Sunday, October 28, 2012

Program: Star Wars Reads Day

In case you haven't heard, a bunch of publishers and Lucasfilm organized this massive nationwide event called Star Wars Reads Day. I signed up for it as soon as I heard about it, thinking this would be a great program for our library. I was not wrong.

Being one of the first libraries to sign up, I happily received an event kit in the mail, which included an activity booklet (also made available on the web), pins, bookmarks, origami paper, posters, and a couple of books for giveaways. Now, I don't want to sound greedy or snobby since I did get this stuff for free, but the fact of the matter is that there just wasn't enough of it. Even the bookmarks. Not enough for every kid who came to have one. We had never done an event on this scale, so we weren't sure what to expect, but even beforehand, I knew there wasn't enough for everyone. So we had to do a bit of strategic planning. Let me explain a little about how the program was going to work.

We decided that we wanted to make it an all-ages event, roughly separated into three ages groups: ages 0-8 with caregivers, 9-18, and 18+. Adult services made the decision to show the movie (Episode IV: A New Hope) and have trivia available upstairs. Tweens and teens would be in the children's program room and would feature more complicated crafts, trivia, and Xbox gaming. Activities for the youngest set would be set up in the children's department and would include simple crafts and games, as well as coloring sheets. We also transformed our meeting room into a photo op by covering a wall with Star Wars posters and providing a life-size cutout of Darth Vader, along with inflatable lightsabers, character masks (made of paper and laminated), and quote bubbles with some of the most famous sayings. Each area (aside from the photo op) also had raffles. We made four prize bags for each age group and did drawings every half hour (the program lasted for 2 hours, with the movie starting an hour before the program in case some families wanted to do both). As I mentioned, we'd never really done a one-shot event on this scale (we have a big Day of the Child - Day of the Book celebration but that's usually just for younger kids), so we weren't sure what was going to happen.

Some things we learned:
- when you have events going on for all ages, it's basically impossible to keep the age groups separated. The teen librarian and I had decided beforehand that one or the other of us would stand by the program room door and ask parents not to come in (so we could fit more kids in) and redirect those with younger children to the activities more suitable for them. That lasted about 5 minutes. I think it was a combination of sheer volume and the fact that many people just ignored us that led us to just allow anyone who wanted into the room.

- people will take everything you put out. Once we saw the hopelessness of trying to keep the age groups separate, we fully expected to run out of pool noodles to make lightsabers (our supervisor, who was running the activities for younger kids, had made balloon lightsabers for her age group). What we didn't expect was that even the three sample lightsabers we had made prior to the program would end up walking away (at least, briefly - they were later recovered). As I mentioned before, the giveaways we had received in our event kit were limited in quantity, so we had decided to give them as prizes for kids who played the Xbox gaming. Our mistake was in laying them out on the table near the Xbox without a vigilant guard. If you put something out on a table, people are going to assume it's there for the taking. We had enough between what we had been given and some extra bits we had made that we didn't run out, but we certainly didn't have any leftovers.

- volunteers are essential. We have quite a robust teen volunteering program here, which is excellent when it comes to large scale programs like this. I think we had 15 volunteers assisting, in addition to the three staff members (plus one to sit on the desk), and we definitely utilized them all. Most spent their time helping with the activities geared toward the younger crowd, but we had a couple assisting with the Xbox gaming. We could have used more in with the tweens and teens. One of the crafts we had put out was a pop-up Stormtrooper, something I thought was really cool, but that I didn't see anyone make because there was no one to explain how it worked and I didn't make copies of the instruction sheet. Some people did take it home, so maybe they'll figure it out on their own time, but it would have been beneficial to have a teen volunteer or two stationed at the craft table to help explain how exactly to make the project.

- surprises are awesome. Though we had received a variety of correspondence from the organizers of Star Wars Reads Day, we never received anything regarding costumed characters. We just assumed that we weren't getting any and, by that point, it seemed too late to try to contact the 501st or Rebel Legion to set up something on our own. So, imagine our surprise when a Stormtrooper from the 501st showed up to work our event! We were thrilled! He proved to be a very popular part of the event, and we would definitely want to include costumed characters again when we next run the program.

Here's a full run-down of the different activities we had for the program.

Ages 0-8:
- Yoda stick puppets
- Destroy the Death Star game (with paper Millenium Falcons or paper airplanes)
- Balloon lightsabers
- Character coloring sheets
- Star Wars scavenger hunt
- Raffle drawings

Ages 9-18:
- Fold your own Fortune Wookiee
- Pop-up stormtrooper card
- Trivia
- Puzzles
- Pool noodle lightsabers
- Xbox Kinect Star Wars gaming
- Raffle drawings

Ages 18+:
- Trivia
- Raffle drawings

All ages:
- Movie screening
- Photo opportunity

Over 300 people came to our program, so I'd say it was a huge success! We definitely plan on doing this type of program again and taking what we learned this time around into account. Did anyone else participate in Stars Wars Reads Day? What did you do?

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