Celebrating Constitution Day in the face of time constraints

September 17 is Constitution Day, and every higher education institution that receives federal funding is required to celebrate the day in some fashion. At institutions like mine, which house federal depository libraries, the celebration often ends up being the job of the documents librarian (that would be me.)

Unfortunately, September 17 is smack-dab in the middle of the four busiest weeks of this research and instruction librarian’s academic year, which makes coming up with substantive programming and “celebrating” a bit of a stretch.

That said, the past two years I’ve pulled together lobby displays for our library that the students seemed to enjoy. The effort to pull these together was not huge, and is something even non-depository libraries could pull off (in that the materials aren’t depository-specific.)

The 2013 display was just that: a display. This probably took 3-4 hours to pull together fully (minus the time printing, folding, and stapling the booklets – which is GREAT work for student employees!) I grabbed:

  • our trusty display table
  • a red tablecloth and red/white/blue doodads (sparkly stuff)
  • a ton of books and DVDs from the collection related to the Constitution (including our pocket Constitution from the government documents collection)
  • book stands
  • coloring crayons

Then I printed out several Constitution-themed coloring pages and 100 copies of the DIY Constitution Booklet and put it all on a lovely little display. I made signs using Word – they were a little goofy and rather sad, but hey. It’s a busy time of year! Students colored a ton of pages, and took almost all of the booklets by the end of the 5-day display. Sadly, the pocket Constitution from the documents collection also walked… Oops!

The 2014 display was more interactive. Thanks to a bunch of things I’ve seen Stacy Russo posting on Facebook, I decided to try something a little more interactive this year.  At her library, they post a whiteboard in the lobby and routinely change up the question on it. Students write down all sorts of fun things. I thought that was a great idea, so gave it my own spin.

Again, I printed 100 copies of the Constitution Booklet to hand out. Then I created a PowerPoint slide that got printed onto a 36″x48″ poster. I found an image of the first page of the Constitution and put that on my poster, then created two areas for students to answer questions. The questions I posed were:

  1. What do you think is the most important right protected in the Bill of Rights? Why?
  2. What rights would you like to see protected by an amendment? Why?

I put out a pile of Post-It Notes and pens (along with coloring pages, crayons, and the Constitution Booklet) and let the students go to town. After 5 days, the poster was covered!

The #Wellesley College community had a great conversation about Constitution Day!

A photo posted by Megan Brooks (@librarygrrrl) on

This display took more time to pull together, mostly because I had to learn how to make the poster in PowerPoint and learn how to use our large-format plotter to print it. (I was a lot more efficient at printing, folding, and stapling the Constitution Booklets though – I started several weeks in advance and did 20/week instead of 100 all at once.)

Next year I’m likely to do something similar to this year, because it was so successful. Plus, my poster-making skills are much better now than they were on September 17!

If you’re at a school where you are required to celebrate Constitution Day and it’s your job, what have you done?

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