Steam Themed Halloween

Halloween is my favorite time of year: crunchy leaves, pumpkin everything, costumes, make-up, parties, and of course the annual revival of “Hocus Pocus”. This post is all about bringing steampunk into your library (or home, or community center) for Halloween. Some ideas are wholly steam-themed while others are ways to add some Victorian flair to any Halloween program.
Have your own favorite program for Halloween, or pictures from a successful event? Have it hosted on the site by sending it to You can also share pictures of events, costumes, and more with us on Twitter @SteamLib.

Program Type: Film Series/Book Group
Audience: 13+
Time Frame: Varies
Space Needed: Film viewing room, book group meeting room
Budget Considerations:
• Film showing rights, if applicable
• Custodial for rooms
• Popcorn/snacks for movie nights
When you think of monsters who comes to mind? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Victorian monsters became the staple of the silver screen for a reason: their stories are equal parts terror and intrigue. Since there are so many film options now the monsters make themselves an easy pick for a mini-film festival. The festival can be stand-alone, or tied in to other programs, like a book group. The original story behind the films are very short (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Portrait of Dorian Grey) which are well suited for teen readers. For adults Frankenstein, Dracula, or a Jack the Ripper novel lend themselves to longer book group discussions. The film showings are a great way to stir up interest and advertise the book groups to an audience with a noted interest.

Program: Steam-Themed Family Masquerade
Audience: Family
Time Frame: 2 hours
Space Needed: Open floor space for dancing, tables for snacks, and tables for crafts
Budget Considerations:
• Custodial services
• Food (finger munchies and candy)
• Craft supplies (felt, glue, craft sticks, glitter, small paper hats, white and black fabric masks, etc)
For a family-friendly Halloween event host a masquerade! Invite community members to come in costume and read scary stories, share treats, dance a little, and give their kids a reason to put on their costume again. Starting just before the event and running throughout allow guests to make their own party mask. This is easily made steam-y by providing gears, gold glitter, small Lego octopus creatures, and lace to adorn the DIY masks. Costume contest categories can also be made steam by having a category for Victorian Monsters or book characters.
P.S. The library blog Ms Kelly at the Library has great Halloween party games for kids

Looking for a grown-ups only party? Easily make the masquerade into a Victorian Murder Mystery night! Have your guests dress in their best steampunk attire (help them feel inspired to start a custom costume project) There are dozens of sites with downloadable party templates and ideas and some include hosting tips. These party templates can then be altered to have The Parasol Protectorate’s dashing Lord Akeldama as man of the hour, or Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker Machine as a murder weapon.
Don’t forget to include all your steampunk favorites into your Halloween book displays and bulletin boards! What better to bring fear into a reader’s heart than a mad scientist, a sea monster, or a vampire with an impeccably perfect cravat? Inspire Victorian costume by highlighting fashion histories, DIY sewing/craft books, and the colorful covers of YA steampunk in your collection. Steampunk art books also liven up a display and show the genre in it’s best season.

Banned Books Week

2014 ALA BBW Image
2014 ALA BBW Image

Every year the American Library Association promotes a week-long series of displays and events to draw attention to censorship in schools and public libraries. Simply called Banned Books Week, these events highlights items that have been banned/censored, or otherwise branded as immoral or unfit for circulation.

According to the ALA a challenge “is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” A breakdown of terminology can be found here.

In 2013 307 formal challenges were reported by the ALA , down from 464 in 2012. That’s more than a challenge a day for every day in 2012. It should be noted that because of the specific definition of “challenge” and “banned” the ALA has limited means to keep statistics on what books are being targeted and why. The ALA estimates that for every challenge they count “four or five remain unreported.”

Public and academic libraries across the country show their support for the right to read through displays, activities, and speakers. These events vary is scope from highlighting the irony of banning some books (for example, banning Fahrenheit 451 ) to promoting conversation about what themes are deemed unreadable and why (like this display ).

The ALA and other library organizations across the country have supportive materials from posters to display templates to t-shirts. Bellow I’ve compiled some of my favorite ideas for displays and activities to draw attention to censorship and promote thoughtful discussion about what we censor.

Share your own favorites in the comments bellow, or on Twitter @SteamLib #BannedBooksWeek.

displayProgram Type: Book Display

Audience: All

Time Frame: Week of BBW

Space Needed: Single display shelf, visible from library entrance

Budget Considerations: Staff time and paper

Description: Cover selected historically challenged books in yellow paper. On the paper you can choose to represent the attitude towards the challenge of your choice (thought provoking, fear mongering, sarcastic, and so on). Options include:

-Ironic list of reasons it was challenged (ie Anne Frank being sad, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian as racist, or Perks of Being a Wallflower as unsuited to age group)

– Excerpts from court cases/media interviews about the book

– Warning sign for reasons banned (ie “contains descriptions of nudity” or “parental guidance strong language”)

Online Resources-!

Name: Banned Book Mug Shot

 From the Oak Park Public Library Flicr
From the Oak Park Public Library Flicr

Program Type: Interactive display

Audience: All

Time Frame: Week of BBW

Space Needed: Wall for display, cleared area to allow all users access, space for camera/printer/screen

Budget Considerations: Backdrop creation, staff time to supervise users, camera rental (if not owned by the library) paper/ink for printing the pictures

Description: Have patrons pose with their favorite banned book in front of a decorative police mug-shot styled back-drop. Include the height chart, a sign which includes the name of your library, and an “I Read Banned Books”/ “Caught Reading Banned Books” sign. Print a copy of the photo for your patrons to take home with them. For budget reasons this might be set as the ending of an event or workshop.

Online Examples:

Name: Character Monologues

Program Type: Event/Presentation

Audience: Children/YA/Classroom

Time Frame: Week of BBW, best suited for story-time or book groups

Space Needed: Presentation space

Budget Considerations: Costumes & props (if provided by the library)

Description: Have book group members/story-time participants/your class read a banned book and perform a monologue from their favorite character’s point of view. Have them address the reasons they have been banned and how they feel as a character or what they believe the person making the challenge miss understood about their book.

Online Examples:

Book Spine Poetry

Program Type: Book Display

Audience: Varies

Time Frame: Passive

Space Needed: horizontal book display space – or image display space

Budget Considerations: none (unless printing images of the poems for display)

Spine poetry is a display that has been floating around Flickr, Pinterest, and Tumblr. It’s very simple: you take the titles of books, as displayed by their spines, and create poems by stacking books so their titles create a small poem, joke, or story. For example three books titled Through the Looking Glass, Bad Cat, and Go Ask Alice become a short story by stacking them to read Bad Cat/ Through the Looking Glass?:/ Go Ask Alice. While this isn’t a steampunk only display it is a way to show the creativity of steampunk titles and the visual aspect of their covers by incorporating them into these spine-poems. It also shows the genre to people who may not normally look at them. These displays can be of the physical books, stacked on top of the shelves, or photographs of the book stack can be displayed on the walls. This would be a fun project for School Librarians who have TAs, or public libraries that have young volunteers. It allows creativity and is a great way to get familiar with your collection.


  • Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter
  • What Could Go Wrong? by Willo Davis Roberts
  • War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

F/NF Crossover Displays

Program Type: Display

Audience: Teens

Time Frame: Passive

Space Needed: Display board or wall space

Budget Considerations:

  • Paper materials for display
  • Staff time for creation
  • Staff time for book lists/book pulling


This is a display aimed at bridging the gap between fiction and non-fiction. Many Steampunk books are based on a historical reality, and then they alter and bend that reality to fit the author’s intentions. For many readers (myself included) part of the joy of steampunk is seeing the changes made and what stays true to history. For many teens, though, there may not be as much background understanding of the historical reality to fully appreciate the nuanced changes: this board is aimed at bridging that gap. Additionally, this board can be important for librarians working in communities with Common Core English classes where there is a high expectation for nonfiction reading by teens. By showing the connection between fiction and nonfiction librarians can tap into an expressed interest (steampunk or speculative fiction) and present nonfiction content in that same interest. Depending on the books pulled this can also be used for WWI and Civil War specific books.

Online Resources:

  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld paired with The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King, Sue Woolmans
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest paired with Seattle Underground by William Speidel
  • Wild, Wild West (film) with A Lady’s Experiences in the Wild West in 1883 by Rose Render

Adventure Book Board

Program Type: Display

Audience: All

Time Frame: Passive

Space Needed: Display board or wall space

Budget Considerations:

  • Paper, lettering, and adhesive for display
  • Staff time to create images
  • Staff time to create book lists/Pull books


Modified from the “Where Would Poe Go?” board at the Enoch Pratt free library (view the image via Fliker here

This board would highlight nonfiction Victorian and Steampunk adventure books in your collection. Using images of classic landmarks (Big Ben, Eiffle Tower, Pyramids) paired with a question like “Where Will Adventure Take You” or “Where Will You Go?” or using a classic Victorian figure like “Where Would Verne/Tesla/Poe Go?”. This is a chance to draw attention to the visual side of steampunk literature by include the image of a large mechanical dirigible, balloon, or flying machine passing over the landmarks. Depending on your space you can have physical copies of the books underneath the colorful board, or have printed copies of the book covers attached to it.

Online Resources:

  • A Lady’s Experience in the Wild West in 1883 by Rose Pender
  • Fine Young Turks (Galvanic Century #7) by Michael Coorlim
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (book and film editions)
  • Blameless by Gail Carriger
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • The Volcano Lady: Vol. 1 – A Fearful Storm Gathering by T. E. MacArthur
  • Shanghai Steam edited by Renee Bennett