It’s no mystery that when patrons connect over a shared interest, a community can be built. During the pandemic, Brooke Windsor—
It’s no mystery that when patrons connect over a shared interest, a community can be built. During the pandemic, Brooke Windsor—teen services librarian at Stratford Public Library (SPL) in Ontario—wanted to keep that passion going in a safe way, all while engaging both her patrons and regular members of her city.
Windsor did so by developing a game that invited players to visit Stratford’s local businesses to complete challenges and ultimately win prizes. Harry Potter and the Stratford Adventure was a hit that more than 70 patrons participated in during its three-week run. Windsor detailed the framework of her game and how librarians could implement similar programs at their libraries during her June 26 session, “Outside and Around Town: The Magic of Harry Potter and the Stratford Adventure” at the 2022 American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C.
“[Stratford] itself looks very old-world British,” Windsor said of why Harry Potter fit the theme of the first adventure. In a vote between the series and Marvel, the former won, though a Marvel-themed adventure also ran at SPL later on. She advised librarians to consider what their audiences like best. “I cannot stress fandom enough—it just works. It really works.”
To win prizes, patrons had to visit the exterior windows of local businesses around the city, find a poster, and complete the instructions on the poster in order to complete the challenge. The catch was that, whenever a new challenge was dropped, the location was never specific; patrons had to watch video clues. “It’s a great way to show what they need to do without being super specific. It’s the secret of the challenges each week that provides that mystery,” Windsor said. Challenges ranged from answering a riddle to taking a photo of nearby items. Patrons then virtually submitted their completed challenge via Instagram or email.
Coordinating with businesses was key to making the adventure work; Windsor said businesses were excited to participate. For example, a local coffee shop made a Butterbeer-inspired drink and a local chocolatier made chocolate frogs. “We just essentially asked them if we can put our signs up on these exterior windows, and this was a way to get them some really good foot traffic,” Windsor said. Participating businesses reported an uptick in engagement during the Harry Potter challenge, and new businesses wanted to participate for the second Marvel challenge.
Windsor shared some feedback she received over the adventures: “My 13-year-old son loved it. It was the first time he’s been motivated to get out in many weeks. He did all of the challenges with a friend. It was perfect timing, perfect duration, just what they needed.”
Session attendees were also invited to roam around the room and complete the Harry Potter adventure challenges themselves for a prize.