The Middle Earth Walking Challenge was a fitness program that we tied to literature. Since the summer reading theme was Build a Better World, I chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s series “The Lord of the Rings,” giving participants the fantasy challenge of saving Middle Earth by walking from the Shire to Mt. Doom, with the goal of destroying the One Ring.
Participants kept track of the miles they walked from June until August. The winner received a copy of “The Lord of the Rings,” and runners-up received a copy of “The Hobbit.”
This program grew out of a conversation with my library director. A patron had suggested we have a walking club, which neither of us felt fit our library’s mission. However, our director said she had seen a fitness challenge based on “The Lord of the Rings,” so given the Build a Better World reading theme, I thought it might be fun to develop this program.
The goals were threefold:
- Give people motivation to start walking
- Encourage people to remember/read “The Lord of the Rings” series
- Have a fun activity related to the summer reading theme that all ages could enjoy and participate in
The planning was simple. I made up a poster for the event, which we published in our newsletter and sent out to various media outlets along with a press release, and I created a log for people to keep track of their mileage. (View poster and walking log under Attachments at right.)
Several months before the program began, we included it in our library’s newsletter. A couple weeks into May, I sent a press release to the local newspaper, TV stations and other media outlets. Just after Memorial Day, walking logs were made available to the public.
We kept the walking logs at our circulation desk, reference desk and children’s desks, and the children’s room promoted the event during their summer reading kickoff program. In addition, our web designer posted on Facebook to alert patrons of the program.
We spent money on printing ($.05/color copy) and prizes. The prizes were nine copies of "The Hobbit" and one boxed set of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which came to approximately $114. We decided that the top 20 walkers would receive prizes.
As this was an independent event, no set-up was needed. I did inform the entire staff of the program so they could answer questions and hand out and collect logs.
There was a lot of excitement at the beginning of the program. People really got caught up in the fantasy element; one person commented on Facebook “We’re going to see the elves!”
We also got a lot of TV exposure early in the program. We handed out 175 walking logs, but only 9 people returned them. The winner walked 963 miles, a little over half-way to Mordor. Collectively, we walked 4,642 miles, thus saving Middle Earth.
In terms of generating excitement about a library event and promoting fitness, I think our goal was achieved. In terms of getting people to maintain that excitement throughout the summer, I don’t think our goal was met.
No evaluation tools were used for this project. The fact that only 9 people completed their forms indicated that the challenge was too hard. However, the buzz generated at the beginning of the summer and the positive feedback from the people who completed the task was great.
If I were to do this type of event again, I would make it less labor-intensive for participants. I think keeping track of miles every day over the course of the summer was just too much work. If the challenge lasted just one month, more people may have completed it.
About This Library
The Peter White Public Library (PWPL), located in the city of Marquette, Mich., was founded in 1871 by Peter White. Originally located in city hall, it opened its own building at the corner of Front and Ridge Streets in 1904. Since its opening it has undergone two renovations (1958 and 2000) becoming the largest library in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It has a service population of over 36,000 people from the city of Marquette and eight surrounding townships comprising 60 percent of Marquette County. PWPL has 27,000 library cardholders with 260,000 visitors last year.