Thinking Big in Children’s Programming

As my library prepares for our second Stuffed Animal Sleepover, I was prompted to think about library events on a grand scale. Two months ago my library participated in the Star Wars Reads Day festivities on October 6. The nationwide celebration was a huge success and we welcomed over 1500 patrons to the Children’s Library that Saturday.

Many libraries and museums around the country use their spaces to hold special events from weddings to scavenger hunts. I’m aware that these examples are usually hosted by outside companies, but what if once a year the children’s department went all out for one major event? Taking inspiration from a few of my library’s heavy hitters, here are two possible big-ticket programs for your children’s department to consider.

Traditionally our library has held an event each January called Nutmeg @ Night, for the Connecticut children’s book award. This celebration is an opportunity for kids to come together before the final vote. There is always an element of trivia to the evening, and in recent years we have taken cues from nominees such as The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman, and have incorporated more hands-on challenges to secure a winning team. Nutmeg @ Night has always managed to attract voracious readers and trivia enthusiasts, and is nearing its tenth anniversary. If your state doesn’t have its own book award, your staff can create nominees with the assistance of your network of readers. In December, have the kids in your community come together to host a Battle of the Books. Everyone can have the opportunity to cast their vote and the winner can be announced in between games and pizza.

One of the most coveted events in our community is the annual Library Sleepover. This special night was the brainchild of our Library’s administration, and it was chosen as an auction item for our yearly fundraiser. We are now going into our fourth year of hosting two sleepovers per annum, and it has proven to be one of the most memorable evenings, both for the kids and librarians. The sleepover is typically a birthday celebration and the line up includes crafts, a scavenger hunt, late-night movie screening, and of course gifts and cake. Each member of the children’s staff has had to freshen up on their knowledge of slumber party games, as sometimes bedtime doesn’t quite happen when planned. This spontaneity and need for creativity is one of the reasons why my fellow children’s librarians and I look forward to each party.

All the sleepovers are limited to fifteen kids and each includes about three overnight chaperones. Opening up the number of attendees would definitely increase the need for more chaperones, but staff and parents can be persuaded to join in the fun, especially if held only once a year. This non-traditional library program has even allowed us to reach new library users. Last March many of the young sleepover guests had never set foot in the library, but are now regular visitors.

It is my hope that youth librarians begin to think outside the box when it comes to children’s programming. If your library has taken a leap by offering large scale events, please share in the Comments field below.

For more programming ideas, please visit the full Kickstart List available online.

Claire Moore is the Assistant Head of Children’s Services at Darien Library in Darien, CT. Claire can be reached at cmoore@darienlibrary.org.

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