, 2017: UHLS is paying for Beanstack out of family literacy grant money.

Year 1: July 1, 2017- June 30, 2018: Any libraries that want Beanstack will pay 1/3 of their cost and UHLS will pay 2/3.

Year 2: July 1, 2018- June 30, 2019: Any libraries that want Beanstack will pay 2/3 of their cost and UHLS will pay 1/3.

Year 3: July 1, 2019 onward: Any libraries that want Beanstack will pay their full cost.

To give you an idea of Year 1 cost, here is a chart breaking down Year 1 cost according to library. The cost was based on population. Information about the cost for 2017-18 is not yet available, but will be shared when it is.

What about marketing?
The more strategically you market the services Beanstack offers, the more successful it will be! We've created a guide for you here.

Specific features of Beanstack

Email book recommendations for kids
When parents register a child, they can opt in for weekly book recommendations for that child. They can allow Beanstack to personalize these recommendations by choosing interests, genres, reading levels, and more for each child they register.

When the email arrives in the parent's inbox, it will appear to come from your library. The signature line in the email will also be your library. Beanstack manages the emails and library staff members have no responsibilities.

The books have all been pre-checked by Beanstack so that every title recommended is owned within UHLS. If your child and my child have the same interests and parameters and we receive email recommendations on the same day, the books recommended will be different. This is managed by Beanstack to spread out demand for individual titles.

Email book recommendations for adults
When an adult or teen registers for an account, they can opt in for every other week book recommendations. They can allow Beanstack to personalize these recommendations by choosing their preferences from Nancy Pearl's four doorways to reading. Each email contains four recommendations with synopses, the image of the covers, and links to our catalog.

The books recommended have all been pre-checked by Beanstack so that every title recommended is owned within UHLS. The recommendations are managed by Beanstack to spread out demand for individual titles, meaning that if you and I have the same doorways, we won't both get the same four recommendations in the same week.

When the email arrives in the patron's inbox, it will appear to come from your library. The signature line in the email will also be your library. Beanstack manages the emails and library staff have no responsibilities.

Event (program) recommendations
Your events (programs) may be added to Beanstack and events relevant to the patron included in book recommendation emails. How-to information is here.

We can make customized reading lists that are linked to our catalog available to our users. These lists may be created from scratch, or other libraries' lists may be easily modified and pulled to your site. Complete information here.

Learning Challenges
Learning Challenges, called "Learning Tracks" by Beanstack, are a series of activities, often based on a certain theme or specific program. One sample Learning Challenge for a young age group, "All Kinds of Families," is already available as an option to you. You may create additional Learning Challenges as part of a reading program. Information on creating Learning Challenges is available on the Help Desk site here.

Themed Guides
These guides contain books, discussion questions, and suggested activities on a theme. They're available to patrons under the "Discover Content" or "Recommendations" menus. To view in Admin Access, go to Content > Themes.

Logged into the Admin side, choose "Reports" from the top menu. Explore the types of reports available under each submenu ("Most Popular Reports," "Program Specific Reports," etc.)

Beanstack runs Google Analytics (GA) on your site unless you have instructed them not to. To receive the GA statistics, please send an email to and let them know the email address you want used in obtaining your GA details. Be sure that the email is already associated with its own GA account. You can sign up for an account here.

A patron (Beanstack users) survey is also an option. Please contact Mary Fellows ( if you're interested in setting one up.

Quick guide to documents linked

Beanstack Setup Questionnaire

Sample Cost Share Chart

Marketing Beanstack

Beanstack: Adding Events

Beanstack Booklists

Other resources

Quick Start Guide

Beanstack Help Desk

UHLS Beanstack training page

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