One of our local elementary schools is working on an initiative against poverty, and this winter they contacted me to see if there was a way to highlight the resources that the public library offers. I was thrilled with the idea, and we came up with a Public Library Party, held here at the library, that the whole school was invited to!
I knew we would get a lot of people (we ended up with almost twice as many as expected!!) so I wanted this program to be as easy as possible to run. That means stations. So here’s what we did.
I used this as an opportunity to get library cards in the hands of kids who didn’t use the library, or whose parents might not come in with them normally. We sent library card applications with a letter home with kids from school. Any applications that we got back ahead of time could pick up their brand new library cards at the event, and we did library card sign-up at the party as well. I also wanted every kid to go home with a free book. About the same time I had the opportunity to apply for a mini-grant, and I bought a couple hundred chapter books and early readers to send home with the kids. The school was also raffling off two Kindle Fires, so I’m sure that motivated some families to attend as well. A huge number of teachers helped staff our stations and direct families the night of the event.
Library cards and free books
This was the welcome station, and was staffed with teachers. They handed out the prepared library cards to kids as they arrived, and gave applications to anyone who still needed a card. Each kid picked a free book off our cart, and the teachers also kept an approximate count of all the attendees.
Create a bookmark
A whole bunch of simple craft supplies to decorate a bookmark. Googly eyes, discarded book pages, stickers, markers, etc. Super easy.
I set out a few piles of new and favorite picture and chapter books for anyone who needed a reading break.
Balls and toys for younger siblings.
This station had Snap Circuits and two Spheros. I had teen volunteers at this station, and the elementary school librarian (who also has Spheros) helped out here too. This was wildly popular. The only problem was that my Spheros ran out of charge after a while.
I set out the rest of our iPads, loaded with some early literacy apps as well as fun apps for older kids. I also provided two app handouts- one with early lit apps and tips for using apps with kids, and the other with a list of good apps for school age kids.
This was one of the most stressful stations only because I ran out of table space when I was pre-making popcorn and had to keep the popcorn maker running the whole evening. Next time, I’ll make more than enough ahead of time and just store it in a trash bag or (clean) recycling bin to dish it out as we go. I had a LOT of great teen volunteers here too, who would have run the popcorn machine if I hadn’t been worried about hot oil and burnt fingers. By the end of the night, it looked like it had snowed popcorn throughout the entire library.
Teachers handed out the scavenger hunt form, and kids had a handful of instructions that led them to different parts of the library. (where can you check books out? Where will you find books with information that is real?). I had colored stickers at each place in the library, and teens strategically placed throughout the stations to help families.
I love scavenger hunts because they are really just super sneaky library tours, and overall this one went well. As kids returned with a completed sheet they got a sticker and my awesome staff would congratulate them and say, “Now you know where everything is in the library!” I also liked watching older kids take ownership of the library and show new kids around. However, I did NOT anticipate how busy this would make not just the children’s room, but the entire library. It was supposed to be self sufficient, but lots of people had questions.
This program was a huge hit! We had an incredible turnout, issued a huge stack of library cards, and connected with a bunch of new families and kids. I’ve already contacted the rest of the elementary schools to offer the same kind of program. There are a few things that need tweaking for next time, mostly more library staff. We were overwhelmed, not just in the children’s room but also at the circ desk. Next time, I’ll have extra people around to help. I’m also planning to re-work the scavenger hunt and get rid of the stickers to make the whole thing easier!