Magazine article American Libraries

Library Housewarmings: Dos and Don'ts of Dedications; How Good Parties Open New Library Doors Even Wider

Magazine article American Libraries

Library Housewarmings: Dos and Don'ts of Dedications; How Good Parties Open New Library Doors Even Wider

Article excerpt

THE CAPSTONE TO A NEW or remodeled library is the dedication ceremony. Promising future service as well as celebrating an achievement, the ceremony can be as formal or informal as planners choose. However, because such occasions for celebration are few and far between for libbraries, organizers should make the most of the opportunity: Pull out all the stops and make the festivities as big, and as grand, as possible.

Elegance need not mean expense, though. Dedication planners may choose to celebrate economically, but should avoid any appearance of parsimoniousness or of cutting corners. Creating an impression of miserliness can harm a library's reputation.

Make a guest list

A dedication ceremony can attract new patrons to the library. Use publicity to make the general public feel welcome at the dedication. In particular, try to target people that never use the library

Also invite everyone who is "anyone": local and county officials, state representatives, even national figures. Of course, anybody who might be even remotely connected with or interested in the library is a somebody and worth inviting. Include everyone from the new facility's archect, contractors, and vendors to library volunteers, donors, and Friends groups; representatives from library associations, the state library, and library networks; librarians and academic officers from nearby institutions; local authors; and of course, the media. When dedicating an academic library, be sure to add leaders of sWdent government and the general student body to the guest fist. Budget permitting, organizers should send formal, engraved invitations.

Although many people might not attend,. personal invitations send an important two-part message to prospective guests: 1) that the library exists and 2) that its staff cares about the invitees enough to value their presence.

Set the date

Planners must permit a breathing time between moving day and the dedication ceremony. A breather between the two allows those who worked hardest on the relocation to rest and recuperate from the physical and emotional strain they have endured.

By delaying the ceremony, planners also give staff time to adjust to their new workplace, and to iron out any wrinkles in the system. Are borrowers' cards now filed in a different order or in a different location than they were in the old building? Is the periodicals coUection now housed down two levels instead of up one? Because visitors will ask lots of questions on dedication day, library staffers must have time to learn the new answers.

Before putting both themselves and the library on public display, staffers can use this interval to correct any flaws or mistakes they discover after occupying the building. If books have ended up on the floor, staffers can shelve them or at least hide them in storage before the public arrives for the ceremony. Someone can mend the snag in the carpet left by the jagged wheels of the 400th dolly and replace the screws that fell out of the bottom of the chair before the mayor sits on it. Because dedication day may be the library's only day of glory until the next construction project, make sure everything is its polished best.

Delaying the dedication also gives organizers adequate time to plan the ceremony. It is a reasonably safe bet that if the staff has to concentrate on the move and dedication-day plans simultaneously, neither one will be done well. Build in extra time for unforeseen setbacks.

Conversely, don't wait so long that the shiny new building begins to show signs of wear: dirt spots on carpet, graffiti on furniture and walls, scuff marks from feet placed on those wonderfully low windowsills.

Plan to brainstorm

Planning something as complex as a dedication ceremony is best done by a committee. It takes several people with divergent ideas to put together a program truly representative of the library and its co mmunity Include librarians and paraprofessionals, Friends, trustees, and a patron or two. …

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