Noon Year’s Eve @ Your Library!

Last January, I first heard about libraries hosting Noon Year’s Eve parties for kids on New Year’s Eve, celebrating the new year at NOON instead of midnight.  My only regret was that I was going to have to wait a whole year to have the event at my library. I like to have at least one special event a month – the kind of after school or weekend programming we do regularly during the summer: school age programming as it were. It keeps the staff in practice and, I hope, it keeps patrons thinking of us year round.  It’s good to make sure they have us in mind year round and not JUST in summer as the place to go with their kids for celebration, connecting, community, and fun.  Noon Year’s Eve, I knew, was the perfect event for December.

I was inspired by this post from Erin about her library’s Noon Year’s Eve and I saved it allllllllll year until it was time to have ours.  The other thing that drew me to this program was I KNEW we could make it relatively low maintenance. Here’s how we did it!

As per usual, I invited our local news source to come take pictures.  They got some great shots of all the action, so start by checking those out.

We ran the event from 11:00-12:30.  This didn’t give us a lot of time for stations since we wanted to do the countdown at noon – but that was fine, it kept things moving.  We built in time at the end for latecomers or if people just wanted to stay and keep playing. We had approximately 45 minutes at the activity stations.

Activity Stations

  • SCAVENGER HUNT After proving to be a hit EVERY TIME we offered it, we decided to ALWAYS have a search and find on your own time hunt through the library.  We printed out ten New Year’s related pieces of clip art (party horns, confetti, a clock) and hid them around the youth services area.  The kids go hunting around for them with a visual map of what they’re looking for, checking them off as they go along.  This scavenger hunt is SO POPULAR – it works for a great age range, it gets people moving instead of stuck at just one station, and whole groups of families/friends can do it together.  Once they completed this they got a temporary tattoo.  We use lots of clip art from the great site My Cute Graphics.
  • NEW YEAR’S CROWNS As you know if you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, I love Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher’s Notebook. For free or just a few dollars (which goes right to teachers) you can get activity packs themed around just about anything you can think of.  I’ve purchased so many games, worksheets, and matching sets from there.  BIG timesaver. If you haven’t already subscribed to their weekly newsletters, I highly recommend it. I guessed there’d be some units about New Year’s and I found a great one for under $3 that had coloring and activity sheets and a wonderful crown template.

nye crown

Great, right?  So we set up our craft tables and had the kids color and cut out crowns.  We explained resolutions to some of the older kids but we didn’t really stress that part.  Here’s a picture of the craft wildness in action!


No one was really interested in anything other than the crafts, but we also had out some of the other activity sheets from the kit for older kids or take homes. This was lots of fun and got packed quickly.  We also had a station to make our own noisemakers (because I had forgotten to order them from Oriental Trading!) this was definitely more trouble than it was worth, so you’ll hear more about it in Lessons Learned!

  • GAMES GALORE! We decided since one of the things grown-ups do at parties is games and since who DOESN’T like games, we’d just have a station for games and Legos.  We put out all our Legos and many of our family friendly board games (memory games with only 24 cards for our younger players, Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Kerplunk!, Animal Upon Animal, etc.) and let the older kids and families game and build together.  Cheap and effective, can’t go wrong.We put this up along side our newest favorite area – BABY TOWN!  After we realized our events didn’t have anything for the youngest patrons – and our youngest patrons were DEFINITELY expecting to be included since we bill it as for all ages and families and we have great family attendance at everything we do, whoo-hoo – we set up an area filled with blocks, stacker toys, shaker eggs, and sensory balls.  This has been such a hit.  The parents love having a place for the littles to play while their siblings might be out making crafts and the parents with just the younger kids like having an area to explore.  I MEAN JUST LOOK AT IT.


  • PHOTOBOOTH! We turned our giant bulletin board into a photobooth.  We made some props and bought some giant frames from Oriental Trading. Need I say more?


My fantastic-unbelievable-amazing-beyond-words staff – without whom of the magic is possible!  (that’s me, Melissa, Stephanie, Jared, and Chelsie.)


My friend Jackie’s adorbs little girl.  I KNOW Y’ALL, I KNOW.

So, as you can see – relatively simple stations. From there – it was on to the countdown!

We gathered everyone in our giant rotunda (which you have seen in many pictures before and which has its negatives and positives for programs – but for this program it was a BIG WIN.) and had a countdown projected on the big wall. We talked about the new year and new chances and how we were going to be SO EXCITED and have SO MUCH FUN and we REALLY wanted all the grown-ups to help with the countdown.

And, above us, I knew that we had planned a balloon drop.  I realized with our PACKED crowd this could turn into real chaos. So I knew we’d need grown-up help. At that point, I made it as clear as possible that ALL grown-ups should look out for ALL kids.  That felt good (and necessary) to say. Here’s a view from above before the drop.

so many

They, of course, loved the countdown and shouting and then the balloon drop.  We went straight into music after that, playing Shake it Off which they liked OK which we then cut off for Happy which, as always, they went wild for and really started dancing and throwing the balloons and some of the larger confetti around during. (see those 2″ circles on the ground?  Much easier to clean up than REAL confetti!)

We thanked everyone for coming, wished them a happy 2015 (at 12:01 on December 31.  Yes, it felt a little weird) and invited them to stay to take pictures, color, and play games.

In all, it was a whole lotta bang for not so much effort or money. (we spent a lot on confetti and glitter wands that we ended up not being able to use since there were SO MANY people there but we’ll save ’em!) We had over 100 people attend and there were lots of families, including many we’d never seen before (the most exciting library  demographic – new peeps!) and even more grandparents – many who seemed to be visiting/have visiting grandkids and were looking for something to do.  It was a great confluence of patrons looking for an event and us having just the right thing at the right time.  But you know we had lessons learned …

Lessons Learned

  • Noisemakers: we tried to make a project we found on Instructables about making easy noisemakers using only a piece of paper and a straw but let me make it clear that “easy” doesn’t mean the same thing when it comes to 5 year olds.  Just so you know.  Getting them together and the straws cut the right way was hard enough but trying to show the kids how to blow on them?  Impossible.  (and spitty!) So – either buy some cheap noisemakers, find another kind of make, or just skip them.  The kids didn’t seem to need them, the energy was enough.
  • Crowns: best part of the crowns?  We used some of our left over piles of foam to make the bands.  A MILLION TIMES EASIER TO ADJUST THAN PAPER and way more solid too, so they didn’t just rip right off or slide right off.  Meaning the kids actually didn’t mind wearing them, which was extra fun. We cut strips of differing lengths ahead of time and then did a quick measurement (or let parents) on each kid and then did a few staples and they fit right on.
  • Photobooth: We didn’t have the kind of participation at the photobooth that we were looking for, though several families had a great time taking tons of pics there.  We realized afterwards it just wasn’t clear enough about what the area was for.  So, next event we want to work on more signage about TAKE PHOTOS HERE! SAY CHEESE!  SHARE YOUR PICS! POSE WITH PROPS! along with a few examples of what poses can look like.
  • Timing: It was ABSOLUTELY necessary to have the countdown at exactly noon, but we were glad we did. It gave specific focus to the rest of the event and made sure everyone was on the same page (families playing games, shepherding kids through the scavenger hunt, etc.) I definitely would have liked to see more people stay around afterwards to play games and just hang out, but there were plenty of attendees who, no matter what we did, were clearing out for naps and lunches.  If anything, we’d maybe start a half hour earlier to give some more time for the stations but I don’t think ANYONE felt that rushed. That was the bonus of more simple and self-explanatory crafts!
  • Balloon Drop: The kids LOVE getting things dropped on them from above.  If you’re looking to have one of these events, this is the part I think you should strive to recreate the most.  This was just the apex of delight and really made it feel like a party. We do have a good – but not perfect – space for it, so that helped.  We put buttons in the balloons (!) to help make them drop but that was another little detail.  Maybe it’s time to invest in a balloon net.
  • All ages: This was obviously an event that worked best for 0-9.  Even the 10-12s were a little edgy (well, they liked the countdown and they liked the Legos!) and teens – forget it.  I wish we could have some teen component but the library closes at 5:00 on New Year’s Eve so … I mean, I’m not sure what we could fit in for our older crowd (do teens want to have a wild NYE at 4:45 PM?) but it’s on my mind for next year!

That was Noon Year’s Eve 2015 – an unqualified success. It was cheap to put together with a hugely positive response and tons of attendees. We will do it again?  In a heartbeat.  Should you do it?  Heck yes!

I know tons of libraries had their own Noon Year’s parties this year, hooray. I’d love to hear all about what you did: what worked and what didn’t, what lessons you learned, what you’d advise other libraries to do or avoid, and what you can’t wait to do again! Leave a comment here all about it or talk with me on Twitter.




Librarians & #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Have you supported #WeNeedDiverseBooks yet? What started off as a virtual movement has now become a full-fledged force.  Their fundraising drive met their goal in less than a month. (but you should still donate if you can!) The best part of the fundraising is that it backs up concrete, measurable results which will ensure that diverse books get out to a more children and teens.  Among the many cool goals, I have to admit my favorite is the one about funding not just an award but a grant for new writers – both named after the legendary (and beloved by me) Walter Dean Myers.  THESE are the kind of actions that need to be taken if we want to open up and PUSH the conversation/sales/and attention of diverse titles AND authors!

In several Twitter chats and interactions, I’ve noticed that people who don’t work in libraries are curious about how to – or even if they should – approach their (mostly public) librarians about stocking more diverse titles. I thought it might be helpful to have some tips on the best way to do this if you, a library user, want to interact with your librarian about the diversity in your library.  Now, of course, I can’t speak to every situation and you should use, well … approach your librarian as if that person has good intentions.  Because, 99.9% of the time, trust me when I tell you we do.  Librarians want to support diverse books.  We see.  We know.  More than you can imagine, we see the impact books have on children, we understand what it means when they find themselves in text.  We do.  And we want more diverse books and more diverse collections – but we’re limited by time and budget and staffing and a thousand little things that pull apart our days and responsibilities. That’s the reality of working in a public library in these times when everything from budgets to “so, hey eBooks are putting you out of business, huh?” presses in on us every single day.  But we care.  We do. Before you have any conversation with your librarian about diversity: try very hard (outside any previous experience that has given you cause to doubt) to presume good intentions. What else can you do?

Get to know your librarian!

We live for your questions.  We want nothing more than to talk to you about books.  We want to hear what you’re reading.  We want to recommend favorites.  And, most of all, we want to hear about what YOU want to see/read at the library.  Go ahead and ask the person behind the desk in the children/teen department what THEY are reading.  And, yes, ask them about diverse books

  • Be specific: “I’m interested in some picture books with African-American characters.”
  • Use examples of titles/authors you like: “I love the Lulu books by Hilary McKay. Can you recommend some others like that?”
  • Talk about what you want IN ADDITION to diversity: “My daughter loves books with action and adventure.  Can you recommend some diverse titles that would fit in with that?”
Once you have started this conversation, it will be easier to approach your librarian about requests or gaps you see in the collection. And, side bonus, you’ll get good recommendations.  Now, your librarian might not be some kind of machine that can spit out recommendations at the drop of a hat but here’s what questions like this do: indicate to your librarian that there is patron interest in these kind of books and let your librarian know that these are the kind of books they should be familiar with/able to booktalk and recommend. Say you’ll come back while they have time to compile a list, give your librarian a chance to do some research.

Submit your requests!

Almost all libraries accept patron requests.  This doesn’t mean they will buy everything yoyu request.  Budgets just don’t make that possible and neither do each library’s individual collection development policies, which vary from library to library but SHOULD be available to any patron that asks to see them.  But the point is … you are not inventing the wheel by asking if you can submit purchase requests.  DO NOT feel nervous, pushy, hesitant, or ashamed about submitting purchase requests. We get asked this often for more stuff than you could possibly imagine. Your library probably has a purchase request form on their website.  Here’s a few random examples:

If you feel hesitant about talking to a librarian about this, you can get to most online forms with a little bit of Googling or digging around at their website.  You can also ask in person for a paper purchase request – yes, those still exist.  (Well, in MOST libraries, I guess.)  As far as I know, libraries don’t “prioritize” one over the other.  BUT don’t just go spamming libraries with purchase requests if you don’t live there/have never even been to their library.  Most libraries require your patron info any way, so we’d notice. (and it doesn’t make us kindly inclined to your suggestions, trust.)

Now, that stuff might seem pretty self-evident.  But here’s the reason you got to know your librarian!  You can approach your librarian about WHY you want to purchase these books.  Sometimes the forms have space for this – fill it it!  But other times they don’t – but, hey!  You got to know your librarian!

How do libraries/librarians decide to buy books?  Well, it differs from library to library. But we all have (or should have) collection development policies.  These guide our purchasing decisions.  But so do other things.  Like budgets.  Like patron interest. (these elements can be built into collection development guidelines.) And, as you have no doubt heard countless times: libraries also use reviews and awards to help guide collection development.  That’s why those things matter, you see.

And that’s why you should use them to your advantage! Mention these lists.  Tell your librarian you’ll check out the award titles.  Award lists with patron interest?  Now that’s something a librarian can make a case for.  Not sure what lists to mention?  Luckily, I have some suggestions. For the most part, these are awards given by the American Library Association and its divisions (because this is, of course, the professional organization for librarians) but there are some others worth noting. Enjoy these handy direct direct links:

Coretta Scott King Award (lots of libraries carry these winners: but what about the Honor books?)
Schneider Family Book Award (for books that best embody the disability experience)
Pura Belpré Award (another good list to check on the Honor titles)
Stonewall Book Awards – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
American Indian Youth Literary Award
Amelia Bloomer List (feminist literature for ages 0-18)

Non-ALA Awards
Jane Addams Peace Association Book Award (promoting peace, social justice, equality)
Ezra Jack Keats Book Award (for, among other things, portraying the “multicultural nature of our world”)
Lambda Literary (category for Children’s/Young Adult)
Américas Award (for portraying Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States)
Sydney Taylor Book Award (awarded by the National Jewish Book Award for Children’s Literature)
NAACP Image Award for Literature (categories for Children & Teen)

>If you have a blogger or website that you think gives particularly insightful and comprehensive reviews, you should feel free to talk to your librarian about that source too.  Maybe they’re familiar with them, maybe they’re not and they can add a new review source. For example: Debbie Reese has recommended lists on Native Americans in Children’s Literature and Twinja Reviews had a ton of lists for Black Speculative Fiction Month, including smaller press stuff which can be hard to find reviews of.

What about donations? Self-published stuff?

First, thank you for thinking of your library!  Now give us money.  Haha, just kidding.  Sorta.

The real first thing is: gifts are not free. When you donate something to a library, we have to take staff time and our own materials to process it and catalog it so it can be added to the collection.  Someone also has to decide if it belongs in the library collection, which goes back to using our collection development guidelines. So, that takes time and money and it’s time and money some libraries don’t have, which is why they may not accept donations and why you should ask what your library’s policies and procedures for donations/gifts are first.

Next is the self-publishing issue.  There’s a great conversation about self-published books, how they get reviewed, and what that means for libraries at The Horn Book.  There’s many people saying smart and thoughtful things there, but I will give you a little bit of my librarian’s perspective.  First, we just can’t circulate paperback picture books or easy readers.  They fall apart and they are not worth staff time processing them. If you want us to buy/add a picture book or easy reader?  It’ll have to be hardcover. Second, I have run the numbers.  In my library, I have STATISTICALLY seen that overall, the self-published books that were donated and then added to our collection circulate less than traditionally published books.  That is absolutely going to be a factor in my decision about adding titles. Does this mean we would never add self-published books?  No, of course not.  We have and will again – but it does mean that they are held to a higher standard. I don’t mean for this post to be THE ULTIMATE GUIDE ON HOW TO GET YOUR SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK IN LIBRARIES!!1 I don’t think that exists, for one thing, and every library will have a different set of guidelines and standards about this – because this is a new field and because every community is different. There’s also the issue of where libraries will be able to obtain your self-published title from and if their purchasing guidelines allow for them to buy from those services. And you know what that leaves you with, should you be wishing to urge a librarian to buy your self-published book/donate it?  It leads you right back to step #1: get to know your librarian!

And there you go!  Those are some ways you can really interact with your librarian (and your library shelves) when it comes to finding out about new diverse material AND requesting your library’s shelves grow even more diverse.  Just as we should speak up to the publishing world and let them know that, yes, we will buy and promote and be excited about diverse titles, that we want more to share with children and teens, so should we talk to librarians about this – and I mean this if you’re a library user or if you’re a fellow librarian reading this now.

What are YOU doing, fellow librarians, to make patrons aware of your diverse collection? What are you doing to EXPAND your collection? 

Do you make it easy for patrons to figure out how they can request titles, are you forms easily accessible? Do you do displays with the books face out for cultural heritage months?  Do you include diverse titles on your best books for fifth grade! recommended reading lists or your staff favorites?  Do you put your diverse titles face-out where patrons can find them browsing?  Do you booktalk diverse titles on school visits or when asked for recs?  Do you talk to your child/teen patrons about why this issue is important and impacts them?  Are you making a conscious effort to expand the doors and windows in your collection, to address gaps, to make sure your collection is diverse and TRUE to?

This is now in OUR hands.  Let’s do something about it.

If you have any questions – or even better suggestions – about how diversity in library collections and what you can/should do about it as a library user OR a librarian, I’d love to continue the conversation!  You can leave a comment here or talk to me on Twitter.  Let’s keep this momentum and this movement going – we owe to our patrons.