Submitted by Elizabeth Vigil, Youth Services Librarian, Esther Bone Memorial Library
Family Night at Esther Bone International Night: Austria — January 14, 2020
At Esther Bone Memorial Library in Rio Rancho, we have recently launched a Family Night program that takes place every second Tuesday of the month. The idea was born when a librarian had an idea: Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something for the whole family, all together, to get them interacting with each other instead of with their devices? We decided to launch Family Night in September because in the fall families set their new schedules as the school year commences. Attendance has been building, averaging 16 participants over the first four Family Nights. We have found that connecting with the public schools, through their electronic flyer distribution system, to be especially helpful in building attendance. Each month, though the core goal stays the same, “device-free family time,” the topic or type of activity varies.
In January, Family Night at Esther Bone was inspired by a box of snacks from a different country, delivered to the library from Universal Yums (https://www.universalyums.com/), sponsored by the Friends of the Library of Rio Rancho. Our box featured Austria and included snacks and trivia. Kids and adults alike enthusiastically tried the foreign snack foods. Onion Mini Fritts (onion flavored “string” potato chips) were voted the favorite of our patrons, while Sour Cream Chips were voted second favorite, and Schwarze Johannisbeer Stangerl (dark chocolate-covered, black currant jellies) was voted the weirdest!
In addition to the snacks, we gave the families a couple of things to do while they ate. Since snow globes were accidentally invented in Austria (It’s true! Look it up!), we provided supplies and directions for families to make snow globes for their homes. It was an inexpensive craft because we used donated jars and because the biggest component in a snow globe is water. Given that it’s still very cold out, and we have had snow recently, this craft seemed like just the thing for this program.
While families were munching Austrian snacks, and epoxy was drying on the snow globes, we issued a family research challenge! We handed out a list of questions about Austria for the participants to answer using reference materials we provided. They couldn’t use their phones. Only atlases, encyclopedias, etc. The first family who answered all the questions correctly was given a prize, which was another family activity they could complete at home, together, with no devices. The promise of a prize at the end encouraged plenty of family interaction and cooperation.
Happily, our international Family Night was a success. The 25 people who attended really seemed to enjoy the activities, interaction, and, of course, the food. Patrons told us on the way out what a good idea it was, and a few asked what the events we had planned for upcoming Family Nights. We will continue to host Family Night every month at least through SRP 2020, and hopefully beyond.