Saturday, November 10, 2018

Library Services for Veterans

Veteran's Day is this weekend, and we would like to take this opportunity to note that, while we will all be making a point to thank our veterans for a day, there are services that libraries can provide that will be helping veterans and military families all year long.

Veterans Connect @ the Library

The State of California has created a very helpful website for librarians as part of their Veterans Connect @ the Library initiative, which has links to resources, programming ideas, training for staff and volunteers, and statistics about veterans services. They have compiled a "digital duffel bag" of programming ideas, arranged by degree of difficulty for library staff. This ranges from writing letters to veterans and servicemen and making paracord bracelets, to having a full-on spa day for female veterans.

They also have links to many other associations that may inspire or possibly host a program, including War Comes Home, a California-specific initiative to help veterans reconnect with their communities after military service, and WarInk, an organization that tells veterans' stories through their tattoos.

Following the Examples of Others

The American Library association published an article in 2016 about how "Libraries Help and Honor our Veterans" across the country, which includes some wonderful programming ideas that have been hosted at libraries across the country. The Portland [Maine] Public Library has hosted monthly legal advice clinics for veterans, while the library at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has two classes per semester about making the transition from being in the military to returning to education.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has a guide for librarians, archivists, and museum employees about providing services to veterans, as well, which can be found on their website.

What Else Can We Do?

In addition to any of the above programs, libraries can always be sure to have information on hand, or be able to easily find it. We can provide:

  • Help with forms - The Veteran's Administration provides help with housing, insurance, and many other things, and they all need complicated forms to be filled out.
  • Information about support groups - Many veterans suffer from PTSD and other mental health problems, alcoholism, and depression. The suicide rate among veterans is tragic; having a support system may make all the difference in the world.
  • Information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ( - this government organization offers a crisis line, health services, benefits for veterans, employment services, education and training, and pensions for many veterans
  • Information about memorial services and how to have a loved one interred at a military cemetery, if that is their wish
We can also help by collecting American flags for disposal. Because they are symbols of the country, one is not supposed to just throw away an old flag. Instead, organizations such as the American Legion, the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will properly retire and dispose of flags (which is usually by burning, burying, shredding, or recycling). Libraries can have collection bins for people to donate flags which are no longer able to be used, which can then be picked up by or sent to one of the above organizations for proper disposal.

In some libraries, fines for military families are automatically waived when the materials are returned. 

Many veterans have written books. Even if they are self-published, hosting local veterans to do an author talk can help them share their stories.

Many towns have Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, or some kind of Veterans Services office. You can do some outreach and see if they are interested in hosting a library program, or having a staff member come to the library to present a program on veterans' services.

If you have any other ideas for services for current and former military members, please let us know here in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page. We'd love to hear from you!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Holiday Programming Ideas

The holidays are fast approaching, and while this time of year can be stressful for many people, what with presents and guests, planning feasts and exercising them off afterwards, your programming doesn't have to be one of those stressful things.

We have compiled some of our favorite holiday programming ideas for all ages for you to peruse, with the hopes that something on our list may fit an opening you have. (We decided to post this very early this year, so you can sneak some into your December calendar.)

DIY Gifts

December is when the bulk of the world does its gift giving, and while everyone loves the idea of handmade presents, not everyone has the time to plan and execute the perfect item for each person on their list. By having a gift-making program, you're not only helping your own statistics, but also helping spread good cheer and decreasing holiday stress. 

The age of your patrons may dictate what you're making, but easy doesn't have to mean tin can pencil cups (unless you're into that sort of thing). Some ideas for children include:
Photo from Organized Christmas
  • Hand warmers, made with dried rice inside a flannel or felt pouch (when I did this craft, I had felt pouches pre-sewn on 3 edges, with a friendly librarian on hand to sew the fourth side after they were decorated and filled). Be sure to include instructions! All you have to do is put the hand-warmers in the microwave for 30 seconds, and they will stay warm for 15-20 minutes.
  • Coffee/cocoa stirrers, made with chocolate and crushed candy, like our friends at
  • Bracelets or necklaces
  • Decorate trinket boxes (paint, stickers, and washi tape all make great decorating media, and you can get blank boxes at most craft supply stores)

Photo from Adventures In All Things Food
In addition to the above, teens can also create:
  • Homemade bath bombs, sugar scrubs, or other spa items
  • Homemade lip gloss from Kool-Aid (like the ones at Adventures In All Things Food)
  • Decorated picture frames 
  • Recipe-in-a-jar kits (cookies, soup, or cocoa!)
  • Decorated mugs (permanent markers work very well to dress up dollar store mugs!)
  • Personalized decorated notebooks

Related imageIn addition to the above ideas (some of which are amazing for all ages), your adult patrons may also enjoy making:
  • Homemade candles or soaps
  • Etched glasses for drinking or glass jars for holding cookies, dog treats, tea bags, etc.
  • Stovetop potpourri (we love these ideas from!) 
  • Cloth bookmarks (have you seen the amazing elastic ones with the buttons?! We love the ones on ).

Holiday Crafts

Of course, any of the above gift ideas can also be wonderful craft programs, but if your goal is pure fun and decoration, there are probably ten million ideas out there, including several on last year's Holiday Crafts post. You can always make...
  • Ornaments - the sky is the limit here
  • Wreaths - out of ribbon, cloth, paper, foam, pine cones, or anything at all!
  • Cards - hand-making cards can be as easy as crayons and paper, or as detailed as embossing powder, lace, and sequins. 
  • Folded paper trees - Paper crafts are a hobby of Kat's, and she wrote a whole blog article about how to make these awesome folded paper trees, which you can read here.
  • Gingerbread houses or cookie decorating

Gift Wrap Party

Just because the decorations are up and the gifts have been purchased doesn't mean the work is over. Now you have to wrap them! What better way than to have a Wrap Party? This can be so easy, and yet so much fun. In the past, I have set aside the meeting room for a whole day, set up tables and chairs, and put holiday movies on to play while people got into a holly jolly mood while wrapping their gifts.  All wrapping paper was donated - we kindly asked patrons for spare rolls, and were inundated with more paper, ribbons, bows, and tags than we could use in one year. 

You can set things up so that a children's wrapping station (or gift bag decorating) and an age-appropriate holiday movie plays in the morning, while teens and adults enjoy movies and wrapping later in the day, or just play classics that everyone enjoys. Maybe have a cocoa and cookies station, to keep the patrons fortified.

This can also go hand-in-hand with...

De-Stress Night

Holiday stress is no joke, particularly for your patrons who put it upon themselves to make everything perfect and magical for their whole families. Why not give them a treat with a stress relieving evening? (This would also work well if you're open on Black Friday!) You could provide:
  • A Hot Cocoa and Cookie Station, to enjoy the flavors of the season
  • Therapy dogs, which are proven to reduce blood pressure
  • Perhaps you could put a crackling fire or yule log video on a tv screen
  • If it's in the budget, you could have a masseuse come in to give quick back or hand massages
  • Coloring pages or other easy crafts

In Conclusion

Whatever you celebrate, remember that it's supposed to be fun - for you and for your patrons. We hope these ideas have put you into a holly jolly holiday spirit. If you have other ideas, please post them here or on our Facebook page, or mention us on Twitter.