On Saturday evening, June 16, the South County Library was closed for business. Readers and patrons were gone for the evening, unaware that the zombie apocalypse had reached Roanoke. But from 5 to 6 p.m., it was humans vs. zombies in the sort of epic battle that participants will talk about for a long time to come–and it involved nerf guns and bean bags.
The event, Humans vs. Zombies, was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program; the game itself is based on a version of tag being played on college campuses across the country. After suggestions for zombie-related events from members of the Teen Advisory Board at the library, Matt Williams, the Young Adult Library Assistant at South County Library, helped design the adaptation of the game for teen patrons of the library.
“Roanoke College has done it and I think Virginia Western [Community College] tried it, but I was familiar with it because of some of the colleges up North,” Williams said.
As soon as the posters announcing the event went up, teens at the South County Library had lots of questions.
“We had the largest response and most sign-ups for this event,” said Sarah Vaughan, Young Adult Coordinator for Roanoke County Public Libraries.
Vaughan and Williams had planned on having about 25 participants–and were surprised (and perhaps a little unprepared) when 39 teens showed up ready to play. With the whole bottom floor of the South County Library available to them (eventually pared down to the library section alone), teen humans and zombies were quickly running all around, creating new zombies and fighting for survival using nerf guns and the bean bags from the children’s section.
“Some of them had really strategized,” Vaughan said. “You could tell they’ve thought about the zombie apocalypse!”
In the end, the zombies trumped the humans in two out of three rounds.
Humans vs. Zombies will continue at the other branches throughout the summer, and even the teens who participated in the battle at South County can fight again at the Glenvar, Hollins and Vinton branch battles. In fact, that’s kind of the idea, says Vaughan.
Each time a teen participates in a summer reading program event, they get $10 towards the auction (a perk–one hour of reading equals $1 towards the auction), which is open from July 9 through Aug. 10. Up for bid are goodies like a Nook Color, a Hunger Games box set, a Zombie SAK (Survival Assistance Kit) and even the opportunity to decide what color Williams will dye his hair.
Vaughan dyed her hair purple at the end of last summer’s reading program.
“There’s still some purple in here somewhere,” she said as she pulled at strands in her bangs. Vaughan isn’t getting off free this year–teens from the Vinton branch will decide the fate of her hair color this year. “I’m kind of scared.”
Unquestionably, Vaughan and Williams are making summer reading cool, and their efforts are paying off.
Last year, summer reading program participants totaled 195; this year, participants have already reached 250–just at South County!–and it’s not yet July. “Our goal is 300. I think we’ll reach it,” she said coyly.
And the zombie theme might just continue even after the weather turns cool again. “It’s already been mentioned for an event around Halloween,” Vaughan said of more zombie-related events.
Which is fine by her, she says. “It’s a lot of fun. It definitely keeps me young.”
For more information about upcoming teen events at the South County Library, visit the library’s page on Roanoke County’s website or click here for a full list of events for the rest of the month.