by Alison Clement, MLIS, AHIP
Community Health Librarian
Marshall Community Health Library
Cameron Park, CA
I never thought I would see the day when my library staff and I would be greeting patrons wearing witch’s hats, but this year it actually happened! The Marshall Community Health Library in Cameron Park, CA, was magically transformed during the month of July when we hosted the NLM traveling exhibition, Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic & Medicine. Our library was an appreciative recipient of a NNLM PSR 2017 Mini-Award to fund activities related to and supporting the NLM History of Medicine exhibition.
The Marshall Community Health Library, part of Marshall Medical Center, is a consumer health library that has been serving the public and the healthcare community since 1997. Hosting the exhibition was the perfect way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our library’s opening, as well as 20 years of Harry Potter. The exhibition was simple and quick to put together with the aid of the instructions, both printed with illustrations, and online, including video.
We wanted to use the exhibition and celebration as an opportunity to reach out to those in our community who were not yet aware of our health information resources. We made use of the NLM exhibition’s templates for flyers and trading cards. The medical center’s Marketing Department assisted with publicity, including local papers and social media. The hospital’s catering section crafted a Harry Potter-decorated 20th anniversary cake for our celebration’s visitors on the opening day of the exhibition. We had 20th anniversary bookmarks available with our library’s contact information for visitors to take for future reference. Throughout the library, book and DVD resources were on display on tables to add an interactive element to the exhibition–for example, reproductions of old herbal manuscripts, and books on the history of medicine.
Our library shares a catalog with the El Dorado County public libraries, and we fully utilized this partnership to publicize and decorate the event. One of the local public libraries lent us some wonderful costumes and décor to liven up our special activity days. Thanks to this great loan, we had Hogwarts banners suspended from the ceiling, owls (fake ones!) perched on the bookshelves, a life-size figure of Professor Snape, an Azkaban “Wanted” photo booth, Gryffindor capes for our speakers to wear, and an assortment of witch hats for our library staff. Our hearts go out to El Dorado Hills Library for the use of these decorations!
The first two days of the exhibition were very exciting, with demonstrations and speakers. We hosted the local wildlife rescue organization, which brought three of their live owl “ambassadors” and gave a talk about owls. An emeritus professor of philosophy presented a talk on sacred geometry and alchemical wisdom. Outside our library’s front door, we had a “Potions Class” taught by an expert in the history of pharmacy, who demonstrated some “olde” remedies, including small explosions and dry ice effects that the children loved. A naturopathic practitioner/herbalist spoke to the visitors about herbology and medieval herbal medicine, and a display of 30 medicinal herbs–all labeled–fresh from the librarian’s herb garden helped to illustrate and educate.
Library volunteers were on hand to help visitors with some interactive activities. Children could have a Hogwarts acceptance letter made with their name on it. Young and old alike enjoyed reaching into a real Hogwarts Sorting Hat to see “Which House Chooses You!” with a few giveaways for the lucky few who pulled out a special magical ticket. In addition to the exhibition-related activities, we featured a special MedlinePlus & PubMed display, with brochures and staff on hand to demonstrate the use of these databases. 75% of the visitors to the exhibition and events were first-time library visitors, so our goal of reaching newcomers was satisfyingly met, with both young and older visitors, and some medical center staff. We hope that the exhibition and 20th anniversary celebration opened the door for many to a magical world of information!