December 3, 2018

5 ways to survive the holidays at your library

The holiday season is probably one of my favorite times of the year. I admit I start watching those cheesy yet irresistible Hallmark Christmas movies right after Halloween. To me, the holidays are about spending time with my family and helping those who are less fortunate have the best holiday despite their circumstances. Did I also mention trying to avoid last minute Christmas shopping?

But for many, the holiday season can be stressful, especially for librarians. Often, there’s a struggle with making sure your library is inclusive around the holidays. The librarians at the NoveList office have been there so we’ve provided five tips you can use to survive the holiday season at your library.

1. Decorations, anyone?

With the elaborate Christmas decorations and displays at malls and stores, it’s hard not to notice the approaching holiday season. You’ve probably gone to pick out a tree and dusted off the ornaments from previous years in preparation to decorate your own homes. Or maybe you’ve been looking for a new latkes recipe. Or decided this was the year to do holidays smaller or not at all. And, no matter what holiday decisions you’ve made, someone in your family has probably expressed that they wish you’d made a different choice.

Similarly, there is this unspoken dilemma librarians face each year -- to decorate or to not decorate for the holidays? Which holidays does the library acknowledge? Will we get complaints if we decorate and will we get complaints if we don’t? Libraries reflect their communities. Everyone in your community may not celebrate Christmas—you may have some patrons who celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or nothing at all.

If you decide to decorate your library, we’ve found that wintry decorations and displays helped our libraries remain neutral, yet festive. This will give your library a seasonal look without highlighting a specific holiday. There are tons of wintry templates in LibraryAware libraries who have a subscription can use. You also have the option to avoid decorating entirely. If you chose not to decorate, Public Libraries Online has an Op-Ed on how one librarian is honoring and respecting all patrons by choosing to not decorate at all. This idea can also carry over into programming, particularly storytimes so that you can feature wintry topics rather than highlighting a particular holiday.

2. Holiday family dynamics

For many, the holidays are about spending time with family. But who came up with the requirements of what a family should look like? In shows and movies, families are often portrayed as a child or children having one mother and father. Though there are some families who may look like this, in 2018 every family does not fit that mold. There are mixed-race families, same-sex families, families with step-parents, single-parent families, families who have adopted, co-parenting families -- the possibilities are endless. Dealing with these non-traditional family dynamics can be a little touchy for children and teens around the holidays. Our new theme terms can help with that. Search TH All kinds of families into the NoveList search box to help parents find books for younger children about family dynamics. For adults, the theme Chosen family includes books about characters who build their own families. Think about this as you create book displays so your choices reflect your community!

3. Finding holiday books

During this time of year, you can expect patrons who are looking for holiday books. Some may be looking for Christmas books, while some may want to find books about holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Audiobooks are also popular and are perfect to have on hand for those holiday road trips. NoveList can help you direct these patrons in the right direction. If you are looking for holiday books, again, field code searches in NoveList can help you:

Hannukah: search SU Hanukkah

Kwanzaa: search SU Kwanzaa

Christmas: search SU Christmas

Winter: search SU winter

Since the holidays often include car travel, your patrons may need audiobooks of the right length more than they need the newest-illustrated version of The Night Before Christmas. The advanced search page in NoveList lets you narrow an audiobook search to certain lengths. Just put in the type of book you’re looking for in the top search options (see our list of theme terms for some suggestions), then scroll down to the very bottom of the advanced search page and pick your needed audiobook length.

4. Using LibraryAware resources

LibraryAware customers who decide to decorate can take advantage of our templates to use throughout their library. There are holiday-themed book displays, event flyers, and email blast templates readily available for your convenience. We have Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa designs – even designs for those who may have a sandy holiday rather than a snowy one. 

5. What about those patrons who aren’t interested in the holiday season?

 For patrons who aren’t in the holiday mood, help them find books that can provide the reading experience they *are* in the mood for. Use the appeal mixer to talk with them about what they’d like to read and explore our themes for more ideas. LibraryAware customers can try recommending books using our NoveList Promotional Templates to help patrons find their perfect match. Encourage patrons to mix and match different story elements to find books that will satisfy their interests. Exploring a new genre or finding similar read-alikes will keep these patrons focused on non-holiday topics. 

Other ideas for non-holiday (or winter) book displays include books on historical events that took place in December, like Pearl Harbor, William the Conqueror’s coronation, George Washington and his army crossing Delaware, and Apollo 8 orbiting the moon. Or highlight your biographies with a display of famous December birthdays. For the northern hemisphere, December is also the perfect time to put out a display of all those books with Adirondack chairs and beach umbrellas on the cover.

We’d love to hear what your library does to help your community celebrate, survive, and endure the holidays, depending on the preferences of the people who walk through your door.

Latasha Jeter is the Communications Specialist for NoveList. 

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