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It's Time for a Grand Opening!

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

Dear Laura,

I have been an Elementary Prek-5 Librarian for 8 years and just moved to a new school which is currently 6, 7, & 8th grades. The goal for hiring me mid-year was to help open TWO Libraries for the Fall of 2020. Campus One will be 5 & 6 grades and Campus Two will be 7 & 8th grades.

To add to the situation, the current library received extensive damage one and one-half days after I arrived. This catapulted us into moving the existing books and resources to Campus Two which was a ghost town Library (white walls and not a book in the place.) Therefore, both libraries are now non-working places until we can organize the current collection on Campus Two (which was moved in the dark to the dark with amazing and kind volunteers.)

My questions are for advice on how to excite the students for the new libraries, wisdom on how to hook the teachers and staff, and ANY advice on how to make the TIGER Libraries the best place the students have ever seen!! :)


Librarian on the Move

Hi, Librarian on the Move

First, let me say - WOW! You’re undergoing quite a transformation here! Actually 2 transformations! It sounds like you are really going to need to plan for a couple of Grand Openings. That’s a lot of moving pieces and you can pick from and choose ideas that seem to fit with your population. I would highly consider working with your district’s public relations (PR) department to help pull off some of this planning. And by the way, the strategies work for any kind of grand opening, re-opening, or special event that you are kicking off.

Build Anticipation. Have the windows and doors covered with butcher paper to prevent anyone from peeking inside. You can even add words to the butcher paper to build their anticipation and curiosity!

  • Surprise Reveal Coming Soon!

  • Shhh! No Peeking!

  • Coming Soon!

Secret Elves. You’re going to need some secret elves to help you get everything in order. Talk to the counselors or librarians at your local high school. They may be able to recruit some high school clubs that need service hours. It would be especially meaningful if it was a club for students who were considering education as their future career pathway. These students can help you organize your books, layout decorations, and other activities where more hands means the work gets done faster. You will need to do your homework in advance as far as deciding the placement of each section of books in your library. Then they can follow a simple shelf list you print out as a guide to help get the books in order. Look to parent volunteers as another source of manpower. Kohl’s Department store also provides manpower for certain events and even pay your school a small stipend for using their service.

Grand Opening. Welcome to the Big Reveal! Stage a ribbon-cutting at the entrance of your library. Invite the press (TV and newspaper) and be sure your district PR people are there as well. Be sure to ask your PR people for copies of their photos so you can use them in publicity later. Ask your book reps and other vendors if they have any items you can use as door prizes at the Grand Opening.

Beautiful invitations. Can your PR department or even a high school graphic design club/class create some beautiful invitations? You can send printed invitations to your central office personnel and post a few in key locations around campus. Use a digital version to advertise the Grand Opening on social media and on your website. Ask for a PDF version to send home as a flyer or to blow up poster size and put in the cafeteria, hallways, etc. Send a digital copy to your newspaper and TV station to encourage them to come and offer coverage of the event. Remember to also invite your school newspaper student reporters!

Refreshments. Like or not, food is always a way to draw people in. And I personally am totally fine with having food and drink in the library. So of course, you need refreshments for the Grand Opening. But, also think about having some smaller socials or lunch events where you invite the teachers in for a “sneak preview” before the big reveal. Take some candid pictures of them standing next to something they fell in love with inside the new library space and then use these photos on social media to pique the students’ interest about what lies behind the butcher paper covered door.

Name Your Library. Will you name your library after a famous alumni or state personality? If so, you could host a naming contest where the classes nominate library names and the students select the name. The class who nominated the winning name could also be invited to a sneak preview of the library before the Grand Opening.

Giveaways. I mentioned earlier to ask your book reps and vendors for some door

prizes. You can also do things like have a drawing for a class to enjoy a free makerspace afternoon at the library, eat lunch in the library, host an after school e-sports contest, or any other thing that seems easy for you to offer that would amaze the students. Do you have someone you could request paperback books to give away? In my area our grocery chain and a local literacy non-profit offer books for schools to give away to students. I would even ask my teaching staff to request donations from any community groups they have a connection to.

After you have the Grand Opening the rest is up to you! You will need to plan some ongoing library programming to help keep your library lively and inviting. Use things like Shannon Miller’s calendar of library events to help keep you abreast of upcoming events each month. Since you have older students, you should even include them on the program planning. Start a library advisory club and there will be an abundance of ideas all year long!

I’m excited for you! I wish you all the best in your planning and hope you share some pictures of your Grand Opening!

Dr. Laura

The Librarian Influencer of the Week is Courtney Pentland who is from Nebraska and has had a variety of amazing library experiences. Listen to her interview at

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