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Broke Holidays: 20s and 30s Craft Night

And now a break from my regularly scheduled baby programming. Presenting a millennial program so delightful, so utterly essential to providing age diversity to your adult programming that you will find these elusive millennials crawling out of their microbrew pubs, detaching themselves from their cat collecting apps*, and scrambling for a babysitter just to come to your program. Inspired by Sacramento Public Library’s Alt Library group and met with great fanfare, my library hosted a free Broke Holidays program meant to provide a fun, crafting, sociable experience for those jostling for an inexpensive gift. Here was the description:

Here come the holidays and there goes your money. Save some extra bitcoin this holiday season and craft your frugal heart out for that special someone, or for that 3rd cousin who insists on getting you something every year. Supplies and an escape from home are provided.

*Hot trend subject to change.

Pitching the idea

I have been wanting to do this program for a very very long time. When I revealed my inspiration to a coworker and she grew equally as excited, my dreams were slowly on their way to reality. Pitching the idea to my superiors went more smoothly than expected for two reasons: (1) we already had a successful 20s/30s book club, and (2) I tied the purpose of the program to lofty goals of the library as a whole. As a millennial myself, I notice that the majority of adult programming at my library (and most others) focuses on lecture-style educational enrichment and musical performances that are geared to an older audience. While these are well-attended and certainly valued within my library’s community, they may not appeal to 20 & 30 year olds. By providing a practical program with a fun/silly advertising bent, this age group may identify the public library as relevant in their lives after years of separation.

I originally pitched the idea as Broke A$$ Holidays, but was given some slightly hesitant looks by my manager. Other names came up like Thrifty Holidays, but I really liked the self-deprecating attitude of the original, so an easy compromise was forged with Broke Holidays.

Program Prep

There was a decent chunk of planning for this program. We had to choose the crafts and how many we were going to do, buy the supplies in bulk, and market. We decided to go with three crafts to provide an enticing diversity. Although I had gathered a plethora of fun and unique ideas (found here on my Pinterest board), the crafts we finally selected had simple instructions, lower costs for buying in bulk, and we already had some supplies from past programs.

And here are the Broke Holidays Instruction Handouts that were at each station.

Program Execution

We had a remarkable turnout for a first-time event. Twenty-five people showed from a variety of places. While the program didn’t reach many eyes through the newsletter (it came out 2 weeks before the program), we were able to recruit people through, baby storytimes, our millennial book club, a paid Facebook ad (only about 2-3 people from this one–but they were all brand new users!), and many staff members helped pad the numbers (hey, some were also patrons!).

Our decorations were slightly lackluster, but we did make a Festivus pole which was VERY IMPORTANT. We also played a great holiday playlist from Songza (which is now part of Google, but, ugh, whatever) and provided coffee, snacks, and a hot chocolate bar. I think we also found a red, circular shag rug that we used. CAN’T FORGET ABOUT THAT.

We provided a 3 question survey at the end to gauge future interest. Here are the top three programs that they would like to attend in the future:

  1. Craft Programs
  2. Bad Art Night
  3. Wine and Canvas Event

Clearly we are getting ready for the Feats of Strength.

What Worked

  • Have a partner in crime. If you are able to, co-organize this program with a coworker so that you have someone to share the labor love and to bounce ideas off of–especially if this is the your first time venturing into territory such as this.
  • Have at least two craft options and publicize the crafts.  I truly believe that the variety enticed patrons to the event–with only 2 cancellations–because they really wanted to come and make what was advertised. We didn’t publicize the crafts in the newsletter because they weren’t finalized by the time it was published, but we were able to promote the crafts through social media, at our book club, and to friends.
  • Market to your baby mommas and daddies. We got about 10 parents from our storytime group by promoting it within the storytime to young parents. I also put up a link to our sign-up page on a Facebook networking group which garnered a lot of interest.
  • Provide an ample amount of socializing. We received positive feedback from participants that appreciated the more relaxed atmosphere that allowed them to socialize while crafting. We had instructions sheets available and gave a brief introduction to the crafts with essential instructions, but then left the hour and a half open to crafting and socializing.

What I Must Drink to Forget

  • Buy more Scrabble tiles. If you want to do the Scrabble tile coasters, you are going to need an insane amount of tiles. I ordered 200 tiles and maybe 15 were made, leaving almost half without a coaster. Participants could only make one due to the limited supplies and limited time, so consider having this be the only craft or 1 of 2 options available. That way, they can make a pair of coasters to gift.
  • Perler bead craft first. Encourage people to do the 8-bit ornament/perler bead craft first as this requires the most staff time to complete by sealing the beads with an iron.

Are you doing any millennial programming at your library? Post below if you are! Let’s brainstorm!


100 Books before High School


November kicked off the official start of 1000 Books before Kindergarten. It has been phenomenally successful. We currently have 135 children participating (for perspective, we serve 37,500). Everyone is loving it for a variety of reasons. Some people like the literacy prizes, others enjoy the positive habits that it is encouraging, while others just wanted to finish it as fast as humanly possible so they could be the first ones done to which all librarians everywhere responded:


We also just launched 100 Books before High School, to which many of you showed interest. This passive reading program is for grades Kindergarten-8th grade. Every book that is read independently will be recorded on their log sheet. Every 10 books, they review their favorite book and every 20 books they come to the library and may choose one free book. We also have a race track banner wrapped around our J Fiction (3rd-8th grade) section where their individual car advances along the track every 20 books they read. They may potentially receive 5 books by the end of the program, and, upon completion, their photograph is added to the finish line.

I can already hear your scientific minds rattling, piecing out the weak points (which is what makes us so powerful).

  1. How in the world does a Kindergartener read independently? Well, it isn’t a blood pact so we anticipate wiggle room, especially with grades K-2. The purpose of the program is to build reading habits and encourage visits to the library. If an adult sits with a 5-8 year old and helps them through a book, taking time to encourage reading, and providing a physical reward at the end (the reward of visually seeing their completion and being closer to their own free book) then by all means. We’ve done it! And guess what the reward is? More reading!
  2. 100 books may be daunting! That’s why every 20 books, a child receives a free book. They don’t necessarily have to read 100 to get the free book (but they can to receive FIVE free books and photo recognition) so they can set a goal for themselves.
  3. How do you provide 5 books per child for only one program? First off, this is only for Fremont patrons as it is a financial investment. We use the Scholastic FACE program whose sole purpose is to provide libraries/educational institutions with 50-75% discounted books that will then be given to children for free. Fremont Library’s situation is also unique. As an Illinois library serving a medium-sized population with only one building (and no bookmobile) programs such as this can be easy to fund. We are also using the Illinois Per Capita grant. Typically, this is used for materials but this year we were able to pitch it as a literacy grant that could be used for programs such as 100 Books before High School. Although we do not, you could keep on hand lightly used discarded books or donations.

The program itself is very easy to implement, although a significant amount of staff time is required for setting it up (while I focused on 1000 Books, a coworker focused on 100 books). Staff training was pretty simple, provided you have an Instruction sheet for librarians to read over when they sign kids up. Upkeep involves the creation of new log sheets and moving the cars along the posters as kids advance down the track.

Tips for signing kids up? One weekend shift, I must have signed up 20 children to this program. Whenever someone would approach my coworker for a reference question or reader’s advisory, I would pounce while she was looking the material up on our catalog. This is a great way to sign kids up that are already interested in reading or are seeking the library out for books that they must read for school.

After two weeks, we have 50 children signed up! Below is the division of ages.

100Books graphQuestions, comments, and the like are more than welcome. Please let me know what you all think!


Summer LIBRARY Club: Where prizes and cheating go to die

In a world where the greedy perish and library lovers flourish, we meet a team of librarians with far better things to do with their time than maintain proper supplies of bubble bottles or those furry pom-poms with googly eyes and sticky bottoms. A world where mothers don’t feel the need to lie about how many minutes their 8-year-old child read last week. This could be your world if you are willing to take the plunge.

I work at a library serving a population of approximately 32,000. Our patrons tend to be low income to lower middle class with a sizeable population of Latin@s, Korean-Americans, Fillipino-Americans, and Polish-Americans. Our library is well funded but not drowning in money. We had about 1,000 children birth-6th grade sign-up for our SLC last year (we are currently at 1,300 this year with 2 weeks left). But what I am going to talk about today is not affected by these factors. I believe that our model of a summer library program can be applied at any location. If you choose to go with this model (or decide to apply any other models such as Tiny Tips for Library Fun, Abby the Librarian, or Hafuboti) you’ll be strolling into the summer much like the coolest character in TV history (hopefully not in handcuffs–or for the same reasons):


There has been talk among some blogging librarians about ditching prizes as a form of incentive (see the blogs linked above). I bring to you that prizeless (or less prizes) works AND that a club without reading requirements works, too.

First and foremost, our club is called the Summer LIBRARY Club. Kids are rewarded for visiting the library 6 times with the belief that they will inherently check out books and other materials (magazines, DVDs, video games, etc.), use the computers, attend a program, etc. We want them to use the library as a place of enjoyment, relaxation, socialization, intellectual stimulation, and so on and so forth. The value of our library extends beyond reading and we want to reward all of our patrons.

Our library switched from a Summer Reading Club to a Summer Library Club about 10 years ago. When asking my coworkers why, they begrudgingly recollected parents walking up and down the shelves writing titles of books before handing them the pamphlet for a stamp. They also chose to switch because they didn’t want to give another burden to parents and older children for recording minutes or book titles. We believe that the summer should be a time for joy reading, not a contest–especially not one to lie about. This also opens up our program to reluctant readers that may not be able to keep up with a daunting challenge.

One of my coworkers noted that the backlash from the initial change was minimal. Every now and then there is a parent that is concerned about the lack of reading recording, but the majority of parents are receptive and simply want their child involved in a summer program. They also appreciate prizeless because they don’t have to step on it in the middle of the night. For the competitive folk? They still can “race” to be the first stickers on the 6th poster (the final visit) and finally rest easy after 5 nights of fitful insomnia.

Below, I will outline our summer program for the younger set (the teen program is a beast of its own).

Paws to Read 2014

  • Ages birth-6th grade
  • Duration is 6 weeks
  • One stamp PER DAY in our SLCBrochure2014 booklet
  • Every time you visit, you also receive a sticker to put on our posters. Each poster corresponds to your number visit.
  • Birth-2 years old: Six stamps = 1 free book, 1 finger puppet (hard for babies to bowl or eat a value meal)
  • 3 years old-6th grade = 1 free book, bag of coupons for area businesses
  • We purchase all of our giveaway books through the Scholastic FACE program. Each paperback book averages about $2.50 which is about $2500. The Friends of the Library funds this giveaway.
  • This year, we also gave out a mini-beanie stuffed dog or cat when the children signed up. We usually just give out a pencil and a bookmark with signing up.

Time is always a concern, especially with understaffed libraries. Our library club may cut back on time spent buying prizes, but time is spent preparing other avenues. It is extremely important to note, however, that we rely heavily upon the dedication of our volunteers during the summer to staff our library club table. Volunteers sign up for 2 hour shifts for all days of the week. This is a great opportunity for students to acquire volunteer hours (National Honor Society, a local Catholic school requires volunteer hours) and for adult volunteers to have hands-on interaction with the patrons while sitting. Maybe about 2/3 of the spots fill up–generally during the day–and we’ll keep an eye on the table when necessary. So, while the volunteers man the table, the following activities are completed by staff members. And remember, tailor to your needs and abilities!:

  • Writing up instructions for volunteers
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Training volunteers the first time they work the SLC table
  • Ordering books from Scholastic’s FACE program
  • Ordering stickers and finger puppets
  • Gathering coupons from area businesses (we had about 6 coupons)
  • Creating/hanging up the posters (but you could have an artistic volunteer help you create them)

As noted at the beginning of this blog post, our numbers climb higher and higher every year. There are no meltdowns without prizes. As long as there is an activity to look forward to (here, put this sticker on a giant poster on a window) and as long as there is a final prize (book, coupons) then they will come. Without the barriers of reading requirements and tedious record keeping, parents and kids are happy. I guess if someone comes six times and doesn’t check out books or doesn’t come to our programs or use our facilities in any way, then her prize is a free book. Hey! A free book for her to add to her own library, hopefully encouraging her to read. But the chances of this scenario occurring are pretty slim. Those that want to participate in a library club will enjoy visiting the library and will leave with a handful of books or a mindful of good memories from our programs.

For those parents that want to give their child a challenge for the summer, our library will be starting three passive reading programs soon. These include 1000 Books before Kindergarten, 100 Books before High School, and Read for a Lifetime (for High Schoolers). The great thing about these is that they will be year-round and won’t stop after 6 weeks, allowing a child to complete it at his own pace.

It is daunting to start something new. It involves a reorganization of thought for yourself and coworkers but our Summer Library Club is successful. It is la bomba. Parents love it. Kids love it (no whiners!). And we love it because we can spend our time providing quality programs and activities instead of dishing out plastic garbage and we can promote our library as a whole experience instead of a log of books.

Have I left anything out from this program? Any lingering questions? I’ll be happy to answer them and add the information to the post for future sight-seeing.


20s Books & Brew: a Book Club for Millennials


There are several lists out there describing what millennials desire most in life (millennials described as people born between the 80s and early 2000s). You’ve got this list of pop culture references (mainly for those that grew up in the 90s and 00s), some things millennial girls love, and the most poignant Top 10 Things Millennials Want in a Hotel. So, what is your library doing to appeal to this generation?

The Sacramento Public Library has an established brand for their 20 & 30 somethings. It’s called “alt+library” and has quite the following of 600+ members on their Meetup group. They even have an alt+library Friends group that hosts craft programs in the summer months and then later sells the crafts and books at a little local craft fair. Lori Easterwood, the Programming and Partnerships Coordinator at Sacramento Public Library, is inspired to create & bring programs for her library based on her own creative interest. Also with the help of this fabulous community center called Workshop. And what beautiful programs they have made. Some of their programs include book discussions, workouts to various music genres (punk, goth, metal), themed workouts including zombie survival aerobics, Haunted Stacks (hosted by the local history archive), Bad Art Night, and, my favorite, Broke A$$ Holidays (DIY crafting). The last three have been the most popular, with Haunted Stacks bringing in about 100+ each year. They’re also partnering with a local art museum and having a Festivus celebration this year. FESTIVUS, people.


If you look at your adult programs, do you have anything awesome like these? Would you attend the programs? We have a fantastic following of adult patrons that attend our history-focused programs, so we focus our programming on what those patrons want (because they’re visibly showing their interest). But what if the patrons aren’t showing up at all because there have never been programs that they would be interested in attending?

In order to reach out to the demographic we rarely see at the library (especially the programs), we followed suit of Sacramento and created a book club solely for 20- & young 30-year-olds called “20s Books & Brew“. Its focus is on socializing and sharing opinions all while enjoying a good brewski. Although our intention is not to be ageist, we wanted to provide a book club that was labeled for 20s and 30s, giving this demographic their own special group, much like there are senior book clubs.

We draw from a wide background of mainly single, college-educated graduates with many micro-brew beer enthusiasts. I say mainly because we have several dedicated members that are married, have children, did not attend college, or are more wine fans. Because beer is involved, we also get a much higher turn out of males than any other library book club–also, a much higher turn out in general. When we started, we had about 6-8 people per book discussion, and now we fetch around 15-20 every month. We also have about half Fremont patrons that attend and half out-of-town, which we do not view as a problem (we all serve reciprocal borrowers).

As more and more people began attending the book club, we have made a few alterations:

  • We split up into smaller book discussions and have volunteer group leaders (I prepare the questions so that the group leader has something to work with). After the discussion has died down, we take a break and everyone takes a notecard and writes their opinion of the book in one sentence. I collect the notecards and read aloud the quick reviews, giving everyone a chance to voice their opinion.
  • We ask for money. $2 cash if you plan on eating appetizers, $10 cash if you plan on getting an alcoholic drink and will be eating appetizers. This way we only have one bill for the waiter/ess. Any more additional alcohol purchases are done at the bar.
  • Switched the day of the week because Thursdays are a popular restaurant night. We did this because our group can be promised a section to seat 15-20 people.

I think that one of the coolest things about this group is the format. At the beginning of the book club, the host librarians were choosing the books. But it became very clear that the members were interested in having a say. They also valued the book club for its ability to expose them to books they may have never read of their own accord. So, every other book club, we vote on various book genres. The librarians then choose five acclaimed books of each genre and the members get to vote on the book we will read.

Meetup is a fabulous venue for hosting this sort of program that draws a younger-age crowd. You can gauge basic interests of the audience by requesting answers for simple questions when they join your meetup. Ours are, “Intro,” “What kinds of books do you like to read?” and “What kind of beer do you prefer?” The poll option is wonderful for voting on books. It can also be a “safe” way to promote something that might be frowned upon by a more conservative audience. I’m talking the use of the word “a$$” here.

If you’re concerned about catching negative attention, Lori Easterwood offers her experience.

“Our administration is extremely supportive of this programming, and willing to take some chances to reach new people for library services.  Astoundingly, no one has complained!  We did talk about the possibility that being so deliberately provocative might cause problems, but our promotion strategy is very targeted (mostly online, and opt-in through meet-up) so I think we’ve avoided some trouble simply by flying under the radar of non-target audiences.”

So what are my top suggestions to start your own 20s/30s book club?

  • Do it at a bar/restaurant that serves good beer. You would not believe the amount of positive responses we received about us being beer-centric.
  • Use Meetup. It’s a great organizational tool. Groups also have to pay to have a meetup so it’s a little more reputable and reassuring for members to join up with a group of strangers.

I asked Lori what her favorite patron responses from programs were, and she referenced a favorite response from a fitness program, “I’ve never been this sweaty in a library.” Sweat away, millenials. Sweat away.

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