Close the Books: Stressbusters for Library Nerds

Librarians encouraging students to stop studying? You heard right. Several times a year, the Research Services Department hosts events like candy giveaways or craft projects hoping to lure them away from their textbooks, even if only for a minute. We’re a notoriously high-stress environment, and during midterms or finals our students practically live at the library. We try to give them a much-needed opportunity to sit down, relax, get to know librarians and walk away with something. Here are some low-cost ideas with high-impact returns to try at your own branches. After all, public libraries shouldn’t get to have all the fun!

Valentine’s Day

We already devoted a recent post to our Dirty Books event where every Valentine’s Day we present an array of loved-themed tomes from Special Collections. We also recommend the “Kiss & Tell: Why I Love my Library” campaign devised by Citizens for Maryland Libraries. A testimonial in return for a Hershey’s Kiss…win win!


Every spring our George Peabody Library branch opens to the public in conjunction with Baltimore’s Flower Mart festival. Last spring Heidi Herr, our very innovative Outreach Coordinator for Special Collections, created the most wonderful coloring books for the occasion featuring spring-themed illustrations like flowers and bugs from our own rare books collection. Throw down some crayons, and turn them loose! (I promise you, this activity is just as entertaining for college students as it is for toddlers.)


All Hallow’s Eve falls right in the middle of the fall semester, providing a good break from midterms. We had avoided making bookmarks because it seems so cliché, but how could you possibly resist these guys? So easy to make, and they’re literally hungry for knowledge. (Heavy usage of puns is always encouraged.) Inspiration for Making Monsters Monday comes from this creative blogger.

Winter Holiday

Finals can be particularly brutal for our students, so we host something silly every year. This December, we made Candy Cane Critters of the mouse and reindeer variety. If you don’t remember the pattern from your childhood, the Internet will happily remind you. You’ll need some kind of strong adhesive, and to minimize lawsuits, I’d recommend double-sided tape over hot glue.


You can never go wrong with candy, and we give it away at any excuse. We’ll just set out a table and some cookies and wait for the hoards to arrive (we do store-bought so there’s less risk of food contamination or allergy issues). People always want to know why (there’s no such thing as a free lunch, after all), so be prepared with a canned response. Sometimes we’ll explain it’s just a fun stress-busting event, but other times we’ll say that it’s “sponsored” by this or that service—like when we rolled out our new Text-a-Librarian program. Other times we just print out labels with our Facebook or Twitter URLs on them to stick to mini candy bars. People can grab as many as they want to give away to friends, because the advertising is baked in.


At the beginning of every semester, we stock up on gift cards for our library’s beloved Café Q, and we give them away all year long. One of the easiest ways to do this is hold a 24 hour poll on any of your social media websites. We pick a winner at random from among the comments. These things go viral, so we usually end up with a number of additional followers and lots of goodwill.


An event we’ve sadly never done but is too cool not to mention is hosting a s’mores night outside the library. And please, when you plan it, be sure to invite me!

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