Love Your Library: A Valentine's Day Library Event

10:49 AM 2 Comments A+ a-

The Information Bar of Kirby Library Post-Valentine's Day
I am a big proponent of catching people doing something right - I like it when my colleagues and supervisors do it to me and I love the blush of recognition students get when you let them know how much you admire them for something they are doing.  So why not have an event whose sole purpose is thanking your patrons?

For me, an obvious day was Valentine's Day.  February 14th is designated "Love Your Library" day at Wyoming Seminary's Upper School (yes, we wear pink or red at the desk).  If students, faculty or staff want to come over to the library and fill out a heart about what they love best, the library thanks them by giving them a fresh-baked cookie (mostly chocolate chip, but I do make a batch of oatmeal craisin for the people who don't like chocolate or are allergic). 

My kitchen prior to beginning - 200 cookies were made in 3 hours
I will admit, the cookie baking is not an insignificant undertaking.  Luckily, as a boarding school veteran I have developed an excellent system of cranking out large quantities of cookies in a relatively compressed period of time (so I can go to sleep before midnight).  My chocolate chip cookies are really popular, so I focus on those, with just one batch of oatmeal for the people with allergies.  I made about 200 cookies this time, and they were all gone by the end of school, so I probably could have made 240 and it would have been perfect for the after school crowd as well, but I ran out of chocolate chips! 

Publicity is important to any well-attended event and word of mouth among teenagers is total gold for publicizing library events.  I had one of my LAB seniors make an announcement the day before and I also emailed and hung up flyers (which you can view for yourself on my Google Docs).  Just using pale pink and lavender paper, I printed out simple hearts with a question: "Why do you love the library?" (Important note: be sure you only print as many hearts as there are cookies - that way the end of valentines directly correlates with no more cookies and you don't run out.)

This could seem like asking the kids to jump through a hoop to just get a cookie, but we actually collect these and use them as data to take an informal read on our program.  My golden retriever usually wins the most mentions, paws down (you can see one of our student's rendition of him looking up at me reading a book, something I never get to do in the library) but usually my fellow librarian and I are a close second (and we don't have big egos, so the dog being ahead of us is fine).

Points I noticed this year that seemed unusual from other years where the notice of the "ambiance" of the library or the "warmth" of the library and I'm thinking this was related to more adjectives to describe our professional staff ("helpful librarians" or "friendly librarians"). 

Our kids are wonderful at our school (really, I'm not making this up - I know that I am lucky, almost every one of the 200 kids who did a valentine thanked me so politely when they took their cookie, or they enthusiastically spoke about how much they were looking forward to eating it!).  You can see from this valentine (bullet points seemed another theme and we thought it was super that kids had so much to say they wanted to make a list!) that we were nicely listed first, followed by the books (our circulation has been up this year), then my dog, then the cookies (so impressed those weren't first), then "friends".

The "friends" part is of particular interest - this came up on a few valentine's or "the great people who hang out here" was listed as the reason the person loved the library.  And that begs a point I'd like to make about creating a welcoming library environment.  If a library space becomes identified with one group of students, it can become exclusionary as students who do not include themselves in that category decide the library isn't for them.  Several valentines mentioned the "ambiance" or "stress-free environment" of the library as the main reason why they loved.

The blizzard of valentines on our Center Classroom glass
We often say that the library has a "no-guilt" relationship with students - we don't charge fines, we don't believe in a quiet library, we don't block or forbid certain websites or games (just wear headphones if it's noisy), and we are happy to proofread papers or listen to a student vent about their romantic relationship gone awry.  Our theory is that students who are comfortable hanging out in the space to relax with friends and warmly banter with us when they get a laptop from the cart behind the desk, is going to understandably be more comfortable coming to us with an academic problem or question.  "We don't judge" would be a possible t-shirt logo for us.

Anyway, Love Your Library is always a huge success.  We gave out every one of the 200 cookies and had that equal number of valentines hanging up - all by 2 pm.  Reading the valentines became a spectator sport with faculty and students munching their cookie while they walked around to look at all of them.  

A few administrators stopped by (actually to schedule classes) so it was nice for them to see the reasons students gave for loving our program.  While it's a lot of work to crank out all those cookies, I think making our students feel great about using the library and having a recognition party where all participants are thinking about why the library is so terrific, makes the sweat and tears well worth it.


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February 16, 2012 8:29 PM delete

I think I'm going to start writing blogs again Mrs. Lewis. This makes me miss you and the library and everything (for the most part) at SEM :( I was loving my library from 165.9 miles away (yes, it is still and always will be my favorite library). I think you should write on the hearts next year: "What is there NOT to love about the library?" Actually, then they all might be blank and that might get a little boring. Other than the fact that Bugsy has to stay in your office :(

February 17, 2012 10:36 AM delete

Well, that's GREAT to hear you are thinking about blogging again - I will totally follow you!! Your library was also loving you from a distance on Valentine's Day, sweetie. You are the best!