Things like National Herring Month warm the cockles of my heart. Even if I can’t do much programming around that other than promoting the All of a Kind Family books. Oh wait, we could all wear pinafores, buy pickles out of a barrel, I could hide pennies around the library…
Monthly celebrations offer programmers the opportunity to plan a year of regular activities and displays at the same time each month. Committing to a year of this type of programming creates expectation for patrons. What’s next? Honey? Adopting Cats? Maybe, the Power of a Smile. Here’s a few ideas to get you going this summer in anticipation of whenever your year officially starts. One item to caution you about: in celebrating Black History Month, Women’s History Month, or other non-White non-Male non-Christian Months please consider how to make these celebrations local, meaningful, and part of the rest of the year. Peace Circles are a positive, active way to address the reasons why we have to have these months in the first place, for example.
- January: While National Dried Fruit Month sounds scintillating, may I suggest either National Mentoring Month or National Hobby Month. Invite Big Brothers, Big Sisters to recruit patrons at a program or do a program of Big Sibs/Little Sibs. National Hobby Month could include displays of patrons’ hobbies, meetings of local hobby clubs, and how-to programming. Think outside the hobby box, too. Invite teens to share manga and anime with their community.
- February: Black History Month is hopefully on your list. But it’s also Library Lovers and Exotic Vegetable Months. Highlight your cooking books; see if there’s a CSA nearby to do a talk/cooking/gardening demo; get your TAB involved by having a cooking contest of exotic vegetables (see who can make Brussel sprouts appetizing!) For Black History month try making the focus local. Who are and were significant African-Americans in your community? Highlight unsung heroes. Hold a peace circle. Try to make the month a true community event through local organizations and activities. And, make a commitment to keep those activities going throughout the year.
- March: Women’s History Month offers many opportunities for displays, lectures, and programs. Again, I challenge you to keep these going throughout the year. Consider a Women’s History Month Continued lecture or display each month. March 3 the Iditarod begins and March 4 is National Grammar Day. Host a Grammar Bee: TAB vs. the AARP folks who do taxes for free, for example. Work with your TAB to create a race board for the Iditarod; they can stick magnets on cut-out dog sleds and move them forward along a map each day to show who’s in the lead. Maybe patrons will start an Iditarod pool! Offer a free copy of STONE FOX to whomever picks the winner.
- April is National Library Month and a great time to advocate! Contact your local and national legislators and invite them to a I Love the Library Party. Contact national legislators now to get on their calendar for District Days. Consider participating in National Library Legislative Day in May and tell your patrons about it. Don’t wait for your funding to come under vote; start telling patrons now why the library is so important. And offer ways for them to tell their stories through your newsletters, a video booth, a paper mural inviting people to share their library love. Invite the local media to highlight your library.
- May has a lot going for it including Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Why not highlight National Flower or Lime Month instead? Ok, maybe Flower is more feasible. Will your library allow patrons to plant flowers around the exterior of the library? A local nursery might donate the supplies. Trust me, people love that kind of involvements. Kids will beg to go to the library to show people the flowers they planted there. Ownership, yo! Better yet, host it on Mother’s Day! It’s a great way to connect to your local gardening clubs who could probably put on a program a day throughout the month. This goes for academic libraries, too. It’s finals time and students might appreciate the chance to plant some flowers around the building in which they seek reliable internet.
- June: Is your library a safe space? Highlight that for LGBT Month! Provide safe space training for both patrons and staff (check your local LGBT center or college/university diversity office for potential trainers who might provide it for free.) Realize that the library is often a safe space for many questioning/out individuals who depend on the resources provided for support. See if you can host a float in the Gay Pride Parade or have a sign up for a library card booth at Pride. Or simply take the time to evaluate your services and collection to see how well you are serving this population. (Check out Ann Curry’s IF I ASK, WILL THEY ANSWER: Evaluating Public Library Reference Service to Gay and Lesbian Youth, Reference & User Services Quarterly, Vol. 45, No. 1, Fall 2005)
- July: forget decorating your library in red, white, and blue. Make it Tour de France Month at your library! It’s more than a reason to host French lessons and eat croissants. Hold bike rallies in the parking lots (maybe the local bike club or rec dept gave do safety demos and give away helmets?) Have the race streaming in a special room complete with a giant whiteboard keeping track of the race. Host activities to get patrons to choose favorite racers and create flags/buttons/signs to cheer their racer on. In other words, get your patrons excited about a sport usually enjoyed by tall, skinny guys with good hair who can seemingly drink lots of beer without gaining weight. Help them learn about the history of the race, learn about geography through the race course, etc. And I guess it’s up to you how to deal with Lance Armstrong…a program for kids about lying? (Insert smiley face icon here.)
- August is when the specter of school begins to loom. Since you did not celebrate America’s independence to focus on the Tour de France you could celebrate Singapore’s, Jamaica’s, India’s, and Pakistan’s independence. The food will be divine. Pakistan and India are of significant importance to the US right now. These are opportunities to explore their histories, many cultures, many languages, and religions in safe, neutral ways. I imagine you would need to brace yourself for some feedback calling you UnAmerican or supporting terrorism. Peace Circle, anyone? But rather than exploring these cultures from the viewpoint of terrorism and other scary isms, August is a chance to expose patrons to new information in a positive light.
- September is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Again, how will this month permeate into the rest of your year? How can you create meaningful events outside of a Hat Dance and food buffet? First, check with your local and college/university organizations to get them involved and planning. It’s also Library Card Sign-Up Month! Visit local schools and blanket them with library card forms. Hold a contest to see who has the most library cards or who has had a library card the longest. Promote the value of a library card. Ask area events/organizations/businesses to let you set up shop for free to promote library card sign-ups. Offer incentives for folks to bring in someone to get a card. In other words, it’s another chance to advocate (see April.)
- October is Dinosaur Month. Do you really need my help here?
- November includes both Veteran’s Day and National American Indian Month. Connect your TAB with an archives and get them to interview veterans (not just the older ones, but the newly returning ones.) Do a job fair for veterans; invite colleges/universities to host similar fairs for vets. Don’t just celebrate our vets, but find ways to get our resources and services to them in useful ways. Parades are wonderful, but finding a job or returning to school can be life-changing. National American Indian Month could be a nice change to turkeys and pilgrim hats. Most likely there is or was a local tribe in your area. This is a great time to connect with them to create a relationship that extends beyond November. And invite Cynthia Leitich-Smith to visit your library!
- December is a great chance to highlight the Festive Winter Holiday Season. Or not. Be brave and daring and forgo trying to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable! Instead focus on National Write-to-A-Friend Month. Display epistolary novels! Show 99 Charing Cross Road! Get local archives/museums to display or offer programs about the letters in their collection. Host pen pal parties. Set up a desk with paper, envelopes, and pens for folks to write letters. If the holidays are all about connecting with loved ones, why not encourage patrons to connect through one of the oldest, best, most loved means: a letter.
I really hope one of you is willing to try my July and December suggestions and report back. I hope to see many of you at Annual next week. I’m speaking on a panel called Out of the Library and into the Community: Academic Librarians and Community Engagement on Monday, July 1 at 8:30am in McCormick Place Convention Center S502, sponsored by ACRL’s Women and Gender Studies Section. Hope to see you there!