California Library Hosts Stuffed Animal Slumber Party

With book bans, heated political debates and a pandemic to manage, it’s not an easy time to be a librarian.

In cities and towns across the country, librarians have become more and more criticized to simply keep the shelves stocked and do their jobwhich includes everything from organization yoga class and book clubs sometimes provide homeless resources and other times help children with their homework.

“It’s not just about helping people access books,” said Linda “Lynn” Hori, library technician at the Goleta Valley Library near Santa Barbara, California. “Libraries are at the heart of every community.”

Part of Hori’s job is to help organize children’s events for the library in Goleta, which has a population of around 32,000.

She said she and her colleagues realized their community could enjoy a break from the rancor and isolation that has divided the past two years by the pandemic.

In previous years, the Goleta Library held a stuffed animal slumber party every summer for young patrons, Hori said, during which children would drop off their favorite teddy bear or other stuffed animal and then return in the morning to see pictures of them in various silly poses. around the library having a late night party.

“When it was canceled for two years because of the pandemic, everyone really missed it,” she said. “It was all about having fun and making the kids smile. We all wanted to relive that magic.

Hori and others at the library decided it was time to bring back the beloved tradition, which began about 10 years ago.

“Only this time we decided to go all out,” said Hori, 40. “The last two years have been difficult for children who have had to learn from home via Zoom. We wanted to do something very special.

His McDonald’s closed for months due to renovations. He continued to pay staff.

Libraries across the country have held similar sleepovers with stuffed animals over the years, from the teddy bear slumber party in Warren, Mass., at Pajamarama Plush in Huntley, Illinois, and the annual slumber party for well-worn stuffed animals at the Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Neighborhood Library in DC

“It’s become a thing for a lot of libraries because it’s a great community-building event,” Hori said.

“Everyone can remember a favorite comfort toy they read stories to and snuggled up with as a child,” she added. “For me, it was a pink Care Bear.”

Hori typically coordinates a dozen special children’s events a year, but she was determined that 2022’s stuffed animal slumber party would be the biggest ever.

She put up posters, asked for help from 15 teenage volunteers and invited children to drop off their favorite bears, lambs, dogs, cats, dolphins, pigs and unicorns for a night of celebrations on June 24.

Around 220 children dropped off their stuffed animals, with the promise of loving care and lots of photos.

“Some of the younger ones were a little reluctant to hand them over, but we assured them they were going to have an exciting evening and meet new friends,” Hori said. “I heard several children whispering, ‘I love you, be good and have fun.’ ”

Each stuffed animal was given a number to avoid confusion, and then the party began. It was a blast, Hori said.

She gave away her wedding dress on Facebook. Soon others did the same.

She and her volunteers have spent hours enacting the animals (and a well-rounded, smiling avocado) in dozens of party scenarios: toasting marshmallows for s’mores, sharing milkshakes, having fun on the photocopier in the library, play computer games and make phone calls. to distant places.

There was even a glow stick disco dance, with a few hoops thrown in for good measure.

By midnight, Hori had taken over 1,200 photos and it was time to tell a story with bubble machine special effects.

“We gathered all the stuff around and our kids’ librarian, Elizabeth Saucedo, read ‘Good Night Moon’ to them,” Hori said.

She said she sent the photos to an all-night photo lab to have them printed around 2 a.m., then slept for a few hours before collecting the photos the next morning and returning to the library to sort them into 220 piles. Children also received goody bags and slumber party certificates when they picked up their pets.

“Just seeing all those faces light up – that was the best part for me,” Hori said. “I hope events like our sleepover will shape the adults these children will eventually become. I would love to see them become lifelong patrons of the library.

It would be nice with 8-year-old Lauren Cox, who dropped off her favorite stuffed bunny, named Rabbit.

“The library is a fun place—I’ve always liked going there,” she says. “Bunny sang songs, played with Legos and danced. It was a bit hard to leave her there, but I’m glad I did. She made a lot of new friends.”

Brooke Kelley, 9, said she especially loved seeing all the photos of her stuffed lamb, Lamby, even though she “probably broke some library rules”.

His brother, Boston Kelley, 7, said he had mixed feelings about deposing his stuffed lawyer, Avi.

“I was sad he wasn’t my stuffed animal for the night, but I was also happy for him so he could have a good time,” he said.

While walking her dogs, she found an Olympic gold medal on the ground

Erin Kelley, 45, said it was the first time her kids had attended the sleepover, and she thinks it won’t be the last.

“It was a great event that put smiles on the faces of the children, which is good after recovering from two years of a pandemic that deprived children of so much activity,” he said. she stated. “We hope the library will start again next year.”

Hori said she was up for the challenge.

“I don’t know if we can do better, but we’ll try,” she said. “I am really happy that it brought so much joy. Whenever we can encourage children to read and come to the library, I’m all for it.

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