I have a lot of original content planned for this week, guest posts, brand new podcasts to listen to, and it all ends on Halloween with the big reveal announcing Summer Scares 2020.
Just a quick reminder, Summer Scares is an initiative brought to you by the Horror Writers Association, United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal which offers library workers a vetted list of horror titles for all ages of readers. While we call it Summer Scares to draw attention to horror during the busy summer reading months, we advocate for these books to be read all year long.
The Summer Scares committee also created content and suggested reading lists to go with the program. You can find all of that information on the Summer Scares Resources and FAQ page.
Today I want to talk about the programming aspects of Summer Scares. When we launched this program we really focused on creating the lists of vetted titles. We were pleasantly surprised by how many libraries wanted to use our lists to create programming. While that was always our goal, I don't think we were ready for it to catch on so quickly. Libraries were contacting us, asking for help to create programming ideas and giving advice about implementation.
Along they way we asked my friend Konrad Stump for some advice and assistance. First a bit about Konrad:
Konrad Stump is a Local History Associate for the Springfield-Greene County (MO) Library, where he acts as department programming coordinator and works district-wide on Big Read, ASRP, and Springfield-Greene's popular “Oh, the Horror!” series, which attracts hundreds of patrons during October. He created the Donuts & Death horror book discussion group, featured in 417 Magazine, Feast Magazine, and "Book Club Reboot: 71 Creative Twists" (ALA).
Below is Konrad's piece about how they used Summer Scares to create successful programming. You can also watch Konrad talking about the Summer Scares titles on local TV [he appears regularly] at this link.
But before you hear from Konrad directly, I am happy to announce that Konrad has officially been added to the Summer Scares team for 2020 as our Programming Consultant. You can hear more about that in detail in tomorrow's post which is a podcast appearance Konrad and I taped a few weeks ago. But the gist of it is that if you want assistance getting some horror based programming off the ground, Konrad will be available as a consultant to help you.
Thanks to Konrad and the Springfield-Greene County [MO] Library for allowing him to work on this initiative. Now, sit back and learn from a horror programming master. I attached many pictures that Konrad shared at the end of the post.
I immediately knew Summer Scares was a meaningful initiative, not only because it gives librarians a vetted list of horror recommendations with backing from respected organizations and librarians, but because it provides middle grade, young adult, and adult readers with horror titles anyone can enjoy and families stories they can discuss together.
Horror often gets a bad rap, mostly because it's misunderstood, but it's an important genre because it provides a safe space for readers to engage with their real world fears. As the resident horror aficionado at the Springfield-Greene County Library, the first thing I wanted to do with Summer Scares was get my fellow librarians invested in the initiative and make them more comfortable with the horror genre. I developed a “Readers' Advisory: Horror” staff training, and if you've ever wondered if librarians wished they were more well-versed in horror, I can tell you the answer is a resounding yes—the first session in June filled up and had a waiting list, prompting me to repeat the training in August. This provided a great avenue to discuss with staff the Summer Scares initiative, connecting patrons with the titles, and our program series.
Before I discuss Springfield-Greene's programming for Summer Scares, I want to share how we engaged with the initiative through the list of titles, displays, and book discussion groups, because they are easy ways for any library to engage with horror.
Springfield-Greene has a stellar Community Relations Department that oversees marketing and promotion, and they created a full page flyer of the Summer Scares list, distributing copies to all ten of our branches. Many branches created horror book displays featuring the flyer, it provided a great resource for librarians, and it was easy to hand out to patrons seeking Readers' Advisory or attending programs. Library Center Reference Manager Kathi Woodward told me “I did recommend titles by taking patrons to the display and giving them the handout” and Library Center Reference Librarian Miranda Eudaly told me she “recommended 'Mongrels' to a patron who filled out a Your Next Read survey and listed her interests as 'werewolves, bikers, gangs, romance, and teen fiction.'”
Since I work mostly with adults, I partnered with Library Center Youth Services Associate Molly Beck to plan our young adult programs. As a fellow horror devotee, and an all-around great librarian, Molly worked hard to engage younger patrons with the Summer Scares titles and the horror genre at large. She created two displays in the teen area, a monster-themed display called “Books With Bite” and “Mystery Vs. Horror” where, she told me, she “put up both genres together to help encourage reluctant horror readers” who enjoy mysteries. Molly told me that the children's department received a lot of requests for “scary/spooky stories” from both young readers and their parents, so to help guide patrons she created a display with the Summer Scares booklist. Molly added, “We were also able to show parents where they could locate this list on our website, which the parents found helpful in helping their children choose books. The online list also helped out many of our librarians in assisting our young readers who enjoy spooky stories.”
Horror can often be a hard sell to book discussion leaders, but having the list and being able to tout the parties behind it helped me get a couple groups discussing Summer Scares titles. While Donuts & Death read “Mongrels” in June and “Rotters” in July, one of our downtown branch book discussions, the Center City Book Club, read “My Soul to Keep.” Midtown Carnegie Branch Reference Manager Aleah Weltha told me that while one member who regularly reads horror wasn't too phased, “The rest of us, who are not horror readers, found it plenty scary and were happy it wasn't scarier.” Aleah added, “We spent most of the time discussing speculative fiction as a whole.”
The Library Station Book Discussion, held at our north side branch, read “Rotters.” Library Station Branch Manager Kim Flores said, “I can tell you that while most of the women in that group don't pick up horror books on their own, they, by and large, committed to reading Rotters right to the end. They were fascinated with the idea of modern-day grave robbers and thought that was the most fantastical part of the book!” Kim added, “We talked about the horror genre and the characteristics and asked ourselves if 'Rotters' fit the category,” noting that the group “spent over an hour talking about it with very little prompting from me!”
Both groups were introduced to something they don't normally read, engaged in lively discussions about genres and ideas they hadn't given much thought to, and are more likely to expand their reading comfort zones. If you lead a book discussion group, consider adding a Summer Scares title. Unlike some of the characters in the books, you'll survive, and you'll probably enjoy the ride.
Programming is a vehicle through which we connect patrons with resources and services. I knew that planning programs around the Summer Scares initiative would bring it more promotion and exposure in my district. In addition to the flyers, our Community Relations Departments created multiple social media slides for our programs and gave our Summer Scares series a page-and-a-half in our quarterly programs publication (if you plan programs, you know this is prime real estate). The series caught the eye of the anchor of Ozarks Tonight, a daily show on our local CBS affiliate KOLR 10, and I was invited on to discuss our programs and the Summer Scares initiative. You can watch the video here.
The first thing I thought when planning programs around Summer Scares was “summer camp,” especially the nostalgia and scary stories around a campfire. That sort of oral tradition of storytelling is such an integral part of “Mongrels,” with family stories deeply informing the narrator's worldview and sense of self. I wanted to play into cultures passing down stories, so I devised a program called “Ozarkian Campfire Tales.” We partnered with authors from “Feral: A Journal of Ozarkian Gothic” and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board to host the program at Ritter Springs Park. Registration filled up quickly, and we ended up with a waiting list of over a dozen patrons. Tweens, teens, and adults listened to stories from Ozarks folklore while roasting S'mores over a crackling campfire.
I loved the way “Slasher Girls and Monster Boys” retold familiar stories, so I wanted to explore horror tropes (especially those turned on their heads). I partnered with two professors from a local university to plan “Slasher Films and Final Girls,” where they traced the history of the final girl through slasher flicks, discussed changes in the trope, and looked at some current final girls. The audience was predominately female, and they really engaged with the speakers on how women are portrayed in horror.
Daniel Kraus was kind enough to visit Springfield, and I interviewed him about his writing, the horror genre, and his upcoming projects during "The Shape of Terror: A Sit-down with Daniel Kraus." The audience of around 40 patrons, which mostly consisted of those hard-to-get-into-the-library emerging adults, was very engaged and had some great questions for Kraus. We raffled off eight advance reader copies of his upcoming book "Bent Heavens," then the only copies in the general populace, and people were (justifiably) run-walking up to get them. Almost everyone who came stuck around to chat with Kraus and get their books signed.
Our youth services department planned three programs, including a “Scary Stories Under the Stars” program and a “Horror Board Game Night,” where young adults played horror-themed board games, including “One Night Ultimate Werewolf.” Molly also planned a “Family Movie Night at the Library” program, featuring “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween.” “I felt like this was a good way to bridge the gap for the horror/scary genre in a fun and family-friendly way,” she told me. “It also provided some nostalgia for those parents who might have grown up reading the original Goosebumps stories and watching the older tv-series/movies.”
Hearing from so many of the librarians who participated in Springfield-Greene's celebration of the Summer Scares reading initiative, I can tell that having the list of titles to work from provided a sense of ease and security when engaging with patrons about horror. I can already see the difference. While I only convinced two book discussion leaders to participate in Summer Scares, and only one to participate in “Oh, the Horror!” last year, I convinced four to participate in “Oh, the Horror!” this fall. The librarians are slowly coming to the dark side.