PROGRAM WINS AWARD Librarians Rachel Blier and Katie Donahoe received a Best Practices in Library Programming award from the Pennsylvania Library Association for a live-action role playing program (LARP) they devised in 2022. The program traces its roots back to a 2019 LARP that Blier hosted, a Halloween-themed game featuring fairy folklore from Ireland and Wales, called Call of the Wild Hunt.
“We had some really dedicated players from that game who really wanted to do it again in the spring,” said Blier, who was planning a new game. Spring of 2020, however, had other plans.
After the pandemic subsided and in-person programming returned, there was still interest in doing some kind of LARP. A lot of the interest came from Kam Smith, a high school student who loved playing Call of the Wild Hunt.
“Every time we’d see her, she’d ask, ‘When is this coming back?’ Blier said. Since it didn’t make sense to repeat the same game, Blier worked with Smith on a new concept. They came up with a Greek mythology theme, since at the time Smith and her friends were studying the mythology in a high school class. Also, Blier and Donahoe knew that there was an extensive catalog of young adult books about Greek mythology. “There was a shared knowledge of who the characters are, so we didn’t have to give a huge back story,” said Blier.
Blier and Donahoe chose a mock trial format, based on the Apple of Discord myth. As the story goes, Zeus hosted a big wedding and invited all the gods and goddesses to attend, except for Eris, because honestly, who needs the goddess of quarrel at a happy occasion like that? She does not react well to the snub, making herself invisible, sneaking into the wedding and dropping a golden apple on the table with a note that read “to the fairest,” and leaving it up to Zeus to decide who should receive it—at a wedding that featured the bride, many other goddesses and mortals and, best of all, Zeus’s wife and two daughters. So Zeus did what any good leader does: delegate. He stuck Paris with the job, Paris chose Helen of Troy, then kidnapped her from her husband, touching off the Trojan War.
The LARP game had two objectives: the first was to determine who should award the apple, and the second was who the apple should go to. The game had eight players, each of whom was assigned a character, who had a statement of the character’s powers and goals. After three voting rounds, moderated by Blier and Donahoe, each of which featured lots of wheeling and dealing, Hades won the right to award the apple, which he gave to Persephone, who, as it turned out, was played by none other than Kam Smith.
“There was lots of play fighting, but everyone stayed friends,” Donahoe said.
The librarians would like to do some more LARP programming, but because of the huge time commitment involved in planning and hosting the games, they realize it’s likely to be a once- or maybe twice-a-year thing.
“It’s a cool place, where you can do this thing, and dress up, use your imagination, tell a story with your friends, and there’s someone to sort out the arguments so nobody’s feelings get hurt,” Blier said.
STATEWIDE OFFICE Mt. Lebanon Public Library Director Robyn Vittek has been elected second vice president of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Her one-year term begins in 2024, and entails attending in-person and virtual board meetings, where she will be involved in high-level decision making for the association.
She has served on the library association’s membership committee, is vice chair of the Allegheny County Library Association’s Librarian Advisory Council and is co-chair of WQED’s community advisory board.
“I am tremendously honored to have been elected, she said. “I look forward to the challenge of leading the state conference in Erie in 2025, and helping the association to provide its nearly 1,200 members with an event that helps them to develop professional connections, learn new skills, and explore the possibilities for the future of library service in Pennsylvania.”