Skip to main content

Last year, during the swarm of programming that is summer reading, the Pulaski County Library System held a series of programs in collaboration with Claytor Lake State Park, located in Dublin, VA, and Virginia State Parks. In regards to the title of the program, I was searching for a catchy name that tied into contemporary culture and entertainment. It had to be something that really drew a crowd but that no one actually associated with public libraries. Survival Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse was the 4-part program series that was created out of this idea. This program’s aim was to help people brush up on their survivalist knowledge and skills while keeping in mind that the ultimate goal would be survival in a high-stress situation. This series was a lot of fun to organize and work on and to state the obvious – who doesn’t love a good zombie-themed program?

The inspiration behind this program lay in the desire to bring forth more foraging and survival-based programming to our patrons. I was also looking for a way to engage those “hard to reach” patrons such as men between the ages of 18 and 40. I had a meeting with John Duncan, Park Ranger at Claytor Lake State Park, to hash out some details for future adult programming. I suggested this idea, not expecting much to come from it. John loved the name and the idea behind it since it could tie into individual programs that they already offer at the State Park, making it the perfect fit for a zombie-themed survivalist program series.

John and I worked to narrow down the topics covered, and we decided to focus on four essential parts: Basic Survival Skills (bear attacks and how to find north), Edible and Medicinal Plants, Wilderness First Aid, and Fire Starting 101. By covering these topics, we were able to introduce patrons to these ideas and help dip their toes into various skill sets, becoming masters of none. It was also about the overall experience and hopefully planting a seed that may take these individuals further into a love of nature, or even encouraging them to visit our Virginia State Parks with more regularity.

Survival Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse worked on many different levels, and we felt that these programs were a huge success. While we could have attracted more attendees, the 10 or so individuals in each session brought forth many people that had never set foot in the library before. During our very first session, one man even exclaimed that he absolutely “loved The Walking Dead series” and had seen it numerous times, as we joked about the title and discussed the tie-in with outdoor survival skills. We also had attendees join us that started visiting the park regularly; so much so that when they left our program, they ventured to Claytor Lake and joined John for another program that same afternoon. As the park attendance has decreased lately, it was wonderful to know that this program encouraged attendance to Claytor Lake State Park regular events such as making walking sticks and paracord bracelet assembly.

If we were to do this program series again, which is not out of the question, we would definitely work on advertising the event at the nearby university and community college. I feel that there was an age that was not quite reached, even with the attendance of many, that I still consider to be “hard to reach.” This program has so much positive potential, and I really found immense joy in helping to create it. It is heartwarming to reflect on attendees for these events – remembering the patron that already has a love of foraging and making her own homemade dandelion tea, or the 10-year-old boy who attended our Fire Making 101 that exclaimed, “I really just love burning things.”

These really were events that nurtured some already existing interests and gave people a forum and space to talk about their interests, without hesitation, to people that are surrounded by these activities every single day. No question was off limits, and the programs were not only filled with information but also so much laughter.

Providing similar events in the future is not unthinkable. We already have incorporated many new programs that tie into nature, such as our upcoming third Annual Plant Swap. We even have a Propagation Station (“Take a Plant, Leaf a Plant”), so patrons may leave plants in the library, and a recently filled Little Free Seed Library that operates in conjunction with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office. We offer additional programs on gardening, native plants, household pests, and the New River Trail State Park. We love to help nurture and provide for our outdoor/nature-loving population, and we are extremely lucky to have so many knowledgeable groups in our area that are willing to work toward this exact same goal. We will continue to broaden our scope with adult programming, and we encourage all to stay tuned for more from our small-town library.

-Sheena Johnson, Public Services Coordinator, Pulaski County Library

Leave a Reply