(The Trials of) Family Day

Over the summer, I decided that I really wanted to host a Family Day at my library. My vision was for a small, laid back sort of festival with snacks and games and mini-presentations from other departments who work with children and families. I started reaching out to organizations and businesses in my area in July, calling and emailing probably 20 groups before my deadline. Among them were the Humane Society, social services, police and fire departments, the local music factory, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, afterschool centers like the YMCA, and bakeries and fitness coaches. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see and it looked a little like this:

A Saturday from 10-1

Slots for speakers every 30 mins

Passive library activities on side tables

Orgs and county/city departments on tables toward the front of the room

After a lot of communication over the course of a couple months, I found out that a lot of other groups had this same idea for the same weekend. Many contacts were loaded with other events, so I had very few yes’s. I wound up booking social services, our police and fire departments, and our local Boy Scouts troop (thanks to a mom who is a champion for our library) to come and set up tables to speak to families all day, and a bakery and our hospital were sending speakers to do do demonstrations. The rest of the time, I filled in with a combination of passive and active programs run by me. The schedule turned out like this:

Sept. 13, 10-1

10 am: Car seat safety

10:30: Make and take craft

11: Family Dance Party

11:30: Cupcake decorating

12:30: A Maze for Minnie

Not too bad for me.

If you’re a librarian reading this, though, you probably know that this is the part where things don’t go as planned. I mean, there’s a reason this shirt exists:

Let The Librarian Handle It t-shirt  -- This needs to be my uniform at work

The day before the event, I called our baker to be sure she was still coming. No dice.

But it was okay. I didn’t ask for a big commitment from her because I knew there was a possibility that this could happen (after I’d already advertised for it), so it was easy for me to cover for her. I just stopped by a grocery store on the way home for supplies and baked the cupcakes myself.

The day of, I also heard from my other speaker that she was very sick and couldn’t make it. At the time, it was 9:30 am and dumping rain, so I wasn’t optimistic that people were going to come for her 10 am slot, anyway. She was reassured that she could come speak any other time for my storytime crowd. No problem.

Around the time that I hung up with her, though, I noticed that the library was not only humid, but steadily growing hotter.

That’s right. The air conditioning had been thrown off by a big storm the night before.


It took a couple hours for us to get a hold of anyone, so our AC wasn’t restored until 12ish. In the mean time, I brought out small cups and reminded everyone to keep drinking water from our fountain.

I was very worried that the combination of all these things would kill my Family Day, but my twitter friends were there to remind me to just have fun. Librarians are such great friends. Adopt one today. 🙂

Actually, the kids didn’t seem to care that it was very warm.

To cover for the sick presenter, I brought out the crafts early. I had pipe cleaners, plastic string, and beads for jewelry and melty beads (also called perler beads, I think) for making patterns, figures, or keychains. The melty beads were the biggest hit, but I quickly found out just how fickle those little things are. They were time consuming, though, and in this case, that was a good thing.

meltybeadsTo keep everyone from getting too hot, I shortened the dance party by about ten minutes and kids compensated by making more crafts.

While I worried the cupcakes might not be cool enough without all the goodies a bakery could provide, the kids were thrilled to add icing and sprinkles and candies to their naked cupcakes. They didn’t know or care if something else had been planned.

Since some kids (and adults) were getting too warm, I brought out Minnie a little early and let everyone pet her before they left.

How rude of me. Have you met Minerva Louise yet?

minnieThe white ball of fluff is Minnie. The chocolate-y Princess Paws is Luca, one of my dogs.

We still had a few families who stayed, so I brought out boxes and cut to the final activity, which was STEM in a sneaky way. I had around 12 boxes and I asked kids to make a maze or obstacle course for her to go through. At one point, it was a group of just 5 girls going to town. They made a house for her, a picture for her wall, and a toy before they got down to business and started construction on a tunnel.

tunnelgirlsI provided packing tape, markers, glue, and construction paper and gave them about 15 minutes to work. Halfway through, a few boys arrived, but were content to work on coloring the tunnel.

wholetunnelSo this was the end result. As you can see, there a few holes in their engineering, but it worked. I brought out Minnie and she made it about halfway through before being too freaked out by all the kids gawking at her. She froze and I just quietly asked all the kids to sit on the carpet and I would get her out. It was a nice surprise to me that all the kids were very respectful of her and of me when I asked them to give her some space. It helped that the kids were mostly older than 7 and understood when I explained that this was her first time being around lots of kids at one time. I explained that bunnies like quiet voices, too, and they were all pretty quiet and gentle. They weren’t disappointed at all that she hadn’t made it very far through their maze. They told her she’d done a good job on her first try.

So that was Family Day. Ultimately, around 50 people came through, which wasn’t too shabby under the circumstances.

If you ever wonder what you need to be a small-town/rural librarian, it’s flexibility and lots of optimism.

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