For the past eleven years, our Friends of the Library have had a Murder Mystery fundraiser. These are campy plays preformed by members of the Library Board, Friends Board and community thespians. (When I say thespians, I mean those that agree to help out after I beg them.) Along with my pleading to find actors for the play, I also begged my boyfriend, Ryan Byers, to write the play. He read over some of our former plays and noticed the trend of highlighting certain areas of the Library within each play. He knew he wanted to make this play funny and have characters centered around the Village of Chatham. I had also been talking non-stop about Library on the Go, our OverDrive collection. We knew he had a gem when he came up with the play, “Death by Download.”
The play centers around the (fictional) Library on the Go committee members at their launch party. Each of the ‘committee members’ introduce themselves : “Granny” Gayle Oletime, Parody Mason, Count E. Market, Dale Ironheart, Penny Pincher, Justin Berber, Micah Fiche, and Jack Crewstow. But soon, tragedy strikes; Granny, the chair of the committee, falls to her death! The DA comes to investigate. She questions all of the committee members along with a crazy audience member named Katrina (Kat) LayDee, who was angry at the chairwoman for the modem noise from the Library on the Go service that awoke her troves of kitties.
Each of the people questioned have a motive to cause harm to the committee chairwoman – even her grandson, Justin Berber, teenage singing sensation. The play breaks for dinner and the DA again questions some of the cast. Soon, the DA claims that she needs the assistance of the audience. The play breaks again for dessert and time is given to the audience to select the murderer, the motive and the weapon. Most of the audience did not suspect the murderer (and I’ll keep you guessing too!). However, those that did were given gifts from local businesses.
We were fortunate to have a long running event to use as our advertisement for our OverDrive service. Other libraries may be able to convert this murder mystery idea into a play that fits their communities, as well. This play was our most well attended to date, with two sold out evening shows and double the normal attendance at our Saturday matinee. We placed informational materials about Library on the Go on the dinner tables. I also mentioned the service at the beginning of the play and explained that the library staff would be happy to answer any questions from patrons. We had several people call the library to ask about this new service after the play. Our usage increased, we received some good publicity from local press, and we had a great time!
Amy Ihnen is the Director of the Chatham Area Public Library District, a member of the “Library on the Go” Rolling Prairie Digital Consortium. Chatham Area Public Library is the Inside the Library Category Winner for the 2011 Outreach Program Contest.