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Special Events

This is a description of the desert's Families For Literacy Festival held by the Riverside County Library Adult Literacy Program co-sponsored with the Palm Desert Branch Library.

  • First, take a breath. Make sure you keep your sense of humor handy and keep the word flexible as your middle name. This is the third festival we've had, and they do get easier each time. Plan ahead and have everything set up the night before so you can come in fresh the day of the event. Plan to have fun and you will.

  • Choose a date far enough in advance so you can solicit community and business support (i.e. donations, promotions, help). Select a theme. This year our theme was "Playing in the World of Words." Decide the length of the festival. The first one I did was 5 hours. Way too long! This one was 3 hours and seemed about right. It ran from 11am- 2pm with many visitors staying after the scheduled activities were over.

  • Everything was planned to take place in the library. Enlist the support of the branch manager and staff. Get them to buy in so they understand they're part of the program. We divided the library into activity centers. The community room was our "theatre" and our fantastic storyteller Angela Lloyd performed 4 shows for 15 to 20 minutes each time. This is one thing we paid for, but it was well worth it. The parents enjoyed her as much as the children. We posted a banner with the performance schedule in the library and made announcements over the public address system prior to each show.

  • We concluded each performance with a raffle drawing for prizes. These were donated by local businesses such as Blockbuster video coupons for free videos, movie passes, bookstore gift certificates, ice cream from Baskin & Robbins, passes to the museum, waterpark, tramway etc. This is one of the things for which you need lag time, particularly if you write to corporate offices.

  • The raffle also provided us with the door count. Everyone got a ticket for the drawing but had to be present to claim a prize if their number was called. We also gave away free books to the first 150 children through the door. That was the hook to get people to come. We actually gave away closer to 200 books.

  • In addition to our storyteller, we also had "Kino" from PBS' Storytime. They provided the costume, we provided the actor. They generously did not charge us for the rental of the costume but it did cost us for the shipping both ways. Kino was our greeter and he delighted our audience.

  • In partnership with the local Girl Scout council, we invited a special senior troop called Hearts of Gold who made balloon animals and did face painting in the children's storyroom. They also had a display about their literacy program called Right To Read. (Inviting girl scouts also guarantees you an audience.)

  • We had several crafts planned: A library passport, make and take coloring book, puppets, etc. We also had a couple of games. All were related to books and stories. We planned to have a large motor skill game played outside on the patio but the weather didn't cooperate. We also had refreshments donated that were to be enjoyed outside on the patio, but when it rained, we brought it into the foyer of the building — Girl Scout cookies and lemonade.

  • This year we picked the Wednesday of spring break so we weren't competing with the street fair on a Saturday. We had volunteers directing traffic to alternate parking since the lot is limited. That worked well with 4 young men handling the directions. We also had large poster board signs.

  • Most of the volunteers came from literacy tutors. Some came from the library. We provided lunch for all the volunteers and library staff. We ordered and had pizza delivered. It made everyone happy and no one had to leave the building.

  • In each area, we had books displayed about the activity — clowning, face painting, storytelling. The library passport encouraged the kids to try different things and get a sticker on that page of the passport.

  • We gave away ribbons to everyone that said "I Pledge to Read." They could be worn and then used as bookmarks. Big hit. With approximately 450 people in attendance it went surprisingly well. People moved around freely and believe it or not, we never heard a baby cry!

  • Press releases were sent to the four local television stations, the newspaper, and a family monthly. In addition, formal personalized invitations were sent to the media, local sponsors, and key city and library figures. We also did a radio interview program. The ABC and NBC affiliates both aired their reports on the festival. The daily paper published an article and also a weekly. We got lots of bang for the buck.

  • Inside, near the circulation desk, we had a poster listing and thanking our supporters and donors. We also had posters highlighting the activities. We took polaroid pictures and taped them on each of the posters. Several volunteers were given disposable cameras and took pictures as they helped.

  • We are producing a video of the festival’s highlights to recruit more learners and tutors at community awareness events. If it turns out well, we hope to air it on public access TV.

  • Remember the community you're serving and don't be concerned with numbers. Last year we did the festival in an underserved community in a very tiny 1500 square foot library. Approximately, 65-70 people came and we considered it a great success. It is lots of work, but it is a ton of fun. Give it a try.

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