While the COVID-19 pandemic and aftermath have put many events online indefinitely, Patchogue-Medford Library’s teen department has decided to offer an in-house Battle of the Books that will …
While the COVID-19 pandemic and aftermath have put many events online indefinitely, Patchogue-Medford Library’s teen department has decided to offer an in-house Battle of the Books that will allow pre-teen and teenage participants to meet and compete in person. A final event is slated for Aug. 12, when participants will compete for a 3-D-printed trophy and the title of winner of the 2021 Battle of the Books. Suffolk County’s competition is slated to take place on Zoom on Saturday, Aug. 14.
“Battle of the Books is a trivia-based competition in which teens have to read specific titles that are chosen in advance and to answer questions on them involving plot, quotations, and very minute details,” said Brian Schwartz, teen services coordinator for the library.
In the past, Patchogue-Medford Library would organize a group of participants from their library to take part in a Suffolk County-wide Battle of the Books competition, facing off against libraries across the county. This year, the library will not participate in the Suffolk County competition, but instead will host an in-house competition where participants will go against other Patchogue-Medford teens. Six participants, grades 6 to 12, have signed up so far, but there’s room for more on the team, according to Emily Spizzirri, teen librarian. The in-house competition format was done in order to give the teens an in-person event during a time when COVID-19-related virtual events have remained popular, despite easing restrictions.
“In the past, we have done the countywide Battle of the Books competition that the Suffolk County Library System coordinates, but this year, because of COVID-19, we decided to do something a little different. We decided to do a smaller library district-only competition so we could really focus on our teens and give them a more personable competition experience,” said Spizzirri.
Battle of the Books has been a source of social interaction for the teens who participate, as well as for their families. Schwartz said that seeing the patrons who participate year after year, growing up together and making long-lasting friendships, has been a favorite part of the competition.
“My favorite part has been seeing the camaraderie between the kids and seeing them grow up with one another. It’s nice to see the bond these kids make with one another,” said Schwartz.
This year’s book schedule includes “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen, “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, and “Chasing Vermeer” by Blue Balliett. According to Spizzirri, “Hoot” is an ecological mystery about burrowing owls; “The Graveyard Book” is a supernatural fantasy about an orphan who is adopted by ghosts; and “Chasing Vermeer” is an art mystery about a stolen Vermeer painting.
Participants are expected to take part in three meetings—the third of which is the final competition. The first meeting already took place; the second meeting will take place soon, and will focus on making sure the participants understand the reading material and are reading with the right questions in mind. Questions for the competition were inspired by questions from past competitions in Suffolk County.
“The questions are very detailed, such as ‘What time does this character arrive at the supermarket?,’ or ‘How many pieces of mail did a character receive?’ The questions have the kids really read the books very closely to pay attention to all of the little details an author puts into their writing,” said Schwartz.
In addition to working on Suffolk County’s Battle of the Books, Patchogue-Medford Library played a vital role in the popular event’s spinoff, Advanced Battle of the Books.
“In the year 2006, I created a competition called Advanced Battle of the Books. The countywide competition stops at ninth grade, and I noticed that many of the teens missed doing it. This competition started out very small but ended up growing and growing, eventually having over 20 Suffolk County libraries competing,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz headed the Advanced Battle of the Books program for 15 years before passing the torch to another librarian, Rebecca Goldstein, who at one point participated in the program as a high-school student.
“I love this program because it incorporates two things I feel very passionately about: reading and trivia,” said Schwartz.