Programming So Good It's Criminal
Angela Hanshaw | September 09, 2010
I'll best remember this summer for two things: the heat, and my steady diet of crime novels. As usual, my new interest in the genre led me to wonder how libraries were incorporating crime into their programming. Also as usual, I wasn't disappointed. Crime scene investigation is alive and well in our libraries.
The Algonquin (Illl.) Area Public Library District hosted CSI: Crime Scene Processing. Mystery authors Lt. Dave Case and Sgt. Michael A. Black set up a staged crime scene in this interactive program that allowed the audience to ask questions while the officers separated reality from television fiction.
The Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, offered CSI: Clearfield for ages twelve to eighteen. Crime solvers learned about the crime, victims, and suspects while searching for answers in various tasks. The first to solve the mystery was awarded an iPod, and all participants received food and refreshments.
The Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, Ohio holds a monthly meeting, CSI: Y'town, for area readers, writers, and fans of murder mysteries, cozies, whodunits, detective fiction, historical mysteries, psychological thrillers, suspense fiction, police procedurals, supernatural thrillers, crime capers, and other mystery genres. The programs feature lively discussion, reviews of new mystery novels, plus a variety of speakers from law enforcement and forensic fields.
At the Granville (Ohio) Public Library, teens who attended CSI @ Your Library met an actual private investigator, saw cool spy gadgets, then used their new detective skills to help solve a mystery at the library.
The La Habra (Calif.) Library hosted Marie Chance, a CSI Criminalist for the Los Angeles Police Department. She spoke about the different crime labs, including narcotics, toxicology, alcohol, DNA, trace; discussed topics such as special testing, prints, and photos; and reviewed several case studies. A Q&A session followed the presentation.
Teens and tweens were invited to the Norman (Okla.) Public Library, to participate in the workshop CSI: The Science of Solving Crimes on the Go. The program was conducted by experts from Oklahoma Science Museum, who taught about DNA profiling, fingerprint and handwriting analysis, and other work that crime scene investigators do on the spot. Teens will arm themselves with a microscope, set of latex gloves, and their attention to detail to solve a crime.
John Hicks, director of the Northeast Regional Forensic Institute, presented the program The CSI Effect—Forensic Science in Fact and Fiction at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library in New York. The discussion included a description of the science involved and actual case investigations where the science has helped to identify the perpetrators of the crimes and to exonerate innocent suspects.
At the Mad Scientist’s Detective CSI program at the Keokuk (Iowa) Public Library, the Mad Scientist detective showed kids how to follow clues using footprint casting, color chromatography, pH testing, glowing chemicals, and ultraviolet light.
The Mountlake Terrace (Wash.) Library hosted the Snohomish County Associate Medical Examiner for a discussion about just what happens at the scene of a crime. Participants learned the importance of evaluating a crime scene and the victim, and met the professionals who analyze evidence.
How has your library lead a life a crime? Share your stories (and favorite crime novels!) below.
Angela Hanshaw is Program Officer/Web Editor for the ALA Public Programs Office.