By Renee Zurn, Duluth Public Library

The last session I attended, How to Host a How-To
Festival
, was very interesting and also informative.  Four librarians from three different
public libraries reported on their How-To Festivals, hosted this year and last.  The presenters were Anne Lundquist (Watonwan
County Library), Stacy Lienemann (Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library System),
Anissa Sandland and Tosha Anderson (St. Peter Public Library).

In late 2012 Stacy Lienemann read an article in american libraries about
the Louisville Free Public Library in Kentucky hosting a series of short,
how-to programs as part of a larger day of programming called The How-To
Festival.  Following their model, Stacy
hosted the Watonwan Country Library’s first How-To Festival in 2013.  It drew on local businesses, members of the
public, library staff and volunteers to present on very diverse topics, such as
“How to make balloon animals”, “How to draw a dragon”, and “How to be a roller
derby queen”.  There were two-three
programs running at the same time and each program lasted less than 30 minutes.
This
year Anne Lundquist hosted her first How-To Festival, following Stacy’s
example.  She started with their staff
and Friends group for program volunteers and offered two- three programs every
½ hour.  She found that parenting,
library related and part II of a program series weren’t very popular but that
cooking programs were very popular. 
Anissa
Sandland and Tosha Anderson also hosted their first How-To Festival this year
at the St. Peter Public Library.  They
started with the Chamber of Commerce list of businesses and brainstormed about
what short program various businesses could offer and then contacted them.  Brainstorming program ideas is very important
for this form of programming.  They hosted
a new program every ½ hour, one program at a time.  Two of their more popular programs were “How
to protect your identity” and “Arranging store bought flowers”.  They advertised the participating businesses
not only at their program but also in the publicity for the event.  They offered a $50 honorarium to their
presenters to help cover material costs as each presenter supplied their own
materials.  Many of the businesses
refused the honorarium.  
All
the librarians said How-To Festivals involved lots of work but that it was well
worth it.  They stressed starting early
with your planning and getting lots of volunteers.  They also said the festival should feature
fun, off-beat and unusual programming and that you need to keep them short, 30
minutes or less.  They received many
enthusiastic comments about the festival from their patrons. 

This
type of programming is a great way to bring a community together by showcasing
the wide variety of skills found in the community and a way to highlight local
businesses in a casual setting.  Library
staff made new community connections and spotlighted lifelong
learning.  By holding multiple sessions
at once, libraries offered an all-ages, fresh festival atmosphere in which to
learn a variety of skills without a major time commitment.  They stressed over and over again that the
programs must be short, interesting and fun.