Normally when you attend a ground breaking event there’s …..well, there’s ground to break. So what happens when you have to organize a ground breaking event that’s taking place indoors?
This was the challenge facing the Helen Matthes Library in December 2014, when work would finally begin on the refurbishment of a former bank building into a new 26,000 sq. ft. library facility for the Effingham community.
We set our objectives for the event.
- It needed to be visual and active – both for the audience attending and for the media who we hoped would cover the event.
- It needed to be kid friendly. (We’re a public library!)
- It needed to showcase what we do for the community to potential library card holders, potential donors and the Effingham business community.
With all its furniture removed the bank building was a dreary back drop to the project. There would be no blue skies to brighten things up but then again weather would not be a worry as we organized the event.
How would we make it a community and media worthy event?
Almost immediately we knew we wanted to incorporate our weekly story time into the event. Story Time is the program most associated in people’s minds with the Library, and also one of the most fun. So we let that set the day and the time for our event; Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Our Youth Services jumped on board with a Construction themed story time. We planned to take over the story time rug which would help brighten the room. At very little expense, we were able to purchase yellow plastic construction hats which we decorated with our Library Logo. Each attendee would get a hat. We were already starting to visualize the event and just how much fun the kids would have.
At this point our contractor let us know that they would be able to construct a wall that would be “broken” by the dignitaries during the official ground breaking. They would also supply the hammers and construction hats. One less things for us to worry about……and it gave us an idea for the kids.
The kids would get their own wall smashing ceremony. Thanks to 2 local preschools and donations from staff members we were able to gather enough colorful cardboard play bricks to create 15ft long wall for the kids.
Our vision for the event was really taking shape, and tying in so nicely with our fundraising campaign but how would we deal with children getting bored with the speech making and how would we deal with grown-ups getting bored with too many pre-school stories?
We set up the timeline for the event.
- 10 a.m. Opening with Story Time Song followed by construction themed story time
- 10:05 a.m. Kids ground breaking ceremony.
- Youth Services lead the children and care givers to a glass fronted room for crafts and play with Lego and construction toys.
- 10:10 Speeches
- 10:30 Official Ground Breaking
- 10:30 Refreshments
With just a few short weeks between confirming the bid winning contractor and the date for the commencement of demolition work we quickly chose the date of Tuesday, December 2nd. Dignitaries, speech makers and the invite list needed to be finalized and marketing needed to kick into gear.
Borrowing heavily from our fundraising campaign, artwork was finalized for the invitations, program of the event, flyers, and an ad for the December Library Newsletter, a Facebook Page Cover Image and Facebook post. The press release was finalized and sent out to an extended media list. Family Read Night was just 12 days before the event allowing us to promote the Ground Breaking further to families in the community. Artwork would also be used in a Constant Contact promoting the event. There was no budget for paid for advertising but we would still get word out about our event.
We decide to close the library for one hour during the ceremony; we hoped it would also encourage more patrons to join us for the event. This would be a big day for our staff and we wanted them to be as much a part of it as our community.
Responsibilities were shared out and timelines produced showing what needed to be done and by whom in the run up to the event, during the event and post event. Floor plans were drawn up showing where each part of the ceremony would be. Walk-throughs were done with key members of staff involved in the event so everyone could visualize and know what would be happening and what to expect.
What was our last minute thought…..”How do we stop the kids knocking down the wall before the right moment?” This was quickly solved with some colored spots placed discretely behind the wall. After their story time, the children marched single file behind the wall and despite some temptation all stood on their circles as asked. We did a little count down and then let them loose on the wall. It was the moment we had all been waiting for.
In the end we couldn’t have been happier with the way the event went; from showcasing Story Time to older patrons and the local business community, to the grandson of Mayor Gillenwater, speech-bombing the mayor just as he was talking about how important story time had been in the life of his children and grandchildren (thank you Mrs Gillenwater!), to the coverage by local media which included video footage of the children’s demolition and the feedback from all who attended. The event was a success.
We had shown our community that we are a fun, educational and creative establishment at the heart of this community and we can’t wait to get into our new building and show our community just what we can do with the space that you are giving us.
Check out the results below and see the attached event planning checklist:
Catherine Bailey is the Marketing and Adult Services Coordinator for the Helen Matthes Library.