Has the coronavirus pandemic canceled your traditional in-library Halloween celebrations? No need to fright, er… fret! We’ve curated five spook-tacular virtual programming ideas (along with collection development resources and online activities) to make this year’s Halloween a treat for everyone in your community.

  1. Live stream a spooky story hour.
    Recruit a staff member to dress up in costume and lead a Halloween story hour (or two) for families with children. NoveList® recommends the following tales:

The Haunted House Next Door, by Andres Miedoso (early reader)
Fearless 8-year-old Desmond Cole runs his own ghost-hunting service to investigate monsters, spirits and other eerie mischief makers.

The Jumbies, by Tracey Baptiste (ages 9-12)
Eleven-year-old Corinne must call on her courage and an ancient magic to stop an evil spirit and save her island home.

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden (ages 9-12)
After 11-year-old Ollie's school bus mysteriously breaks down on a field trip, she takes a trip through scary woods and must use her wits to survive.

For Halloween stories and activities for your library’s youngest readers, download free digital samples of Babybug (ages six months to two years) and Ladybug (ages three to six years), courtesy of Cricket Media. These magazines and hundreds of others are available digitally via Flipster®.

  1. Host an online book club for adult and/or young adult fans of the horror genre.
    Choose a book for the group to read (or ask for suggestions via social media or a short survey). Once you’ve settled on a title, pick a digital space to host the event. (Lots of libraries are using Zoom!) Next, select a discussion date and send out the invites. When it comes time to meet, everyone should find a comfy spot in their homes, curl up with their favorite snacks or beverages, and join the virtual discussion. At the end of the first meeting, participants can decide on the next book to read. NoveList offers these recommendations to get you started:

Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll (young adult)
This collection of sinister short stories is rooted in old-school folklore and features eerie illustrations that amplify the horror.

The Grip of It, by Jac Jemc (adult)
As Julie and James settle into their new home and their marriage, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings.

White Is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi (adult)
Suffering from pica, a malady that causes her to eat nonedible items, 16-year-old Miranda helps to run the family bed-and-breakfast ― a malevolent house that attacks its guests.

To match readers with horror stories they’ll like, search NoveList® Plus and NoveList® K-8 Plus by appeal terms such as atmospheric and creepy, suspenseful and emotionally intense, and haunting and compelling. If you’re looking to add to your collection of horror stories, Core Collections™ includes the ability to search by NoveList genres, such as ghost stories, and compare recommendations with your local collection.

For Halloween-inspired short stories and activities for teens, download a free sample of Cricket magazine, courtesy of Flipster and Cricket Media.

  1. Promote digital escape rooms.
    Share links to mystery-themed escape rooms or create your own games using Google Forms or Breakout EDU (membership required). Fairfax County Public Library in Virginia provides a list of free virtual escape challenges, many created by librarians. Vandergrift Public Library in Pennsylvania has also curated links to digital escape rooms for all ages, including those based on books, fairytales and fandoms.
  2. Offer a virtual pumpkin-carving demonstration.
    Invite a master pumpkin carver in your community to teach online attendees how to carve their very own jack-o-lantern masterpieces. No time to snag an expert? Good Housekeeping (also available in digital format from Flipster) offers these helpful tips – share them on social media.
  3. Host a Halloween costume contest on social media.
    Invite patrons to dress up in their Halloween costumes and share photos on Facebook or Instagram using a special hashtag. Announce the winner and runners-up during a live-streamed event. Offer prizes that can be safely picked up curbside.

Once you’ve come up with some great ideas for celebrating Halloween, don’t forget to promote them. LibraryAware™ includes templates and tools to create email newsletters, website widgets, bookmarks to include with curbside pickups, and much more.