The internet is awash with idea purveyors and suppliers of stuff. I depend heavily on word of mouth and recommendations before committing my time and money. To help you with your outreach activities, I’ve compiled resources and suppliers I can trust. Interestingly, many of my best ideas come from outside LibraryLand. I love adapting the ideas of homeschooling parents and crafty remodelers in my attempt to engage and enlighten. I created this list with public, school, and academic libraries in mind (a bit ‘o’ something for everyone.) I receive no benefits from promoting any of these suppliers or resources.
(And yes, I’ve been remiss on posting lately; we are in the midst of updating systems and getting ready for a new president, so sadly my time has been co-opted with other issues.)
- T-Shirts: I’ve used many suppliers and CustomInk flew to the top of my list for their customer service and high-quality product. They are comparable to many sites, but offer many more t-shirt and ink colors. Additionally, when I submitted my design, I got a call from a designer who worked with me over the phone to tweak my design! She made it much better. Plus, they have excellent graphics and fonts you can use to do direct design in the site. These are the only t-shirts my student staff wear outside the job.
- Button-maker: do not do not do not buy the cheap ones as good of a deal as it seems at the time. They work a few times and usually break. They do not produce a high-quality button. Go for the more expensive one. Consider buying one with other offices or departments (go in with the Dean of Students or both the children’s and teen departments can purchase one together.) I like the ones at ButtonBiz.com because it’s the same product but slightly cheaper than from other suppliers and they do free shipping. It’s survived three years of heavy use including 10 community events. I also purchased the backs with magnets so folks have a choice between buttons or magnets. I would suggest the graphic punch over the circle cutter, but they are SHARP and require adult supervision.
- Banners and magnets: I do a lot of community events to promote our activities. I host a stall at our summer farmer’s market and camp out at family events throughout the year. I use VistaPrint for banners and magnets. The quality is good and affordable. Plus they send 25% coupons with each order and free magazine subscriptions (a great way to get stuff for your library!). I don’t use them for t-shirts or other promotional items because I can get more options and a better price elsewhere, but for these basics in my outreach toolkit, I love me some Vista.
- Fun junk: I really hope I don’t find out that Oriental Trading is involved in shady business. I try not to think too hard about how this fun junk is produced so cheaply. It’s a good resource for all of my programming. From glow sticks for student orientation to craft kits for family programs, Oriental Trading is my go-to source. It’s worth calling to order because their representatives are great at pointing out clearance items and offering up great suggestions.
- Star Wars Blog Activities: crafts, games, and more whether you’re doing a floor program for a dorm or putting on community programs.
- Pinterest: If you still have not joined, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and I’ll send you an invite. Embrace the fastest-growing new social media as you will find other librarians and more Hunger Games party ideas than you can shake a stick at. And when will Adult Services host a Mad Men party for the adults?
- All Things Thrifty is a home remodeling/decorating blog, which has WHAT to do with libraries? Everything. Get great ideas for teen programs or help freshmen outfit their dorm rooms with one of her cool projects. These are DIYs that your teens and college kids will actually want to do. Get your teens to make some of the easier projects that don’t require a table saw to help update and outfit your teen space. Think of the ownership they’ll take by helping to decorate their space or even reupholster the chairs. No, I am not kidding about that either. Or just make a duct tape purse.
- Little Shop of Physics is an excellent Mr. Wizard-like show created by the Colorado State University. This is a great resource for mad science programs.
- The best Harry Potter party I’ve ever seen by the Young Adult Book Council.
- Homeschool-Activities is run by a creative, fun woman who was homeschooled herself. She has really good ideas ranging from hands-on science experiments to engaging toddlers and preschoolers. She encourages creative expression and exploration (wait until you see the felted owls her kids made!). A great site if you work with all ages of youth.