Never Give Up; Never Surrender: Library Carnival 101

I've mentioned this here and there before, but the biggest program my library puts on is our annual summer reading Carnival. It is always on noon the Saturday after Labor Day in our parking lot.

I can't explain how Carnival works without first explaining how our summer reading program works. Kids going into 5th grade and below earn "library dollars" by filling out logs. 15 minutes of reading = 1 library dollar. They can fill out as many logs as they want (obviously there are only so many hours in a day.) At Carnival, the kids can use their library dollars as tickets to play games. As they play games, they earn prize tickets. (Game tickets can also be purchased for 4 for $1 by families who didn't participate in summer reading.)

The morning of Carnival, most of the staff arrives at 9. The parking lot is blocked off and the staff puts up tents and a fence along the road (we are located at the busiest intersection in town). It winds up looking a little bit like a tailgate party once the grill starts going. It's your basic hot dog/chips/cookies/lemonade spread.

 Carnival Games and Frames
We rent carnival games from our local Fun Services affiliate. This is a great option for those of you, who like us, lack storage for carnival games you won't be using year-round. I believe it runs us about $200 (not including delivery) for about 6 games and all the carnival frames. We use folding tables to set the games on.

Picking out prizes at the duck pond
In addition to renting games, we have a few activities that live in the youth department storage room. They are: duck pond, cake walk, face-painting (cheat and buy stencils), and balloons (we'd do animals if anyone on staff wanted to try). Also, our local American Legion chapter has a toy locomotive that they bring for free and give train rides to the kids. Next year I am bound and determined to go on it myself.

Everyone on staff works that day. Most people are assigned a game or to work at the redemption table (where the kids pick out the prizes). We do use volunteers to fill in the gaps.

I run around all day making sure people get breaks and that everything is stocked up. Usually the whole thing winds down naturally around 2:30 or 3 p.m. It is a very hectic couple of hours but I love Carnival and look forward to it each year.