General events and activity information and ideas

Organising and running events and activities is one of the the main things that library community groups do. As well as attracting people to the library and raising its profile, the aim of these is usually to raise funds which groups then use to pay for things that help to improve and enhance the library service. Community groups have paid for all sorts of things ranging from small items of stationery to library refurbishments!

They have run all sorts of one-off and recurring events and activities – quiz nights, sewing club, cinema nights, live music events, author talks, wine tasting nights – and much more. We’ve tried to provide you with some tips and guidance which will hopefully be useful, but if you need any help and can’t find the answer here, do please contact us.

Allow enough lead time for one off events

A mistake that people sometimes make when organising an event is that they don’t allow enough time to organise it and promote it effectively. Don’t put yourself under pressure by trying to organise an event with only a few weeks’ notice! The more time you allow, the less pressure you’re putting yourself under – and if you’re marketing is effective, the more chance you’ve got of people finding out about the event.

A practical thing to bear in mind is the editorial deadlines of monthly local magazines which are likely to be between the 10th and 15th of the month for inclusion in the following month’s publication. Most magazines like this will print editorial about charity events for free so it’s worth making use of them – but make sure you meet their deadlines so that your article is in the magazine for a reasonable amount of time before the event takes place – there’s little point putting an article in the June edition of a magazine if the event is on the 2nd June!

Make sure you have the capacity to organise the event

It’s important that the group plan their events and activities thoroughly to ensure that there is capacity to do everything that needs to be done. If you don’t have the volunteers to organise an event, don’t do it. Also, don’t rely on library staff to do everything. They will be able to do bits and pieces to help, but their capacity is limited. Suffolk Libraries is not in a position where it can afford to pay for additional staff time to work at member group events. Course, in some instances staff may volunteer to help but this is not something we expect of staff and it should never be assumed.

There is the option of paying for staff to help with an event if you require some dedicated capacity and are confident that the proceeds will comfortably cover it.  If you want to do that, speak to the library manager in the first instance and they will make the necessary arrangements with the accounts department for that to happen. Make sure you factor the cost into your budget for the event.

Financial viability, ticket prices – and running a bar

Make sure the event is financially viable. Be sure to factor in all the costs and that you are realistic about the likely income. Some events will be relatively low financial risk as they involve minimal costs – although you also need to factor in the effort involved. You ideally want to avoid situations where volunteers spend hours organising and running a fundraising event which raises £50 – although perhaps with some events it won’t be all about raising money – it maybe about raising the profile of the library and attracting a crowd.

Some events may involve some fairly significant expenditure – for example, if you’re putting on a ticketed live music event and paying for musicians and sound engineers. Make sure you set your ticket price at an appropriate level – not so expensive that it’ll put people off, and not so cheap that you’ll need an unachievable number of people to attend to cover costs! Work out how many tickets you need to cover costs and decide whether that’s realistic.

Often at bigger events, there’s the opportunity to generate further income from a bar. Personally, I would look at the bar budget separately to the rest of the event. I would try and ensure that ticket income covers all non-bar related costs. Therefore, as long as you either sell all your bar stock or buy them on a sale or return basis, your bar will be contributing a profit to the event. Be sure not to under-price your bar products! With most items, if you’ve bought them from a supermarket, it’s possible to sell them at a price which makes around 100% profit whilst still being a bargain when compared to typical pub prices. Running a bar can involve quite a lot of work and planning as you have to obtain a temporary events notice, buy the stock (which can be a lot of stock if it’s a big event!), buy plastic cups, store it somewhere cold, sort out pricing, find volunteers to run the bar, deal with cash handling procedures and ensure you have a means to collect up and dispose of empty cups and bottles on the night. It can be worth it if you’ve got the capacity though as a bar can generate a lot of money.

Obtaining a licence or ‘temporary events notice’ (TEN)

If your event is going to feature a ‘licensable activity’ you usually need to ensure you have a licence. These are fairly quick and easy to obtain, but don’t leave it till the last minute to apply! Licensable activities include things like live music, recorded music, live performance etc and the sale of alcohol. Premises that regularly run these kinds of things – like pubs, clubs, restaurants, theatres – will have a premises licence that’s renewable annually. As libraries feature licensable activities occasionally, they don’t have a premises licence so you need to obtain a temporary event notice from your local licensing authority (your borough or district council) to cover each event. These cost £21 and require the completion of a fairly straightforward application form. There is a limit to how many TEN’s you can have in a year, but it’s rare of a library to exceed this. For more information, visit your district / borough council website and search for ‘temporary events notices’.

Selling tickets

Library staff will usually be able to sell tickets to your event, but make sure you’ve spoken to the library manager and made arrangements for storing and accounting for the cash – don’t leave it all up to the library staff.

An easy way to make tickets available is to sell them online using a ticketing service such as Ticketsource. If you’re selling both online, and in the library, you just need to make sure that you keep an eye on sales of both to make sure you don’t go over capacity. With online ticket sales, the website charges an admin fee per ticket sale which is typically around 7% per ticket.

If you want more guidance around setting up online ticket sales, please contact us.

Promoting your event

Your library manager will let the Suffolk Libraries digital and marketing team know about your events so that they are listed on the Suffolk Libraries website. They will try and feature them on Suffolk Libraries social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) although if there are a lot of events happening across the county at the same time, they may have to be a bit selective about what they share. Some events may be of particular interest to the local media – for example, if you’re featuring a well known author or are doing something unusual and interesting – in which case, the marketing team may circulate a press release to the local media to try and generate coverage in local newspapers and radio.

Other ideas for promoting your events:

  • On the library’s own social media account
  • In any newsletters that you produce for customers / friends group members
  • Flyers and posters in the library and in the local community – please ensure that poster and flyer designs are checked by the digital and marketing team to ensure they conform to house style requirements.
  • In local community magazines which usually publish articles about charity events for free

Tapping into people’s enthusiasms

A trustee of one of our member groups once said that the key to many successful events and activities that they run is “tapping into people’s enthusiasms”. So, if you have a volunteer with an enthusiasm for something for which there is likely to be interest / demand and they’re keen to organise something related to that, that can form the ‘bedrock’ of something successful.

Ideas for events and activities.

Here’s some examples of the types of events and activities that libraries and community groups have run over the years. If there’s anything here that you’d like more information about, do let us know and we will try and put you in touch with people who’ve organised the activity you’re interested in and can give you some practical advice.

  • Art group.
  • Informal iPad training
  • Themed meals / social evenings
  • Cinema / film night
  • Fairtrade stalls and event stalls
  • Themed days (such as Frozen, Harry Potter, Star Wars)
  • 80s disco
  • Book, CD and DVD sales
  • Day of magic (children in the morning and adults in the evening)
  • Additional reading challenges (such as ‘Eggstreme at Easter’)
  • Summer / Christmas fayre
  • Easter egg hunt
  • Using library space on a closed day to promote reading and the library service to local primary schools
  • Boccia / curling club
  • ‘The Big Draw’ – drawing initiative
  • Plant sale
  • Poetry tea
  • Queen’s birthday
  • African dance
  • Christmas tree festival
  • Joint initiatives with other local organisations – such as a joint sale with the scouts.
  • Photographic evening
  • Wine tasting
  • Kinetic adventure (planetarium)
  • Local authors events and book launches
  • Race night
  • One man theatrical performance (Great Expectations)
  • Quiz nights
  • Psychic evening
  • Live music gigs
  • Coach trips
  • Taking part in wider town / events – such as Christmas lights switch ons, street fayre, fun day, carnival etc.