Several months ago, I was talking to the Assistant Director at our library, and then I found myself planning an all-ages Harry Potter trivia event at the library. (Does this happen to you?) Last Saturday was the big day, and all our preparation paid off! It helps that Harry Potter is perennially (permanently?) popular, so registration filled up well before the day of the event, and we had a long waitlist. Nearly everyone who had a spot came, which meant we had just over 60 people, and everyone seemed to have a great time – kids, teenagers, and adults alike.
Here’s what we did, so you can do it too!
This is not a program that one person can run alone, at least not the way we did it. Figure out the scale of your event, then how many people you need (or, figure out how many people you have, and then how much you’ll be able to do). This event can scale up or down; we had three staff people at the event, and decided to do food and drink, music and some decorations, and a photo frame, but you could skip those and just do the trivia, or you could make it even bigger (see: Brookline Public Library).
Here are the tasks we carried out before the day of the event:
- Figure out a point person, who will visualize and organize the event, match people and tasks, and make sure everything is ready (that was me!)
- Make up the questions! We had seven rounds (one for each book) of five questions each. Some were multi-part and worth more points. We also had a couple of practice questions, and some between-rounds questions (no points for those).
- Buy (or make) prizes. We got door prizes (House mugs) and prizes for the winning team (Harry Potter themed candy). The candy came with temporary tattoos, which we put out for all attendees to take and use.
- Set up the scoring spreadsheet. We used Google Spreadsheets.
- Test the tech. I had a hand-held mic, and played music from the soundtrack of the first movie using a projector as our CD player.
- Add the event to the calendar on the library website, and manage registrations/waitlist.
- Promote the event on library social media. We use Hootsuite to push to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (I posted several warm-up trivia questions to Facebook to gauge interest in the program before we officially put it on the calendar.)
- Plan and prepare food and drink. One of our children’s librarians caters on the side, so she did 100% of the food and drink prep, including pretzel wands, “cauldron cakes” (pumpkin cookies), and Butterbeer (non-alcoholic, of course).
- Design and create a photo frame. We have a very artsy teen librarian, who transformed mat board and paint into the front page of the Daily Prophet.
- Make “quills”: Our teen librarian found fancy feathers and metallic tape to make Bic pens into magical quills (we also put an anti-cheating spell on them, of course).
- Gather other decorations. I had access to a life-size cardboard Hermione, several owl puppets, some wizard hats, and some Golden Snitches.
Day of Event
Here are the tasks we handled in the hour before the event, during the event, and the hour after the event:
- Set up chairs in clusters of twos, threes, and fours. (Some people also sat on the floor.)
- Set up tech: Start the music and do a mic check. We had the soundtrack to the first movie playing at low volume throughout the event. A mic is essential for accessibility (and so that the MC doesn’t lose their voice after two hours).
- Food and drink: Set up snacks and butterbeer, attend the snack table throughout the event, and clean up afterward.
- Decorations: Hang up Golden Snitches, place owls and wizard hats around, set up cardboard Hermione.
- Photo frame: Show people how to take pictures with the photo frame (get verbal consent – or signed waivers, if that’s what your library requires – to post any photos on library social media).
- Greet attendees: I set up a small table at the door to the room so I could check people off the registration list as they arrived, then explain how to enter the door prize raffle, and give each team a quill and half a pad of post-its.
- Introduction, announcements, and reading the questions and answers! Make sure to point out emergency exits. And give people a few minutes to come up with a team name before the practice question.
- Scorekeeping: We ended up conscripting a volunteer (thanks, Mom!) to assist our scorekeeper; see “what we’ll do differently next time” below.
- Draw door prize raffle winners (a good time to do this is while the final scores are being tallied).
- Announce winners and hand out prizes.
- Clean up!
- Post pictures to social media.
This can be really flexible, but here’s about what we spent:
- Food and drink: about $100 for ingredients, including “Butterbeer” (about 70 cups; cream soda, whipped cream, butterscotch syrup; 1 bottle of soda, 2 cans of whipped cream, and 1 bottle of syrup left over), “cauldron cakes” (60 pumpkin cookies, none leftover), pretzel wands (80 chocolate and 80 plain; pretzels, chocolate, sprinkles; about 6 plain ones left over); “Every Flavour Beans” (3 bags of Jelly Belly jelly beans, none left over).
- Prizes: Mugs for door prizes were $17.50 each ($70 total for four), and the candy and tattoos were $30.
- Art supplies for photo frame and decorations: about $20 for the mat board and feathers (cost of paint and paintbrushes not included)
- Total: About $220, not including staff time
Really, almost everything. We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from attendees so far, and most things went pretty smoothly – we even ran on time! It was really helpful to gather advice from other librarians who had run similar programs before, and let staff who were helping with the program play to their strengths/interests. We also had a lot of enthusiasm and support from our awesome Assistant Director! And the questions, it turned out, were neither impossibly hard nor too easy. However, there are always little improvements to be made, so…
What we’ll do differently next time
- Questions and scorekeeping: The between-round questions were originally intended to be for points, but our scorekeepers were having a little trouble keeping up (there were 14 teams, all running up the answers to each question on post-its), so I made the on-the-fly decision to have those be hands-up questions for no points; most teams got a chance to answer at least part of one of the between-rounds questions, just for fun. Our scorekeeper said afterward that having a separate page for each round of questions and answers would have helped a lot (i.e., Round One questions and answers on one page, Round Two questions and answers on the next page, etc.).
- Allow more time for everyone to enter and get settled. As I said, we ran on time, but that’s mostly because we definitely didn’t spend 2-3 minutes per question as I had budgeted. We opened the doors about five minutes before 2pm, and didn’t really get started until 2:15. It took a while to check attendees against the registration list and explain how the door prizes worked, and meanwhile people were taking pictures with the photo frame, getting snacks, forming teams, and choosing team names.
- Remember to read the answers after each round! People want to know. Also, one of our answers had a mistake in it (eek! I had S.P.E.W. standing for the Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare when it should have been the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare. No surprise that the team that corrected me on that was the eventual winning team!).
- Also, read the team names aloud. After round one would be a good time. They were so clever! We didn’t announce the scores halfway through like they often do at pub trivia, but you could do that if your scorekeeper is caught up.
- Prizes: The door prizes were a great idea (yes, I’m patting myself on the back for that one), but it would have been nice to have prizes for the top three teams instead of just the winning team. The HP-themed candy is cool, but there’s not a lot of bang for the buck, so I’ll try to find something else for next time – Harry Potter coloring postcards, maybe?
So, we didn’t get 320% on our Muggle Studies exam like Hermione, but Harry Potter trivia at the library was definitely a success, and I’m already looking forward to running it again later this year, perhaps around Harry’s birthday – ten points to your House if you know when that is!
Library social media (Facebook, Twitter) posts from the day of the event: