One of the many things I love about being a librarian is programming! The challenge of creating programs that my teens would love while also engaging them in my library program was a passion. As a Library Media Specialist at a public high school and a Teen Librarian Consultant at a public library, I had to constantly reinvent my library programs so they could stay new and relevant (see program ideas here). One of my favorite programs was throwing a murder mystery party! After implementing the first one, I learned very quickly that tweens, teens, and adults alike all love a good mystery, and when you throw fun, safety, and food into the mix, they all wanted to be involved.
It Takes Two
At both libraries, the murder mystery turned into two separate programs. Since the theme was Mardi Gras Masquerade, I held a program that allowed students to make masks as well as attend the murder mystery itself. However, they did not have to attend the murder mystery to come make a mask. The mask making program was suggested by the patrons/students and I loved the idea because it gave the attendees who may not have the means to buy a mask or dress up still feel in costume at the murder mystery (dressing up was encouraged, but in no way mandatory). So the mask making program served many purposes: advertisement for the upcoming murder mystery event, a separate library program to get students engaged in the library, and as preparation for the upcoming murder mystery event.
Make It Work
The event itself took time to plan and set-up, but much of it is fun to do especially when you get the attendees involved. My plan was to let my patrons/students have some ownership in the event by asking them to create, donate, or let us borrow decorations, snacks and paper products (plates and such). I was hesitant to do this because I did not want anyone to feel they had to “pay” in any way to come to this free event. However, the attendees were excited to get involved. They loved staying on theme and planning ways to make the event special. They began to get very creative with how we could use what we already had in the libraries or spend very little money on decorations that could be used again for other murder mysteries. At the public library, the tweens/teens wanted to create a backdrop to take pictures in front of so someone donated a white sheet and we had paint from some children’s programs. We took them outside and let them create one afternoon. At the school library, they wanted to play up the crime scene theme so they drew an outline of a man on the carpet using tape and used crime scene tape that one of their parents had for their Halloween decorations to decorate the circulation desk. At both libraries, I had a Teen Library Council, so everyone on the council was tasked with decorating or donating something to help the event’s success. This helped them become owners in the event and many wanted to bring friends to see their ideas and handiwork in action the night of the event.
A Night to Remember
At the school library, we also had many adults on campus ask to come to participate. This happily surprised me; however, since we serve food at the event, I had to get students to sign up ahead of time and had a limited budget for snacks, so I told the adults (teachers, administrators) that they could come, but the food was for the students. They all agreed and just wanted to be involved to have fun. I was nervous because I did not want this event to get “less cool” because adults were there. However, the opposite was true. The students enjoyed seeing some of their teachers and administrators dressed up and having fun! At the public library, I only allowed tweens and teens (6th grade and up) to attend.
At both libraries, the program was a hit! The tweens/teens loved taking on other personalities, questioning others, and solving the mystery while snacking and hanging out with/meeting new friends. It was a unique program that brought diverse tweens/teens into the library where I was able to show them that we have fun while helping you learn.
To learn how to throw your own murder mystery, please learn more here.