Corning Public Library serves a town of 1,500 in southwest Iowa. There's not a lot in Corning; we are the largest town in our county, the nearest city is a 90-minute drive away.
The library is especially important in communities like ours, as we provide programming that both entertains and inspires. Hosting an Amazing Race program allowed us to entertain our patrons while showing them that they don’t have to travel to find interesting things to do with their friends and families.
Racing to solve clues
Our Amazing Race, based on the television show , originated as a teen event, with participants racing to locations within walking distance of the library. When it became an event for adults, we knew we wanted to make it a little more challenging.
Participants found their first clue hidden in the library, then were led to a series of clues hidden in locations all around our county. Each team received their own copy of each clue, which we sealed in a colored envelope and then placed in a sealable bag to protect it from rain and the elements.
Choosing the destinations
We chose to use locations of historical significance; one of our stops asked participants to locate a memorial marker for residents of a town that was abandoned in the 1800s; another clue involved learning about the country school system that existed here as late as the 1960s. There were nine clues altogether, and our participants traveled a total of about 60 miles within our county. Most teams took about two hours to solve the clues and return to the library.
We held our race on a Saturday morning, which was outside of business hours for many of our local museums, but most were willing to find a volunteer to be available for our participants. Other places we found beneficial when searching for clues included old newspapers, our genealogy section, and in conversations with some of our older patrons.
Cost-effective and entertaining
I would recommend this kind of program to any library that is struggling to come up with cost-effective, entertaining programs for their community. Other than staff time (and brainpower), our only costs were a package of colored envelopes for the clues and mileage for a staff member to hide the clues before the race.
And it was a great time for all ages. While we marketed the event to adults, we ended up with participants ranging in age from 6 to 86. Everyone came back to the library excited; almost everyone had learned information or visited a new location.
Alyssa Ogburn is the director of the Corning Public Library in Corning, Iowa. This blog post is part of a series, organized by Iowa State Library, exploring programming in small libraries throughout the state.