“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” - Lord Byron
These days, it seems like we need a full medicine cabinet to cure our aches and pains. Life in 2022 is challenging and unsettled. Coming into the library every day, wondering if patrons will visit to browse the stacks, juggling schedules to cover for colleagues in quarantine, and worrying whether our programs will be attended is not easy. Luckily, as Lord Byron said, there’s cheap medicine that can make the day a little bit lighter: laughter.
Over the past two years, the staff at the Kirkland Town Library has found some fun ways to keep ourselves and our patrons smiling through the pandemic. We are a small crew but we are filled with creativity, innovation, and a willingness to try new things. Our toolbox is filled with free and inexpensive resources like the graphic design website Canva, a print shop at our system headquarters, and a tax-exempt card to shop-till-we-drop at the dollar store. Here are a few ways we used humor to get through 2021.
For April Fool’s Day, we added two new items to our Starter Kit collection. In addition to learning origami and crochet, patrons could check out a box that claimed to contain all the supplies they needed to get started with DIY tattoos and printing their own money. We posted photos of the kits on our Facebook and Instagram pages and they got a lot of likes; what was more fun, though, were the cackles we heard whenever the rest of the library staff saw the kits on display.
Every August, we organize Read Around The Clock, an annual 24-hour read-aloud event. Except for the wee hours of the morning, there is typically a crowd that sits and listens. To solve the problem of the empty chairs at 3 a.m., we decided to create our own audience. Using a website called Rasterbator.net, we uploaded public-domain photos of recognizable authors. The site converted them into a multi-page PDF file that could be printed, cut out, and reassembled into an 18-inch image. Anyone tuning in to the live stream would have seen a giant James Patterson and Danielle Steel smiling as one of our teen volunteers read Animal Farm.
Another annual event that never ceases to crack us up is our .5K. That’s right, it’s not a 5K, it’s one-half of a kilometer, which is equivalent to about ⅓ of a mile. Making the event more irreverent is the time of year: late January. Patrons sign up to walk, run, ski, sled, skate, or slide around the village. We put up motivational signs along the way, have a candy stop (instead of a water station), and offer swag like bright yellow hats and neon gloves with our logo. A local photographer volunteered to take action photos of the athletes and potter made ceramic medals for all the participants.
What’s the worst that could happen from these initiatives? My fingers got pretty cold at the .5K finish line but the whole “race” took about seven minutes so my discomfort was temporary. I briefly worried that the Secret Service would find out we were promoting counterfeiting and pay us a call on April 1 but since the joke only lasted 24 hours, we were safe. James Patterson probably didn’t need the extra publicity we gave him at Read Around The Clock but who was actually watching at 3 a.m., anyway?
Maybe the worst that happened is that it gave us a reputation in the community as being completely nuts. I’m okay with it, though. To be thought of as playful and creative is a compliment. It certainly goes against the stereotype of a staid librarian like “The Music Man’s” Marian Paroo at the River City Library.
That gets me thinking. Could we stage the production of “The Music Man” here at the library? Who would loan us a pool table? Would any of the Trustees agree to play Mayor Shinn? How long would it take me to learn how to play the Euphonium? I’ll be sure to give you an update in my next Pep Talk!
Laura Stoll has worked as the Assistant to the Director/Office Manager at the Kirkland Town Library in Clinton, New York for the last five years. She received her M.S.I.S. from the University at Albany in 2020 and in 2019, was awarded the NYLA-Dewey Scholarship. Previously, she was the secretary of the Friends of the Kirkland Town Library, worked as a reporter/editor for the Clinton Courier, and served as the president of the Jack Boynton Community Pool. When she’s not at work, she’s reading the latest fiction books, listening to podcasts, or hanging out with her husband and two kids. She loves her job at the library because it combines her passion for reading, writing, and serving the community. Although she’s never been a coach or a cheerleader, she’s excited to use “Pep Talk” to give her fellow librarians some words of encouragement.