To kick off our summer reading program in the past, our library hired an entertainer. It was a stress-free way to begin the summer, and I could understand why any library would love to bring entertainment to town. However, when I took over the youth programming last year, I realized that first, an entertainer would take half of my yearly programming budget for an hour program, and secondly, I had no guaranteed attendance at that program. So, in one hour, I would see half of my budget gone, and the real possibility of only a handful to children there to see it.
Wanting to offer something that was not so hard on my budget and still offered youth valuable learning experiences, I offered a checkers tournament both last year and this year as our first official youth program in the summer. We received about 20 kids at each program. My total budget is $30 and the winner of each of the three age categories goes home with a $10 bill. I have three age categories: Grades 1-4, Grades 5-8, and Grades 9-12.
Set up involves moving 6 tables to the programming room, and setting up 12 checkerboards. This would accommodate 24 people, and so far, we have always been just under that. I have about 20 checkerboards in my supply room, so if we did get more kids, I could bring those out within minutes. I asked my teen volunteers to help me set up the tables this year and all the checker boards. We were done in about 15 minutes with everyone helping.
On the evening of the event, kids come in and the facilitator signs them up on a tournament bracket for their age category. Here is the one I think we used: Printable Single Elimination Bracket. It is single elimination, so once the student has lost once, they are no longer eligible to win the $10. However, both years I saw that the kids really just wanted to play, so we kept teaming them up with another student who had lost, and they played each other until all the winners in each category had been announced. They loved playing, and I think that we might try to host a checkers night here at the library. We would not offer prizes, just bragging rights. The kids loved playing, and I think we may even offer to have some tutoring available to show students some strategy, and talk about good moves vs. not so wise moves.
I heard this idea first from another library, and they told me that after years of offering it, kids have begun to count on it, and start to get excited weeks before the contest. I hope that happens for us!
Here is the editable PowerPoint slide that I used to create the flyer which we used for promotion. Have fun!
Saint Patrick’s Day is one time in the year when everyone can be Irish! Ask your community if they would like to see Irish dancers, and they may just come out of the woodwork. Add in a fun craft project and some lively music, and you have a program that will be enjoyed by all ages!
We are fortunate to have a very talented and trained Irish dancer who manages her own Irish dance studio in our community. On the weekend of Saint Patrick’s Day, she offered to come to the library and lead an Irish Dance Workshop. Here are my notes on what we did so hopefully it can be easily duplicated in any community. We hosted this program on the weekend of Saint Patrick’s Day, but because its popularity we plan to offer it again as summer workshop during our Summer Reading Program.
Toddler Tech is a community event where multiple organizations with services for families with children ages 0-5 are able to come together, put up their booths, and engage with families. It is a time for organization representatives to participate in a community outreach program, a time for families to connect with these organizations and learn about the services that are available to them, and finally a time for young children to have fun and play together by participating in the interactive activities each organization prepares for families that come to their booth. It is a lot of fun, very low cost, and a wonderful way to cross-promote organizations in our community.
We hosted our first Toddler Tech event on Saturday, April 1st. This event had been hosted for the past 10 years by the hospital. However, they were looking for someone to take it over, and thought of the library. Of course I said yes when they asked if we would host it. The idea of dozens of families coming into the library on a Saturday was more than any librarian could pass up!
To set up the event, I designed a poster using Canva.com. We chose to host this event two weeks before Easter, which is also the week when our school district schedules Spring Break. This way, I knew that families would not be out of town (probably). This year, that date was Saturday, April 1st, 2017. I then sent out letters to multiple community organizations that serve families. If you are interested in doing this in your community, here is a list of organizations that I contacted:
Domestic Violence Shelter
UW-Extension Family Living Agent
Birth to Three
Parks and Rec program
WEAP (Autism Support Network)
Saint Mary’s 3k and 4K program
Richland Christian Fellowship 3K and 4K program
Lincoln School 3K and 4K program
Fire Department (they brought a fire truck!)
After sending out the letter, I waited to see how many organizations would contact me back. In total, I heard from 11. Those that contacted me received a follow-up letter detailing set-up time on the morning of Toddler Tech.
For promotion, I created a Facebook event, shared the poster on multiple community Facebook groups, hung up the poster at the library for three months before the event, contacted the paper and asked them to put in a small article about the event, and also was interviewed by our local radio station who very generous did a short promotion on the news at noon program for us.
We planned our event to begin at 10:00am and continue until 1pm. Set-up was available beginning at 9am (This was an hour before the library opened). You may not think it will take a whole hour to set up, but I was surprised to see how long it did take our organizations to arrange their booths, and thankful that we began an hour before we opened. The fire department brought a fire truck, and they were able to park it in our parking lot before it filled up with patrons. I bought white plastic table cloths for all the tables for our organizations to use on their tables. I think this is one of the cheapest investments to make tables look professional. Most organizations already had table cloths, but a few did not, so it was nice to be able to provide this.
The event was a big success! Families loved it clearly came to spend hours out of their morning meeting with organizations and playing with all the activity stations. Here is a list of the different activity stations that organizations offered:
Pete the Cat cookie decorating
Musical instruments petting zoo
Meet the fire truck and the firemen!
Meet a police officer
This was a very relaxed event because I did not have to plan everything! Also, we did not have to pay anything to plan the program, so it was also great for my Youth Services Programming budget.
We had a library table with calendars, table toppers giving dates for our Storytime and Baby/Toddler Play Times, as well as sign-up sheets for the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Program. Our theme was music, so I had a small bin of musical instruments with me. Kids joined me on the floor, testing out instruments and hearing the different sounds (and picking up valuable fine-motor skills along the way!).
One of my friends is very talented in photography, and offered to come and take pictures at the event. She received verbal permission from the parents as she mingled with the crowd to take photos of them and their children for the library to use in promotions. Everyone was thrilled to have their kiddo photographed, and it made the day just that much more special. After the event, she made the photos available to save, share, and print for the families for free.
If you have any questions about this event, just let me know! It was a wonderful time, and I am already brainstorming ways to make it better next year. I would like to ask the Police Department to offer car seat checks ask part of the program, and to set up a table for the police officer to play with the kids at a free-play table with blocks so that they can talk with the kids and parents without having to prep anything.
“Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little gray house made of logs.” So begins Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in an autobiographical series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about growing up in 1800’s American. 150 years later, the Little House stories and activities are still wildly popular. And what better way to celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Birthday than to have a party at the public library as one of our Family Super Saturday events?
Have older students coming to your public library, and you want to do something more memorable than simply giving them a tour and some reading time? Would you like a fun, 30 minute program that would have your students racing to every section of the library, and learning lessons about where resources in your library are located in the process? Would you like to do all this, for no money needed? Well, I have the program for you! Introducing “Murder at the Public Library! Oh My!”