Thrilling Communities with Chilling Experiences: Summer Scares 2020 Library Programming Guide

Librarians can now download the 2020 Summer Scares programming guide, which offers booktalking tips, read-alikes, and creative programming ideas—many of which can be done virtually.

The Summer Scares Programming Guide, created in conjunction with the Summer Scares 2020 initiative, is intended to ease the fears of librarians and provide creative ideas to engage horror readers. Centered around the official Summer Scares titles—which includes selections for adult, teen, and middle grade readers—the guide offers tips and examples for readers’ advisory, book discussions, and special programs. The guide enables librarians, even those who don’t read or especially enjoy the horror genre themselves, to participate in Summer Scares. Check out the introduction video below or read on for more details.


For each official book selection, the guide offers booktalking tips, suggested read-alikes, questions for book discussion leaders, and sample programs, many of which can be offered virtually while COVID-19 has altered how we connect with our communities. The simplest way to incorporate Summer Scares titles into your library is through readers’ advisory. Last year, Springfield-Greene County Library, MO, created a full-page flyer of the Summer Scares list and distributed it to all 10 of our branches. Many branches created horror book displays featuring the flyer, and I heard from quite a few librarians that being able to hand out the list made them much more comfortable chatting with patrons about the titles and horror in general.

In addition to promoting and/or displaying any of the official Summer Scares titles your library owns, the guide offers recommendations for similar scary books. After you’ve recommended one or more of the official titles to a patron, you’ll have an array of similar titles to suggest when that patron returns to tell you they loved the book you suggested.

While libraries remain closed and reference services limited, consider how books are showcased digitally on your library’s website. This may be done through a banner on your library's homepage, website blogs and booklists, staff picks on Instagram, or booktalks on your library's Facebook page. Local news stations are sometimes scrambling for content as they also practice social distancing, so consider who handles community relations at your library and ask about recording booktalks for local media.

Horror can often be a hard sell to book discussion leaders, but having the list handy and being able to tout the respected organizations behind it helped me last year when convincing book club facilitators to choose Summer Scares titles. The book clubs were introduced to something they normally wouldn’t read, they engaged in lively discussions about genres and ideas they hadn’t given much thought to, and they are now more likely to expand their reading comfort zones. Librarians can feel confident approaching and discussing Summer Scares titles with the reading group guides provided here.

While shelter-in-place orders and social distancing means that many in-person book discussions are tabled for now, consider holding book discussions on Zoom or migrating them to Goodreads or your library's Facebook for the next few months. Explore your library's digital platforms for ebooks and audiobooks to find out how much access your patrons have to Summer Scares titles; many of the titles are currently available as ebooks and audiobooks on Hoopla.

Planning a small program series is not as cumbersome as some might think, and can be accomplished with four programs covering different bases: An author event or featured speaker, a local history program, a craft-based program, and something that incorporates pop culture, such as a movie viewing or trivia. The 36 sample programs provided in this guide are intended to make you more comfortable with everything from conversing with an author to mixing academia and pop culture to leading interactive craft or writing programs— and to show that horror-themed library programming can be made palatable to even the most skeptical audience.

Some of sample programs will translate into virtual programs more easily than others, and libraries that are closed will be more limited than libraries that are open and aren't holding public programs but are able to access meeting room spaces and supplies. Summer Scares authors are willing to do virtual programs, so Zoom, Skype, and Facebook Live are excellent options during this time. Those platforms can also be used for panels, simple craft programs, writing workshops, or live art demonstrations.

Some of the suggested movie programs include discussions that mix academia and pop culture, so if you can't show the movie, still plan the discussion via a virtual platform and market it far enough in advance so patrons can watch or familiarize themselves with the movie. Hold a Horror Trivia event using Kahoot!, a free mobile quiz app. Recruit your coworkers to record videos for “Who Haunts the Stacks? A Mystery Game” and post the game over multiple days on your library's social media page. The guide is meant to help librarians explore their creativity and to show that horror programming, even around a single title, is possible.

Programming is a vehicle through which we connect patrons with resources and services. Each program you plan gives you another opportunity to offer in-depth readers’ advisory, promote a database, or simply remind patrons about all of the great experiences libraries offer their communities—even remotely—and hopefully create more life-long library advocates.

Whether you create virtual book displays, hold a single online discussion or program, or plan an entire series, just remember: Don’t let it scare you!

Konrad Stump is the local history associate at Springfield-Greene County Library, MO, and the Summer Scares Programming Consultant. Library workers and authors interested in cultivating horror programming can contact him at for assistance.

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