Several months ago I did something that would have shocked me even a year ago: I trolled an online youth services Facebook group. My intentions with that post was to hopefully cause youth service librarians take a fresh look at how and why they promote holidays (particularly Christmas). I wanted others to try and consider another person’s feelings and not blindly do something just because it’s popular in their communities.
Ultimately, my post had very mixed results, and I find myself wondering if it made a positive impact on anyone. If you missed the kerfuffle, then know that it was beautifully summarized by Lisa Nowlain in this post on the ALSC blog. I also must say that things have really gotten surreal with the whole Trump weighing in on the Starbucks’ cup thing. Life is awesomely weird like that.
I promise that I’m getting to a point.
Whenever this particular discussion happens there’s almost always someone who will say something like this: how will I ever decorate during the month of a holiday without it being dull and lame?! That’s the one response that will make me swoon with frustration because do we not love our jobs for the creativity that they afford us if we’re lucky enough to have a job that supports our creativity?
And, because the universe has a wicked sense of humor – I soon realized that it was time to plan October’s theme. As you can tell from past posts, I freaking love doing spooky things for October (because I freaking love Halloween). But not this time around. This time around I wanted to figure out a creative way to avoid doing anything truly holidayriffic. I’m hoping that this will help others consider doing something besides taking an easier route.
It’s a bit challenging to write about my personal process when it comes to creating themes. I suspect that my process has a lot to do with how random my brain can be and the huge benefit of having a kick-booty team. Here’s sorta how my thought process went this time around:
What can be somewhat related to the season without being a love letter to Halloween? Somehow my brain latched onto bats. Perhaps I saw a copy of Stellaluna on our returns cart? And then it was like, OH – but the bats could be reading books on baseball! They’d be “baseball bats!” Now what haven’t we done before decor-wise? Hmm…those crepe paper ball things! *looks up cost of crepe paper ball things* Um – NO. But maybe I can take the theme of “baseball bats” a little further? *looks up kid-sized baseballs* Nope, not whiffle balls…but what’s that suggested item? Inflatable baseballs? OH! Oh yes *temples fingers* that will do nicely. We can even reuse them this upcoming summer for the sports-themed programming!
It wasn’t until I shared my idea with the team that someone helpfully mentioned that the World Series was in October. I wish that I could take credit for such an epic thematic choice tying into a major sports event, but I cannot – it was sheer coincidence. But I tend to embrace and run with coincidence.
I believe that this is the first time that I designed what the bats would look like, and was able to translate it into reality. Here’s the mockup I made and that adorned our calendar (I also turned it into coloring sheets):
I then took this design and made templates for the eyes, nose, mouth, and wings for my Silhouette cutter. I also designed a template for smaller/simpler version of these baseball bats for our front windows and reading bench area. The Silhouette saved me vast quantities of time. If you have one and would like my files, then just reach out to me and I’ll send them your way.
I then had a mental moment where I was like: BAT-IK! I CAN MAKE SOME BATS USING BATIK PRINTS!!! But wait, would I be the only one to get it? Probably. BUT I STILL WANNA DO IT! So I did :) I also found a simple batik tutorial that I printed off and put out with our reading bench display (which was full of both baseball and Halloween books). I hoped that it would help people get the joke.
I never did get a clear picture of them, but you get the general idea here (and you can kinda see the batik tutorial that I put out as a handout for those who wanted). With these, I bent the wings a bit to give it a 3D effect. I had one mom ask me how I did the bats (she had to touch them to realize it was paper):
In the front windows I made the baseball bats from photocopies of pages from books about bats (you can kind of see them several photos down in this post). I sort of wish that I’d used batik patterns instead – they’re way brighter and funner.
I also used this Batman ’66 style font for the Batty About Books lettering that I put in our front door. Again, I knew that I’d likely be the only one to get this joke (well, at least until I wrote about it here). I printed off batik patterns on the front and back of card stock and then fed it through the Silhouette. The double-printed card stock proved to be super-slippery in the machine, and so I had to gently hold the paper in place while it cut (otherwise it would get off-track and absolutely destroy the paper – which happened 3 times).
The assembling of the 3D bats took two of us to complete. I glued on the eyes and mouth/nose, and then taped on the wings (because the glue would not hold their weight). I did some right side up and some upside down (based on where the air plug was). I also discovered that putting the baseballs in a shallow bowl helped me a ton in terms of stabilizing them while I worked on them:
Since taking them down, I’m happy to let y’all know that the glued-on bits came off easily without leaving residue. The taped bits? Sticky residue-palooza. I’ll need to see if it’ll come off with a stickiness remover product.
We photocopied the front and back of some of our baseball-related books, and then would either sandwich them on card stock paper to prevent curling and give a little weight. We also made a few ones where the “book” was open. We quickly realized that you’d be able to see the inside of the book once they were hung. So I wrote out the lyrics to Take Me Out to the Ballgame inside of the first one. It took a long time. I then realized that we should just photocopy the insides of several books and stick that inside instead. MUCH better.
We then used fishing wire to hang them from the ceiling.
To go along with my new commitment of being more forthcoming about things I’d typically leave out of a post: here’s the one thing that I had to make peace with. And y’all are gonna laugh.
One of our newest team members jumped on board and helped a ton on this. My fibromyalgia was being extra horrible to me, and she was invaluable in making sure that these baseball bats were finished and hung.
So, in my mind we had two types of bats: those who were flying and carrying their books with them, and those who were upside-down and reading. Therefore, the books were either dangling below (held by invisible feet) or in the bats’ wings as they read them upside-down.
My team member got creative:
It gave variety to the bats and looked great. But. From the moment I saw some like that I had an internal whine of but…they can’t fly if they’re holding onto the books like that!
YES I KNOW THAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT INFLATABLE BASEBALLS AS BATS! But apparently I have some sort of crazy logic when it comes to this.
It took me a few days to make peace with this very valid/fun artistic choice – and I’m beyond thrilled with how everything turned out. I just felt the need to share this since it’s honest even if it is a little crazy.
We did have a scavenger hunt, but it was rather complex (involving word scrambles), and had a mediocre response (I’d guess because of the complexity). But we tried something different, and now we know to keep things on the simple side.
I’ve gotta say that we had a really good response from this theme. I was beyond tickled by the numbers of both kids and adults who would come in, look up, and then laugh when they got the joke. Quite a few told us that they thought it was really cute. It’s a rarity to get comments on our decor, so it’s a thrill when even one person compliments us (even if it’s not directly).
And that’s about it!
Please let me know if you have any questions about this. This was a pretty wordy post about a pretty simple theme, so I know that there’s a good chance that I missed sharing something. Oh – and I’d love to know if any of you decide to use this theme at your library!