Celebrating 100 Years with a Sleepover at the Library!

ImageBy Wendy Wayling, Children’s Librarian at the Westmount Public Library

Thinking about hosting a library sleepover? The first thing you need is an enthusiastic staff with great stamina! When I started thinking about how we would close the Westmount Public Children’s Library's 100th anniversary celebrations, I knew we wanted to do something special, especially for the older children at the Library. We had already organized a storytelling/Victorian Tea at the beginning of the year for the younger children and their parents. Inspiration came when I read about the plans for the New York Public Library's 100th Anniversary Scavenger Hunt Find the Future at NYPL. I thought we also have an amazing history - why not invite our kids to discover it overnight!

To my knowledge, our library had never hosted a sleepover before and what better way to learn about our 100 year history than to plan a night time scavenger hunt! As the idea began to take on a life of its own in my head, I thought I had better test the waters by running the idea past the children’s staff. I was blown away (and still am) by the excitement shown by each staff member. They all responded with a resounding YES! Our director, who I must mention is a former children's librarian (!), gave us 100% backing!

ImageSo...now what? It's all in the planning! We held a couple of brainstorming sessions and came up with a plan.

Here is a rundown of the night's events:

Welcome (6:30 p.m.)

At this point we reassured the parents before they bade goodnight to their little ones by showing them the sleeping quarters. Once everyone had arrived, we gathered in the original Children’s Library, now the Westmount Room, and gave them a brief history of the library.
Let the Games Begin!

This was definitely a highlight of the night and we hope to do another evening of these games soon. (It’s great having someone on staff who worked as a camp counsellor!) We played a few name games so that everyone got to know each other, followed by Ninja Tag and a spooky game of Werewolf in a darkened room.


No sleepover would be complete without delicious food - we ordered pizza and served drinks in the adult section of the library. Guilty pleasures!

The Amazing Westmount Library Scavenger Hunt!

ImageThis was so much fun, not only to participate in but to plan! Teams of two or three had to locate ten items in the library. At each location, they would learn a little bit about the library, find an item like a barcode or a date due sticker to create their own library book and pick up a piece of an anniversary puzzle. Items they had to locate included the original door to the Children’s Library, three murals depicting the history of the book, and a storyteller’s cape.

Once they had found all ten items, the teams had to gather to put the puzzle pieces together to uncover a reproduction of a postcard of the Children’s Library from the 1920’s. Lesson learned here – a scavenger hunt needs a lot of planning and time to set up!

Quiet Time

Movie and hot chocolate – the new Winnie the Pooh movie is adorable for all ages, including the adults in the room.

Sleep (11:30-midnight)

Yes, the kids did fall asleep and no, the staff did not. We caught up on scrapbooking, studying, and e-mails. We were amazed at how quiet such a busy library can be at 2 a.m.! You can hear a pin drop. It was exciting to watch the sun rise over the library around 6 a.m.

Breakfast and a Keepsake Craft

This was one of the surprises – we had to wake the children up! Turning on the lights didn’t do it – we had to open all the blinds and turn up the music. We served cereal, muffins, fruit and some much needed caffeine for the adults. The children made bookmarks using the 100th anniversary logo and then were given an anniversary souvenir bag filled with donated comic books. Parents picked up their children by 9 a.m., just as the other staff started to arrive for a full day of work and we went home to sleep!

Other points worth considering: Two weeks prior to the event we handed out an itinerary of the planned events, a sleepover permission form with a list of essential items, allergy alerts, medicare number, etc. and a photo release form.

Questions from parents - do the boys and girls sleep in separate rooms? We decided to keep everyone in one room for security but we separated the girls from the boys.

ImageDon’t forget these points - do you have nighttime cleaning staff who may want to vacuum at 3 a.m.? Did you let your public security officers know that you are not leaving at closing time? Are all the parents a phone call away? (We did have to call one parent when one of the children started to have flu-like symptoms.) Don’t forget to make everyone feel welcome – some children came with friends, while others ventured out on their own. If you have a sports and recreation department nearby – ask them if they have gym mats to borrow for a more comfortable sleep.

Ratios - We hosted 21 children (originally we had decided on a maximum of 25, but a few backed out at the last minute giving us a better number to supervise), six staff - two left at midnight and four slept overnight and served breakfast the next morning.

The library sleepover was a perfect way to end an amazing year of celebrations. It is hoped that all the children and staff who participated will have warm memories of this magical evening in the library for many years to come!