Poker Read comes to Fort Kent Public Library with an AI twist

2 weeks ago

FORT KENT, Maine – The Fort Kent Public Library launched a new adult reading program on June 18. “We call it the Summer Poker Read, and we based this fun program on the popular outdoor activity known as a Poker Run,” said Library Director Andrew Birden.

The new reading program runs during the same time period as the Children’s Summer Reading Program, but is for young adults and adult readers that are at least 13 years old.

It works similar to an ATV poker run, which is a common fundraising activity in the region for snowmobilers and ATV enthusiasts. “First, when a person signs up, they give us a short description of their fantasy all-terrain vehicle. We use the AI known as Dall-E3 to create an image of their vehicle, which we place on a leaderboard at the library. There are also the names of seven popular destinations within the Upper St. John Valley on the board. People virtually move from place to place by reading books. For each book a person reads, they receive a playing card, which goes beneath the name of the destination beside their fantasy ATV. At the end of the contest, the reader with the best poker hand wins the prize.”

The Fort Kent Public Library is using artificial intelligence to create images of dream ATVs to track the progress of people participating in the Poker Read program. Library volunteer Joanne Fortin shows off the leaderboard for the competition. As people read books, they draw playing cards which stay on the leaderboard until the reading program concludes in August. At the conclusion of the program, the person with the best poker hand wins the prize. (Courtesy of Fort Kent Public Library Director Andrew Birden)

Birden said the Book Lover’s Club gave him the idea. The Book Lovers Club meets every month to discuss the many different books the club members are reading. “Something they said at a meeting sparked the idea of the Poker Read, and when I described it to the club, the members were enthusiastic.”

The leaderboard filled fast. “Even though we haven’t yet chosen a prize, the program was so popular so quickly that there are only a few spots left,” said Birden. 

“When people see the cool vehicles that Dall-E3 can create based on the description of their dream ATV, they’ve become excited about this new program. We’ve had folks describe their vehicle as simply as “a purple ATV with stars” to something as unlikely as “a person riding a golden retriever like a horse”. Many of the resulting images have been amazing,” Birden said.

If someone looks closely, they will see a bicycle with running shoes on the tires, a magic carpet zooming through a forest and a dogsled that cats are pulling among many other fanciful vehicles. The creative images are the avatars for the players of the Fort Kent Public Library’s Summer Poker Read. (Courtesy of Fort Kent Public Library Director Andrew Birden)

Visitors can see the leaderboard with the fantasy ATVs at the public library in Fort Kent.

Combined with the annual children’s summer reading program, over 80 readers of all ages have signed up to join the library’s summer reading programs so far.

“Along with the Poker Read for older readers, we also have Grow to Read/Read to Grow, which is for readers in Pre-K through seventh grade.” There are still many open spots for the children’s reading program.

Drop by the library at 1 Monument Square in Fort Kent to sign up.