Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pottery Slam 2013 [Director's Cut]

[This is the original uncut version that I wrote, including some more personal thoughts. It's not the version on the website, so if you've read that, this has more juice, as they say! Enjoy!]

In the Beginning...
When I took the Teen Services position last Fall, I had some good ideas for programming tucked away in my ‘Big Idea’ brainstorming book. I felt good about my start, and worked to build ideas with the young people of our community in mind.

A colleague suggested I do a ‘Poetry Slam!; a program where you hold a poetry reading for the young people in your community to come to the library and share their spoken word, rap and so on. While I loved this idea, it has been a very common program throughout libraries across the state and country and, in my opinion had been just a bit overdone. Add to that point that I had no intention of doing something so typical for my first big program. I wanted to knock the communities collective socks off, and impress the bosses too.
When the lightning struck, it was at the very end of the day and I was clearing out my inbox and tidying up my to-do list. There was an email from the local arts guild mentioning some important information about local potters.
Randolph County has some of the most talented potters in the world, and as a result are world renown for their skills. Why not have a pottery slam? Instead of having teens come to the library to make poetry, why not have them come to the library to make pottery with a few of these famous potters?
And that’s how it all started.
How to Plan a Library Program...
Programming for most librarians is a very delicate thing. You’ve got to have 75% ingenuity in marketing and 25% luck. The luck part is typically out of your hands. The weather could turn bad, or the time and date of the program may interfere with other community programming, which inadvertently supersedes the library and leaves the librarian scratching their head in wonder.
For me, initially,  coming up with the basic framework concept, naming it and inviting the participants, scheduling and planning  took enough time and effort that the program itself got pushed from late January to mid-February, which required me to throw together another program for January, so I could hit my personal goal of ‘at least one program for teens per month’.
However, soon enough, I had my participants informed, had the date and time set, and began my marketing campaign.
How to Market a Library Program...

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!
Between encouraging my patrons to ‘LIKE’ the Randolph County Public Library Facebook page to get updates, contacting local news organizations and creating posters and handouts ready, and my regular non-programming duties, like buying books, staying up on the most important topics of the day concerning teens and reference duties, visiting the schools and talking up the library and it’s role in the community with plugs for the Pottery Slam!; marketing the program became a real campaign.
There are only so many ways to get the information out there. Once I did the basics, along with word of mouth and social media tactics, I had to hope that someone would notice.
On the Friday Before...
When friends and colleagues began to whisper about snow, I clenched my jaw and tried not to listen. Weather is one of those uncontrollable factors in library programming. In one of my other auxiliary duties, I do a bi-monthly screening of popular movies. Sometimes these are well attended, but sometimes they’re not. Usually, weather is a big factor.
However temperatures were in the mid-sixties that day, so I went home hopeful that the Pottery Slam would not be affected by inclement weather.
The Big Day Arrives... White.

Early Saturday morning, peeking between the blinds, I saw snow, and my heart sank. The Pottery Slam! was not set to begin until noon, but if roads were slippery or if the snowfall was too deep, my potters and my patrons would be no-shows. For hours, I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to postpone my program. However, in the end, with a little help from my director, I emailed my potters, and posted a confirmation of our Facebook Page: Hey Teens! We are still having the Pottery Slam! Today... at 12 pm. See you at Asheboro Public Library!”
Better than I Ever Hoped...

When the potters arrived, unperturbed by the snow, and began to set up, the only fear I had was that none of my teen patrons would show. The really wonderful thing about the weather that day was that regardless of how hard it snowed, and it snowed hard, none of it stuck. The roads were only wet.
As the kids and their folks arrived, (and many came through that day, to my surprise) I realized that my program was a success.
How to be a Good Potter...

I don’t know how to be a potter. However, from what I saw of my three potters on that day, there are three things you need to be a good potter.
1. You have to be a good teacher.
2. You have to be patient and encouraging,
3. You have to be willing to put up with a nervous librarian.
All three potters, Adam Wiley, Betsy Browne and Joseph Sand just took over. They worked their magic and helped others to learn how as well. Aside from wondering out of the room periodically, to look at the snow and check for more patron participants, All I did was mill about and take pictures. As the young people circulated through the different stations, creating their own pottery, I saw another wonderful, but unexpected side effect occurring. Moms and Dads also sat down by the wheel and made some pottery, getting into the fun of it with their kids.

In the End...
I couldn’t have hoped for a better day. Loads of people made loads of pottery which will be glazed and fired and put on display, before I give the pieces back to their makers.
The program fulfilled several aspects that all teen programs should seek to attain. It was hands on;; it involved members of the community who will make an unforgettable impression; and it was fun.
I was lucky that my program managed to hit all of these and more.
And on top of it all, with the help of Adam Wiley and the Randolph County Community College’s pottery department, the pots were all fired and are now on display!

Special Thank You’s
This program would not have been a success without Adam, Betsy and Joseph; thanks guys for all you did!
Andrew Johnson who helped cut out extra cardboard squares right before we ran out.

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