Norwood Public Library organized its first Wellness Fair in the summer of 2014. The idea was to reach out to our patron base and fill a need in this small St. Lawrence County community. The library’s Outreach Committee, headed by Library Trustees Raelee Simcox and Caitlin Wilson, planned the event and held it in the Municipal Building, attracting around 50 people to browse the tables, take a Zumba class, and pick up health-related information. Using the feedback from the fair’s participants, the library decided to try again in March 2015 on a bigger scale.

The event was moved to Norwood-Norfolk Central School’s elementary and high school cafeterias, and more than 50 vendors and agencies were invited to participate. In one cafeteria, representatives from county SNAP and WIC services had tables alongside domestic violence prevention programs, reiki practitioners, gluten-free bakers, and adult literacy tutors. Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Massena Memorial Hospital gave free health assessments. In the upper cafeteria, a local Tae Kwan Do instructor gave demonstrations, a dance school provided entertainment, and the high school drama department gave a preview of its upcoming musical.

Live radio coverage was provided by a local station. Including participants, 329 people attended the fair, making it the largest event the library has ever organized. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and people encouraged the library to repeat the event.

The dramatic increase in interest and attendance at the second fair was due to lessons learned from the first fair. The library expanded its marketing of the event, distributing more flyers and talking up the event in person. PR went to the usual print and radio outlets, and for the first time, the library bought newspaper and radio ads, thanks to donations from the two hospitals that participated in the event. Word spread, and the Courier-Observer contacted the library to run a feature on the day of the fair.

The first fair was held in summer, when families are never at a loss for things to do. Holding the second fair in March helped thin the competition, and inviting the high school musical cast to perform attracted families that came to see their kids and stayed to see what else was on offer.

After seeing the response from the community, the library plans to hold the Wellness Fair everyyear, improving the organization and marketing of the event and increasing the visibility of the library.

As the role of libraries changes, Norwood Public Library is asking itself what its community really wants and needs, and clearly the Wellness Fair is part of the answer.