Feeding (into) the Frenzy

On March 17, 2012, the Des Plaines (Ill.) Public Library held its first after-hours teen program. The “74th Hunger Games” was the joint effort of Youth Services Department Head Stephanie Spetter, Teen Librarian Joanie Sebastian, Web Services Librarian Brodie Austin, and Youth Services Assistant Cheryl Gladfelter (aka the Gamemakers) and the culmination of more than a year of planning. The idea for this program originated from a program that Stephanie saw at the Washington-Centerville (Ohio) Public Library. We kept much of the format the same, but added some changes to put our own spin on it.

The program was from 4–7 p.m. and for grades six through twelve. When teens arrived at the event, they were greeted and told to say goodbye to their loved ones. They checked in and were sent into a room to prepare for the reaping. While the teens anxiously waited to find out in which District they would be placed, three staff members went into another room and sorted them into Districts. Their names were written on a District name tag, which was pulled out of a bowl and read aloud. Teens then sat with their District teammates and waited to be led into the arena.

Once in the arena, instructions were given, and a video message from President Snow (library Director Holly Sorensen) was played. Finally, there was the cornucopia, where teens had a chance to earn bonus points for their District. One teen from each team got to race to the center of the room where a number of cards lay. Each card was for a different event and a different amount of points. Each District had to strategize about which event would be their weakest and try for extra points there. The challenges that they would be facing were:

  • “Will it Kill You?” in which teens had to identify edible and poisonous items ranging from pine bark (landscaping chips) to trackerjacker venom (malt vinegar). Points were given for correct answers.

  • “Hunting” was a survival scavenger hunt that took place over our entire second floor. Districts had to answer the questions on their list by finding items in the collection. For example, teens had to find a particular book via call number and then answer a question using the index to help find the answer. Points were awarded for different questions based on difficulty level.

  • “Survival Skills” was knot-tying. Teens had to tie three knots ranging in difficulty from easy to hard, with a minute for each knot. Each knot was worth a variety of points.

  • “Camouflage” was a lot of fun. Each teen had to have their face decorated, in whatever way they wanted. Some teens went full out with jungle camouflage; others kept it subtle and glamorous, like Capital citizens. Points were awarded based on creative use of paint.

  • “Weapons Training” was Wii archery. When teens arrived at this task, they each got a chance to get a feel for how the archery game worked before it counted for actual points. Teens had to strategize because the shooter (Katniss) would move farther away from the target after several shots. The Wii game kept score so the final tally was written down.

  • “Peeta’s Bakery” gave districts a chance to relax and eat a delicious cookie—after they decorated it as Peeta would have. There were two point levels teens could try for: a District 12 cookie or a mockingjay design.

Once the library was closed, teens were let out into the library to compete in the games. Besides Gamemakers, other library staff (Peacekeepers) helped keep the program running smoothly by helping out at each challenge. A cannon would sound every ten minutes to let teens know to move on to the next event. Once they had completed the challenge, Districts would line up to wait for the cannon to race off to the next challenge. The winning District, District 7, received 74th Annual Hunger Games pins, and all teens received Hunger Games–themed mini pins from Café Press. The teens had a fantastic time at the program, and staff was really impressed at how smoothly everything went. We’re looking forward to planning our next after-hours program!

Be sure to check out the video that Brodie created: