CARTERVILLE — Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks Basketball team and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank, is passionate about literacy. He often tells the story of his mother giving him change for reading books and believes reading is a key to success.

Last year, Cuban teamed up with Beanstack, a software platform that helps libraries manage reading programs, to offer the Winter Reading Challenge. This year, Anne West Lindsey District Library in Carterville is one of only two Illinois libraries participating in the contest.

“Libraries have to reach a million minutes or 50,000 books. If the total reaches that, he will award $35,000 to the top libraries,” Jessica Wright, children’s librarian, said. “In Illinois, the only libraries participating are Carterville and Effingham.”

Mary Stoner, library director, said 250 libraries and schools are participating. Collectively, they have to log 5 million minutes of reading and 75,000 books.

“If we don’t collectively reach that, nobody gets the money,” Stoner said.

So, the Carterville library needs your help. They need readers of all ages to sign up and enter their reading online.

Wright said you do not have to have a library card or live in the Anne West Lindsey Library District to participate.

“Everybody in Southern Illinois can participate and help the library win the money,” Stoner said.

Sign-up is easy. The library has links on its website and Facebook page, or anyone wanting to sign up can go to awlindsey.beanstack.org. The library's website is awlindsey.com, and it is on Facebook at facebook.com/AnneWestLindseyLibrary.

Anyone of any age can sign up, from infants through adults of all ages. Reading can be completed on any digital format, audiobooks, or actual books. Books read to children or by children also can be counted.

“The more people who sign up and participate, the better chance we have to win,” Wright said.

Stoner said Wright got the library involved in the 2019 Winter Reading Challenge. The library uses Beanstack to manage its summer reading program.

What could winning the $35,000 mean to the library?

“It could mean a lot of things. We have outgrown our building, and we are trying to add on. The cost of the new expansion would be $1.4 million. The funds could go toward that. They could also be used to provide new materials, programming or services for our community,” Stoner said.

She added that they hope to have funds for the expansion secured by the end of summer.

“The bottom line is we are all just trying to get people excited about reading. So, any library would benefit from signing up its patrons,” Stoner said.

Anne West Lindsey District Library is part of Illinois Heartland Library System. Anyone with an active library card at a participating library can access materials through the interlibrary loan program.

For more information, call the library at 618-985-3298.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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