How genre evenings lure patrons into the library

The lack of interest in reading and using the library among young people is an issue of concern at the Seinäjoki Public Library – Provincial Library. In 2008, the staff in the children’s section, the branch manager at the Peräseinäjoki local library and the library director met to discuss ways to lure young people back to the library and rekindle their interest in reading books.

The brainstorming resulted in a reading inspiration project geared toward youth where young people were offered the opportunity to read, look and discuss various topics during an evening event based on various genres. The genres chosen for the meetings included fantasy, horror, Manga, action and music. The Seinäjoki youth department functioned as the partner in the project.

The Seinäjoki Public Library and the Peräseinäjoki local library really rocked during the music night. The perfor- mances of a local band and rapper were a great success even though neither library has a stage. Mu-Ki, i.e. Book Sleuthing for young people while listening to music suitable for the mood, was also a great success. Present during the Mu-Ki Book Sleuthing was a musician and a librarian.

Horror night brought in skeletons, spiders and horror Book Sleuths. Seinäjoki library clerk, Jarkko Parkkinen’s passion for movies enchanted his audience when he lectured on the history of the horror movie and showed the audience demonstrative scenes from some of the horror movie treasures of our time. The age limit for the lecture was 15, but the programme also included horror Book Sleuthing for people of all ages. Dressed in black, Librarian Reetta Saine’s bloodcurdling style gave the participants goose bumps. Horror night was indeed one of the most popular literature evenings in both Peräseinäjoki and the main library.

For our fantasy night, we were able to get a real author of fantasy to visit. Sari Peltoniemi is a Finnish writer of fantasy for children and young people. During fantasy night, Peltoniemi elucidated her work as a writer with emphasis on the fantasy genre. Library director Mervi Heikkilä and Kaisa Salomaa, a student at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, functioned as Book Sleuths recommending fantasy books to young participants. In addition, students from the local cosmetology school whipped up fantastic make-up for the audience to admire. The entire staff had dressed up in fantasy costumes, which we borrowed from the local theatre, although for some young people, seeing adults dressed up in fantasy outfits can seem more embarrassing than exciting. This time, though, it aroused hilarity in the young people and no sharp comments were heard.

The genre of adventure and action interested young people the least. However, there was still an abundance of listeners when local adventurer, Timo Polari told of his excursions on Antarctica and Greenland using pictures and videos. Books and movies were also recommended during the course of the evening.

The night featuring Manga and animation was without a doubt the most popular among the young people. The reference section of the main library was packed with interested young people and we almost ran out of chairs. Seinäjoen Otakut, an organization for Japanese animation, Manga and other Japanese pop-culture, was an excellent partner when we were planning the evening. Hobbyists and professionals in the field of Manga and animation held lectures during the evening, and the audience had the opportunity to admire the Cosplay costumes worn by participating hobbyists. They were also introduced to Parapara, a Japanese club dance.

As I write this, the reading inspiration project in Seinäjoki is reaching its end. The Peräseinäjoki library plans to organise one more literature event; this time the genre is romance. A committee called Säätiö has been formed to plan activities for young people in the main library. The committee comprises library staff and young people themselves. The genre nights have shown us that young people are clearly interested in coming to the library as long as there are interesting events offered. Recommending different genres gets young people inspired and the recommended books go like hotcakes.

Mervi Heikkilä
Director of libraries, Seinäjoki

mervi.heikkila AT

Director of libraries, Seinäjoki