A few years ago we started running “big bookish events” here at Mercersburg. They offer us the opportunity to step out of our research shoes and into our fandom shoes. Our events have been a huge hit with our community and after holding our third annual event, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve gathered along the way.
- Know your why. We love hosting big events on campus because it is an excellent marketing vehicle. Students who aren’t motivated to sign up for book club are much more likely to attend “An Evening at Hogwarts.” These same students see their friendly librarians having fun and are now less afraid to come ask us questions.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. The first big bookish event was just a Harry Potter themed dinner with a few short student-run skits. The next year we upped the ante by adding a dance to the dinner and did a Gatsby themed “Flappers and Fitzgerald.” This year we built on our Harry Potter event, expanding it to include classes. Students came in, were sorted, ate dinner in the “Great Hall” and then attended Potions, History of Magic, and Divination. Had we tried to do classes the first year, without trying dinner and an all-in-one activity first, we wouldn’t have succeeded. Building on the event each time, rather than trying to do everything the first time, makes it much more manageable.
- Leverage your faculty. Putting on an event for 140+ students takes a lot of man-power. Find the faculty who love the book/fandom as much as you do and put them to work! We had the theater department hang the floating candles, members of the history and math departments teaching History of Magic (trivia) and Potions (slime making).
- Listen to your students. After every event, I survey the students about what worked, what didn’t, and what they’d like for next time. While it can be hard to hear that they didn’t enjoy the Photo Booth that took hours to set up or wanted even more interactive activities, it helps inform events going forward.
Have you hosted a big bookish event? If you haven’t, what theme would you choose?