The beginning of the year flies by for all of us — new teachers, new students, new printing software, new staff, etc. At my library, the first six weeks hold the added burden of meeting with every junior as part of their US history thesis paper. Once the frenzy of these appointments dies down, we are ready to plunge into our library programming which focuses on fun ways to engage with students and employees, and we try to have at least one thing happening every month. Luckily, our administration supports our efforts with a generous “Special Programs” budget that allows us to not only run the programming but to offer prizes for many of them. Other librarians often ask for successful programming ideas, so I thought I would list this year’s schedule here.
The Halloween Candy Jar is something the students adore. We mix it up by spending way too much time buying uniquely shaped jars and making sure we pack it with all different sizes of candy to make the guessing as challenging as possible. The winner gets the candy and the jar which has become the true prize among the students.
After we return from Fall Break (previously known as Thanksgiving;) the library delves head-first into our most anticipated and involved program of the year: 12 Days of Holiday Trivia. Every day we email out a new trivia question that in some way concerns books, authors, libraries, etc. Students and employees submit their answers daily via Google form, and those with all the correct answers at the end win a prize. Typically, this contest takes up all of the time between Fall and Winter break and takes a lot of prep, but everyone loves it — especially the adults.
We’ve messed around with a lot of different things during January, but last year the instructional librarian ran with an idea she had and it was a huge success that we are repeating this year: The Six Word Story Contest. We give students about 10 days to submit their stories via Google form. Last year she spoke with the English department and a number of teachers used the contest as an assignment which increased our submissions. She also asked a group of faculty members to act as a judging panel which was a lot of fun.
For Valentine’s Day we repeat the Candy Jar…we would love to not do the candy thing twice a year, but the students would probably riot.
With March Break, this time of year moves fast, so some years we manage to fit something in, but honestly sometimes we don’t. We haven’t quite settled on a plan for this year, but every few years we run a Peeps diorama contest where we fill a table with crafting supplies, shoe boxes, and yes, Peeps. Students make dioramas of recognizable scenes from movies, books, etc. with Peeps as the characters, and we pick a few winners at the end. Full disclosure, some years this has been great and some a bust. We find this program works best when it is not done every year.
Some years we put out a bunch of poetry activities for National Poetry Month, such as magnetic poetry kits with large boards for students to play with them on. We have also had success with printing pages from famous books the students recognize (think Harry Potter) for blackout poetry.
As the end of the year approaches, we all know there is really no time to run a real program. We keep a lot of fidget toys and crafty activities at our front desk all year — coloring bookmarks, stickers, Washi tape, etc. — but we ramp it up towards the end of the year as student stress increases. They love to spend a few minutes doing something creative and relaxing while chatting with whoever is behind the desk, and we love offering them a break.
That list went fast — just like the school year! We find offering fun programming increases our campus exposure, gets students who may not interact with us regularly up to the desk, and adds a relaxing feature to our entire community. I hope this list sparks some ideas for you, and I’m happy to discuss any of these in more detail.