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Topic: Tips from a Librarian
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 12:22AM)
I'm not sure if this will be useful to anyone, but thought I might post it just in case someone can get some benefit from it. It's adapted from a set of general tips that I give new children's performers who have approached me in my role as a library director (and hence a potential client for them).

Librarians - typically Library Directors and Children's Librarians - usually get approached by hordes of children's performers each year. Hundreds, sometimes (I'm not kidding). The "approaches" are typically done via mail or email, which is really the best way to communicate with most librarians outside of your home town. Phone calls are generally not encouraged; in fact, many of us won't accept cold calls, by phone or in person. If we did, we'd spend half our time on the phone listening to pitches.

When I'm approached by a magician, I generally want to know up front:

1) How much the show costs, including travel.
2) How long it is.
3) What age group it is designed for (for family shows, what the best minimum age would be).
4) If there is an upcoming performance I could come watch.
5) For those who primarily do Gospel Magic, whether or not they will have trouble adapting their show to a secular one with no moral lessons or mentions of anything religious.

If all of that fits our needs, I'm willing to talk more and look into possibly hiring the performer. Those are my "gatekeeper" questions. Public schools, churches, and other venues often have different ones, or are looking for different answers. For example, schools typically want an educational component, and churches often want a moral lesson to be taught. I primarily just look for programs that kids will enjoy and that will make them want to come back for other programs.

When it comes to advertising materials, I generally want to get a sense of what types of tricks the magician does (in a very general way), what type of persona (s)he uses (if applicable), and other basic things that will give me a sense of the general flavor of the show. It doesn't need to be extensive, but I need more information than "I am a children's magician" with no other descriptive text. Believe it or not, I get a lot of those.

I don't care whether I get information from a letter, an email, or a website. At the very least, though, I want to see a picture of the magician as (s)he will appear in the show. A video is even better - it doesn't have to be a long one, just a short segment in front of a group of children so I can see how well the magician interacts with them. I would rather hire someone who is great with kids but has mediocre magic skills than the reverse. If I have dozens of possible entertainers, I'm going to check out the ones with actual performance videos first.

There are a lot of benefits that can come from public library shows. Magicians that do them end up in front of a crowd of parents who may want to hire them for birthday parties or other events. Since it can be hard to find children's entertainers who do a really good job with the kids, it's not uncommon for a library to hire a good one over and over again, and to enthusiastically spread the word to other libraries in the area. Children's librarians in particular trade performer names quite frequently. Unlike birthday parties, libraries are more controlled environments - they tend to hire performers more often than schools do, but the kids tend to be more restrained than they would be in an environment where they are hopped up on birthday cake sugar and antsy to go play in a bounce house.

In my area (Dallas-Fort Worth) the going rate for most public library shows is $200-300 for 45 minutes, give or take a little. Spring Break and summer are the two biggest hiring seasons, but many libraries also hire performers on and off throughout the year.

When I hire a performer, I generally ask for some descriptive text and at least one good picture (digital) that I can use on advertising materials and on the library website. I also ask about what we need to supply in the way of tables, chairs, etc., and what configuration to put them in. I always make sure to ask how much space the performer needs (in all directions) and how far back the children need to sit so we can put blue tape line down in the right place. I also want to know how much setup time the performer needs, so I can have everything in place before then. If you get a library gig and the librarian doesn't ask you these things, I would strongly recommend volunteering the information.

Some library regions have "performers showcases" once a year. When I was a Children's Librarian I used to attend one in my area every year. They typically let each performer get on stage for 10-15 minutes to pitch and demonstrate their programs. A lot of the performers ended up filling their entire summer booking schedules over the course of that single day. They don't have those sorts of showcases everywhere, but if they do in your area it would be worth looking into.

When it comes to looking for children's performers in general, librarians have to consider how many people are likely to show up for the event. I am an experienced storyteller, and have done performances in a wide variety of situations (including overseas), but I'll be the first to admit that storytellers are the least likely to draw a big crowd of kids in a public library and are the most common type of performer. Since many librarians are experienced storytellers, too, they are often competing against the idea of simply having a staff member do the show. Capable magicians who work well with children are much harder to find, though, and tend to draw in better crowds, so in a sense they are more "valuable" in some instances when there is a limited number of performance slots to fill. I'm not sure if that is the case everywhere, but I suspect it is.

In general, the important thing to stress when making a pitch for a gig at a library is how well you do working with kids.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 20, 2014 01:02AM)
That is a great lecture. Thanks for sharing.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Feb 20, 2014 01:41AM)
Thank you very much.
Message: Posted by: Danny Kazam (Feb 20, 2014 02:44AM)
What about fitting a theme? I would think most librarians would be interrested in a magic show around a specific theme, or at least one that would encourage children to use their local library more, and read more books. I know in my area, libraries are not as popular as they once were. I have performed for several library fundraisers that requested I do something relating to reading books, and using the library. I have created two shows just for that. Libraries are not a big draw where I am from. Not to sound conceded, but libraries need us more than we need them. Library shows themselves don't pay very well, but fundraisers for libraries pay pretty good. This is my experience.
Message: Posted by: TommyJ (Feb 20, 2014 07:37AM)
Thanks for taking the time to share this info :)
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 20, 2014 07:52AM)
Tips from a performer:

You may have a regional Library Association.

They of course are interested in the great stuff above.

You just have to get it to fewer places.

An example is Mid-Continent Library System, has 29 branches in my area.

Harris
still 2 old to know it all
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 20, 2014 09:24AM)
As someone who was doing 70+ library shows for several years (I'm not working as much now due to health,) I can say that pickin_grinnin's, Danny Kazam's and Harris's posts are right on the money. There's a library performers course that was being sold for around 100 bucks a few years ago. Those posts boiled most of it down to the main points for free.

In my area, the theme is paramount. Some will hire you without it, but not 70+ every year. I'd also add that the easier you can make it for the staff, the more they'll appreciate you. Moving furniture, sweeping the floor, and of course having everything you need and not making them get things for you all go along way.

One more thing: Some librarians, especially those who have been there a long time, are VERY set in their ways. If they want to talk first, let them even if you have the greastes prerecorded show beginning that doesn't work well with that. I made that mistake one year and am out of that 3-library system until that person is gone. You've got to be flexible and let them tell you how things are going to be. I lost two libraries because I won't work outside. They loved my show and accomodated me twice each but it's hard for them to find an indoor space large enough so they can't have me back. Sadly, I know for sure that they cancel without rescheduling if there's bad weather on the show day because they insist to be outside.

Oh, yeah, and you have to have a good show.

This is the best thread I've read here in a while. Thank you pickin_grinnin for getting it started.

Bazinga!
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 20, 2014 09:27AM)
Good Stuff here.

Read and learn...and do....
Message: Posted by: Mr. Pitts (Feb 20, 2014 09:39AM)
Hey Pickin Grinnin', thanks! This is pure gold. As a library performer myself (here in Texas too) I spend a lot of time trying to build this market. Letting us in on what you look for as a librarian is priceless.

Danny, I do think libraries as a market for entertainers varies a lot from region to region, but here in Texas it's a very big deal for children's entertainers. Working to build a good relationship and reputation among children's and youth librarians can bring a good performer many good paying shows every summer, so it's nothing to sneeze at.

Here in San Antonio and across this region they seem to be pretty healthy and have good user-ship. Every library show I've performed over the last few years has just been packed, so people do still love their library.

I have noticed less and less interest on the part of librarians in the 'theme', at least here in Texas, especially since we no longer have our own Texas theme. I'm picking up on what you said, Pickin, about just bringing something unique and entertaining to the kids, something that will bring them in.
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 20, 2014 09:52AM)
Another tip from a performer...

If you have low attendance due to

A. Town fishing derby on the same day
B. To good of weather
C. To bad weather like snow or rain storm that did not close the library

Don't phone the show in.

I have played to 5 people during a rain storm.

The librarian was extremely pleased with my work, stating some performers had blamed the library when attendance is low.

Another tip..Don't get there 5 minutes before show time.
Librarians don't like to be nervous.

Harris
still 2 old to know it all
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Feb 20, 2014 10:03AM)
Pickin_grinnin, welcome to The Magic Café! Thanks for starting this thread. Many people should benefit from it.

To the others here in general... Regarding themes - By my experience, all libraries appreciate at least some good reference to reading, benefits of using a library, etc. (I work some of that into my own shows). But mostly, they want a quality show. sadly, I've seen plenty of performers who stick to a theme like glue, but the shows don't captivate the kids... or the librarians.

Again regarding themes, what is the general opinion here on specific themes for that year's summer reading program? Typically, there will be an umbrella theme such as "Dig into Reading", where their programs center on say, archeological expeditions. "Reading Round-up", "Under the Big To with Books", etc. are those types of themes.

How many change their shows each year to fit those themes? I never did, although many in my area would. I never noticed any difference in the business that I did, which was quite a lot in my area.
Message: Posted by: Danny Kazam (Feb 20, 2014 10:07AM)
What about fitting a theme? I would think most librarians would be interrested in a magic show around a specific theme, or at least one that would encourage children to use their local library more, and read more books. I know in my area, libraries are not as popular as they once were. I have performed for several library fundraisers that requested I do something relating to reading books, and using the library. I have created two shows just for that. Libraries are not a big draw where I am from. Not to sound conceded, but libraries need us more than we need them. Library shows themselves don't pay very well, but fundraisers for libraries pay pretty good. This is my experience.
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 20, 2014 10:34AM)
Pickin_grinnin

Gotta ask, what do you pick? Mandolin ...Guitar....ukulele....

Side note...other than magic magazines and books, would you consider yourself a current reader?

I know some don't use books anymore, in the age of iphones and kindles and tablets. (OH my with apologies to Lions and Tigers and Bears)

Harris
reader & righter
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 20, 2014 10:38AM)
Arthur Stead sells a great disk dealing with how to build a theme on a topic with magic tricks.

Ken Scott has great library marketing material. Jim Kleefeld sells great library marketing material too: http://www.jimkleefeld.com/JWKbooks.html
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 20, 2014 11:10AM)
[quote]
On 2014-02-20 11:03, Michael Baker wrote:
To the others here in general... Regarding themes - By my experience, all libraries appreciate at least some good reference to reading, benefits of using a library, etc. (I work some of that into my own shows). But mostly, they want a quality show. sadly, I've seen plenty of performers who stick to a theme like glue, but the shows don't captivate the kids... or the librarians.[/quote]
Excellent points Michael. As Harris said in another thread:
[quote]On 2014-02-20 10:50, Harris wrote:
When we listen to our audiences, we grow.[/quote]
Sometimes it can be very easy to rework a popular trick with a new routine to match the theme. And you are right on about referencing not just reading but using the library. Often the summer reading shows are rewards for the kids who participated in the summer program, but I think all the libraries I work for allow everyone attend. Sometimes our shows are the first introduction some kids have to a library, so we're in a position to really help the library there.

Bazinga!
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:08PM)
>What about fitting a theme? I would think
>most librarians would be interrested in a
>magic show around a specific theme, or at
>least one that would encourage children to
>use their local library more, and read more books.

Themes are great. They can also make it easier to put up a relevant display of books outside the performance area, beyond a simple display of magic trick books.

Most of the magicians I have hired have made it a point to tell the kids that they learned some or all of their tricks from books, and told them to check out those displays.


>I know in my area, libraries are not
>as popular as they once were.

A lot depends on the area, the way the library is run, the income level of the patrons, etc. Many libraries have seen a real upsurge in usage during these hard economic times. The most successful ones have librarians who have learned to market themselves well, carry movies and games, and have worked to become community centers of a sort, rather than just places to check out books.

>Not to sound conceded, but libraries need
>us more than we need them. Library shows themselves
>don't pay very well, but fundraisers for libraries
>pay pretty good. This is my experience.

Just out of curiosity, what do they pay in your area?

Pay rate, popularity of the library, etc. can vary considerably, even within a limited geographic area. There is a library 10 miles from us that never hires performers because they barely have enough money to buy books. They don't have staff members who can do performances, either, so a LOT of their patrons come to our library for shows, events, and the Summer Reading program, while continuing to check out books there. Another library 15 miles in the other direction has multiple performances a week, because they have a talented staff AND the money to hire outside performers. That town is a rich enclave, while the other is from a tiny farming community.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:16PM)
>Some librarians, especially those who
>have been there a long time, are VERY
>set in their ways.

Absolutely. It's a real problem within the profession, to be honest.

Inflexible librarians can be a real drain on the libraries they work for, and are more common than they should be. As with all professions, you get certain personality types that tend to be drawn to the work (ex. authoritarian types often migrate to police work). In the past, library work tended to pull in people who were relatively quiet and liked routine. The nature of library work started to change in the 1970s, and the rate of change has accelerated ever since. You still get folks who have been around a long time who haven't learned to be flexible, and you still get some people who are drawn to the profession with those old attitudes. Luckily, there are a lot of library directors out there who have learned to watch for that sort of thing and address the problem directly (or not hire those people in the first place).

Since I have done a considerable amount of storytelling and other performances in libraries, schools, and other places over the past decade, I have the benefit of having experienced some of this from the performer's viewpoint. There are some places that I won't perform anymore because they are simply too uptight.

When I hire a performer, I generally do talk to the kids (very briefly) before the show. I mostly just say "remember to stay behind the blue line" and then tell them we have a great magician for the day and get them to clap. If a performer were more comfortable with not being introduced, though, I wouldn't do it. I trust our performers to be professionals who know what they're doing.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:21PM)
>Don't phone the show in.

>I have played to 5 people during a rain storm.

>The librarian was extremely pleased with my work, stating some performers had blamed the library when attendance is low.

That's an extremely good point. I know how disheartening it can be to have a small crowd, since I have experienced that when storytelling. A performer who remains professional and still puts everything into the show will really impress most librarians, many of whom do weekly storytimes and such themselves. We don't usually have small crowds, but when it has happened (mostly due to weather and such) and the performer still does a great show, I remember that, and make sure to hire that person again in the future. There are a lot of children's performers in general who don't alway act professional - those who do are like gold.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:25PM)
>Again regarding themes, what is the
>general opinion here on specific themes
>for that year's summer reading program?

Most libraries in Texas used to follow a theme established by the State Library, but that is starting to fall by the wayside (long story). A lot of the area performers would adapt their show each year to fit the theme, and some libraries really liked that. In the end, though, I think most of us have tended to hire whoever we think will most appeal to the kids. When the kids have a good time, they will want to visit the library more.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:29PM)
>Gotta ask, what do you pick?
>Mandolin ...Guitar....ukulele....

Banjo. Badly. ;)

>Side note...other than magic magazines
>and books, would you consider yourself
>a current reader?

I read a lot, on a wide variety of subjects. Most of what I read doesn't appear on bestseller lists, but I read constantly. At last count (about a year ago) I had roughly 2,000 books at home.

>I know some don't use books anymore, in the
>age of iphones and kindles and tablets.
>(OH my with apologies to Lions and Tigers and Bears)

When it comes to library patrons, I have found that even the ones who love ebooks also end up reading a lot of print books. I can't really speak for the general population, but the ones I see every day who are carrying kindles and iPads around generally also pick up print books, too, at least on occasion.
Message: Posted by: Mary Mowder (Feb 20, 2014 02:42PM)
Thank you pickin_grinnin,

(Is that a Hee Haw reference?)

You've really helped save me some writing and many Librarians extra reading.

I've noticed a big difference in how far before summer the Libraries book their shows.

In my area there is @ a 4 month difference which makes booking locally first impossible. By the time my system is booking it is all over in many of the surrounding counties.

How long a set up is generally acceptable among Librarians?

Mary Mowder
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:45PM)
>I lost two libraries because I won't work outside.

I won't work outside anymore, either. I turn down outside storytelling gigs now. It's just too difficult with the highly unpredictable Texas weather.

One thing I forgot to mention:

Most city or county public libraries work on an invoice system, so they can't often pay the performer that day. In my town the pay goes out the following week. There have been cases where I knew the performer really needed the money then, so I paid him/her out of my pocket and then had the city reimburse me, but not all librarians have that option. In general, it's best to get your invoice to the library ahead of time so that they can get it turned in as quickly as possible. One magician that I hire each year gives me his invoice as soon as we book the show, even if it's 6 months ahead of time.
Message: Posted by: jay leslie (Feb 20, 2014 02:50PM)
Bizinga. What state are you in and how many other magicians are doing those shows?
I'm in So Cal and there are 12 to 16 magicians who get tables at the showcases. 15 years ago I was doing 30 a season and there were 4 other magicians. Now the pie is divided and I'm getting 15 on average.

In total there are 60ish performers that get tables (depending on the county) and 135 & 80 libraries in each county near me. So if they have 8 shows in the season that's 6 times 215 libraries (average in each counties). 1290 shows divided by 110 performers, that comes to 11 shows on average.

Some performers always will get more and others less. other factors include how new you are and if you have the lowest rate. A new performer with the lowest rate will book 30 libraries - no matter how good or bad that are.
(after they do several and realise that they spent half a day of time and 20 in gas, they wise-up and either quit or charge the going rates)

So what are your dynamics there? How many libraries, how far do you travel and what's the competition?

Thank you very much for your time.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 02:53PM)
>I've noticed a big difference in how far
>before summer the Libraries book their shows.

I try to book for Summer Reading around December or January. In my area, if you wait too much longer than that the good performers get booked up by everyone else. I have one performer who we have visit every year, so we book her for the following year as soon as she finishes her show.

I have noticed that there are some libraries that make a big mistake by waiting until a few months before summer to start booking summer acts, then act surprised when they have limited choices. I don't know why they do that.


>How long a set up is generally
>acceptable among Librarians?

It varies from library to library, and is often dependent on the performing space they have available. We have a big room that is solely for meetings and performances and can be locked, so I have some performers who come in the night before and get everything set up ahead of time. I have had some who came in two or three hours ahead of time, and some who came in 10 minutes before the beginning of the show. I work hard to be adaptable to the needs of the performer, since I know what it's like to be on that side of things. In some libraries, though, the performing space might be in use before the show starts. In my experience, that tends to be the real limiting factor when it comes to setup.

One of my favorite magicians in the area has a really cool modular rolling cart system that allows him to completely set up for a show within 10 minutes. He usually shows up before that, but I have seen him completely set up in 5 minutes, when necessary. He's very good at talking to the kids while he sets up, so the setup itself is almost a pre-show.
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 20, 2014 03:52PM)
One large system here books January of the summer year.
Another books in August of the previous yeast.

I learned the old fashion way. I lost out on 1-29 bookings by neglecting to meet their deadline.

Harris
Reader and righter
Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Feb 20, 2014 04:16PM)
I have been getting calls since November. I am almost booked up already. I am turning libraries away, and getting responses like, "I sure hope we can get you next year!"
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 05:19PM)
Mary - Yep, it IS a Hee-Haw reference. I love that show.

Starrpower - That's a good problem to have!
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Feb 20, 2014 05:21PM)
Great topic - the only thing I found to be different that the OP experience, is that when I first started pursuing this market I took the time to visit a ton of libraries- just on a walk in. I just introduced myself and left them a postcard sized professional photograph with my website. I found nearly all librarians to be receptive and it left a lasting impression.

These clients talk amongst themselves more than any other I can think of, so this alone will probably make you or brake you.

Themes play very well for Summer Reading Programs, but the rest of the year a standard show does fine.

Sometimes branches with low budgets are assisted by the main library's budget.
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 20, 2014 09:02PM)
Jay,

I'm in a very rural part of PA. My last mailing, which was for two seasons ago, was to 223 libraries within 250 miles from my home. The first year I mailed I got 24 libraries. I got a few more each year and the last 5 or 6 years I did between 71 and 74.

I really don't know how many other magicians cover that area. I do know most of my "competition" was from out of state. And I don't recall being "up against" the same one more than 3 times.

I stopped doing the summer reading shows for the last two seasons because of my health. It was just too much travel and work for the energy I have now. I carried 2 jetsets, a Lefler table, two side tables, a guitar, amp, and a footlocker.

I never went to a library conference, although I had one librarian take my materials and speak for me at a regional conference. It did a lot of good and I gave her a free show afterward. She didn't know I was going to do that so that speaks to how well she thought of me. I ain't bragging there just want to show how well word of mouth can do.

I know my rates were higher than at least half of the other choices the libraries had. My home county librarian told me she had a guy willing to come from almost 200 miles away for 50 bucks less than I wanted. She was another champion for me so I matched to price. She's done so much for me that I always kept her rate at the level of any previous raises.

I did a lot of extra things to be worth that price, such as sending CDs to their local radio stations with a prerecorded PSA, sending press kits to their local papers, (HINT: The story slant was not about me.) and working in a lot more than just the theme and a plug to use the library. I was a lot of work but in those 3 months I made (that is grossed) as much as the rest of the year combined. The travel expenses for me can take a good piece of the fee.

The thing about the competition is that we are not just competing against other magicians. We are competing against all kinds of entertainers, schoolteachers with the summer free, other speakers such as zoos, local theater groups, and even high school or college students willing to present for free.

Most of the libraries I worked for had a program every week. Many of them would be those freebies. It was up to me to show them that I could be their one big special show worth many times more than any other activity they had that summer. It didn't work all the time of course but I did have 1 or 2 tell me that my price was 1/2 of their total budget; and they hired me more than once. Again, I don't mean to brag, but the thing is to do a good job, do more than they expect, and they will reward you with loyalty.

My philosophy in working with librarians is to pretend I'm working for my little sister (she's 52) and everyone is watching how SHE does, not me.

It seems like you're in a tough spot there Jay; lots of competition in the same price bracket as you for about the same number of libraries that I mail to. Then there are those low-priced alternatives. I don't know what it's like in Southern CA as far as population density, but how far can you travel to maybe get double or triple the amount of libraries?

I've seen your website and I think you have a bigger show than I do. I have a chair suspension but don't use it any more. With your straight jacket and the levitation (I can't remember what it's called) can you play up the size of your show versus the other guys? Or if you can work that into the theme and the other guys are doing a straight jacket, can you build up your uniqueness over the other guys?

Just some thoughts,
Bazinga!
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Feb 20, 2014 09:48PM)
Bazinga wrote:
[quote]
I did a lot of extra things to be worth that price,
[/quote]
I think this is the key if you are trying to land these gigs. Mainly, they are looking for you to be a draw, so unless you are very well established and bring your own fan base, you need to be creative to increase your potential as a draw for the library.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 10:03PM)
>We are competing against all kinds of entertainers,
>schoolteachers with the summer free, other speakers
>such as zoos, local theater groups, and even high school
>or college students willing to present for free.

That's very true.

I have found that there is something of a hierarchy of interest among my patrons when it comes to different types of performances. The absolute biggest draw, bar none, is animal acts. I can easily draw two or three times the attendance with an animal act than any other. I once had 600 people show up for a trained monkey show, and we had to turn about half of them away. It wasn't a very large library - our biggest attendance ever for a children's show before that was 350 people.

Storytellers are on the bottom rung when it comes to the crowds they can draw. There are tons of them out there, and they aren't as big a draw as other acts, no matter how good they are. I know a lot of extremely good professional storytellers, but I don't hire more than a couple each year because storytellers aren't a huge draw in this area. Though I am an experienced storyteller, I would hate to make my full-time living that way, at least in this area.

Everything else falls somewhere in-between. The shows that tend to do the best are the ones with the most exciting visual components: magic, juggling, circus arts, etc. In my area competent magicians who are good with kids are not as plentiful as many other types of acts, so I pay very close attention to any new ones I run across. That's probably not the case everywhere, but knowing how much competition you have in your area - and what TYPE of competition - can be very beneficial. Go to their shows, if you can. At the very least you should find out what types of shows and trick the other folks do, and then come up with something different. When advertising your show to librarians, always make sure to point out the thing that makes you different than everybody else. It can really make a difference.

I once met a children's magician in my area who did levitations during his children's shows. I was very eager to book him, but unfortunately I couldn't afford him. He wanted around $600 for a 45 minute show - I could have managed $400, given how different his show was, but I just couldn't do $600. I don't blame him for the price - it looked like his show was worth it. I just bring that up to illustrate that I would have hired him in an instant if I could because he included something that the other magicians (who perform in libraries in my area) didn't offer.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Feb 20, 2014 10:14PM)
When it comes to travel costs, some of the performers I have hired who live several hours away try to set up bundles - multiple shows at different libraries all within a two or three day period. Since Texas is a very large state, I have taken part in those deals a number of times over the years. Usually it goes like this: when talking to a performer, they tell me that they will drop the travel cost by a certain percent if I can help them find two more libraries in my area who will hire them for the same day or the following one. I send an email to the other area libraries to see if anyone wants to get in on it. Usually a couple are interested, particularly those who couldn't afford to pay the full travel fees in the first place. We get things set up with the performer and go from there. I always make sure to let the community of librarians in the area know if the performer does a good job, too.

Another thing we do is ask performers that interest us for a list of the times that they are already booked for shows in our area, then negotiate for lower travel fees if we can book them during their "down" time on the trip. They end up coming out ahead and not wasting as much time sitting in a hotel room, and that little extra we saved helps us to book more performers in the future.
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 20, 2014 10:53PM)
[quote]On 2014-02-20 22:48, charliecheckers wrote:
Bazinga wrote:
[quote]
I did a lot of extra things to be worth that price,
[/quote]
I think this is the key if you are trying to land these gigs. Mainly, they are looking for you to be a draw, so unless you are very well established and bring your own fan base, you need to be creative to increase your potential as a draw for the library.[/quote]
That's true Charlie. But not just for inexperienced newcomers. In my case, doing this for over 40 years, being known and drawing a crowd isn't an issue. But when my price is sometimes 3 to 5 times that of others, I need to help the librarian justify to the board that expense. "A well known draw" is not always going to be enough of an explination. I need to show them how much I care about them and what they are trying to do.

The more we make it about them, the more we'll make.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 20, 2014 11:27PM)
Bazinga, I never knew you had so much experience. You should write a book for all you know.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 20, 2014 11:29PM)
The new smilies at the bottom of the page startled me. :)
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 21, 2014 12:02AM)
Thanks Mike. I did start writing about things I've done, mostly so my young cousins, nieces and nephews will have some funny things to remember crazy old Uncle Bazinga! and his goofy toys. My business and marketing skills are not really noteworthy enough to add another book to the many that already cover the subject so well. I enjoy swapping ideas here and reading what other are doing.

I don't see any new smilies.
Message: Posted by: jay leslie (Feb 21, 2014 01:34AM)
Bazinga

Funny, the House Of Enchantment and myself were originally from western PA. I'm sure you've got something from Jim Swoger at some time.

I have 11 different shows and 28 illusions that are rotated in and out yearly. Some shows are on the stage, some are close up and many are Stand Up by myself. I don't perform a suspension at a library or the jacket escape. It's all sleight of hand, comedy and audience participation.

So the old saying seems to be true " If you want to be a successful magician you don't go where there are a lot of other magicians but you go where there are none"

Maybe I should have stayed in PA.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Feb 21, 2014 01:48AM)
[quote]
On 2014-02-21 01:02, Bazinga wrote:


I don't see any new smilies.
[/quote]
http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/viewtopic.php?topic=544164&forum=50&2
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 21, 2014 02:08AM)
Jay,

You know, I never made the connection before. Sorry. I used to have a "Skeleton in the Closet" from the Pittsbugh shop. I wish I had it now. I have a "Spider Beside Her." I'm pretty sure I got it after you bought the shop. That's a good one.

I forgot to mention before that I cover pretty much all of PA from Lancaster to the Ohio border and a few miles into Maryland and a few into New York. But I don't go to Pittsbugh city. I've worked in Zelienople, Rochester, Ambridge, and Beaver, and I play some music festivals in Brady's Run, and Beaver Creek Park (I think it's called.)

Small world, eh?
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Feb 21, 2014 07:33PM)
I have worked public and school library shows off and on from the 1970's to the 2000's. Part of my spiel was to let the kids know that library books are what helped me to become a magician. I tell them that magic books are in the 793.8 section, and I use "793.8" as the magic words to make the magic happen. The kids repeat the magic number with me.

I explain to the kids that some of the tricks they're going to see are tricks that I learned from a book and some are tricks that I bought at a magic store and some are tricks that I invented myself. The librarians put up a display a few weeks in advance announcing my impending performance. I provide brochures and photos for the display.

I also mention during the show that I checked out a lot of books on drawing from the library and the skills I learned from those books helped me to become an illustrator of several magic books for professional magicians. One of the tricks that I perform (which helped me to win 3rd place in close-up at an IBM convention in the 70's) was one I invented that was based on a book on paperfolding that I had checked out from the library.

I tie some library skills into the show--like doing a prediction of dictionary guide words on a "freely" selected page in a children's picture dictionary. I modified a Magic Coloring Book (cover as well as inside pages) so that it could be shown to be a Universal Book--a book that can be shown to have blank pages and magically turned into "any" book. On the back of the book I have a faux keypad with large numbered keys (and an "Enter" and a "Cancel" key) that I use to type in either a Dewey Decimal Number (for very young kids) or an ISBN (International Standard Book Number--for older kids and adults) that magically converts the blank book into either a non-fiction book (e.g. a picture book about dinosaurs) or a storybook from the Easy book section (e.g. a "Curious George" book by H.A. Rey). (I cut and pasted pages from paperback children's books I bought.)

I also had a Harbin Packaway Table (_The Table Book_, pages 30-31) built into a large hollow book. I told the kids, "Most books have a Table of Contents. But the contents of this book is--A TABLE!" I opened the book and the legs snapped open. Of course, I had a roll-on table in addition to the book table. But the Harbin table was sturdy enough to hold silks as I produced them, a deck of cards, etc.

I genuinely feel that I would not be a magician or magic book illustrator today if it hadn't been for books that taught me the skills I needed to become a magician. When I was in grade school I learned some great tricks from the Joseph Leeming books. When I was in high school I learned card flourishes from Henry Hay's _The Amateur Magician's Handbook_, Cut-and-Restored Rope from _Scarne's Magic Tricks_ etc. My linking ring routine is largely out of the Hay book. My original Mental Flip-Flop routine seen here:
http://tinyurl.com/kafo5yy
was inspired by instructions I found for making a Jacob's Ladder in the book _How to Make Things Out of Paper_ by Walter Sperling that I found in the public library. (The sound in the video was removed to facilitate faster page loading.)

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: charliecheckers (Feb 21, 2014 08:00PM)
On 2014-02-20 23:53, Bazinga wrote:
That's true Charlie. But not just for inexperienced newcomers. In my case, doing this for over 40 years, being known and drawing a crowd isn't an issue. But when my price is sometimes 3 to 5 times that of others, I need to help the librarian justify to the board that expense. "A well known draw" is not always going to be enough of an explination. I need to show them how much I care about them and what they are trying to do.

The more we make it about them, the more we'll make.
Bazinga - true enough, it is sound business not to rely solely on your past and current success. The reason I my post made a distinction is because I know of performers who do little or nothing to specifically accommodate the library market, yet they are very successful at booking high priced shows based upon their drawing power alone.
Message: Posted by: The Mighty Fool (Feb 22, 2014 01:23AM)
What an excellent thread!! Thanks for the frank, straight info PG!
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 23, 2014 09:25AM)
As an avid reader I share my love of books and libraries during my programs.

For you school show performers many if you have moved from assemblies in the gym/commons to the library.

Things like:
literary night
FUNd raisers
Birthday and books
Career day
Historical presentations

are all possible connections to modern day school libraries.
Some school libraries, especially middle and high school ones, are known as Media Centers

Harris
Still too old to know it all
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 23, 2014 10:44AM)
It's interesting that you bring that up, Harris. I've been thinking along those lines lately too.
Message: Posted by: harris (Feb 23, 2014 11:31AM)
Bazinga and others.

Working at a middle and high school helps and gives me "cred" and connections within and outside our district.

Harris
Message: Posted by: Bazinga (Feb 23, 2014 11:53AM)
Harris, you got Cred around here too. No doubt about it.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Jun 1, 2014 12:53PM)
OK, who does Librarian performer showcases and how well have they worked for you? How long do they tend to give you to perform? Do you also rent a booth space? I've done library shows, in fact my new demo video is from a library show, but I never went after that market too much, but I want to get into it more. I was going to do the upcoming showcase in Oregon, but I'm moving to Philly in 3-6 months. The Oregon showcase only gives you 5 minutes, and I was trying to figure out what I could do in such a short time.
Message: Posted by: Dynamike (Jun 1, 2014 08:02PM)
In my area the 5 minute showcase is $200. Renting a booth is an extra charge. I never did the showcase for a library before. I did it for a preforming arts program. I did not rent the booth. It went well for me.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Jun 2, 2014 07:29PM)
Our area performer's showcase disappeared a while back after some state budget cuts. It has been revived by an area library, but I haven't been able to attend the new version.

In the original version, some performers bough booths, but many didn't. Most of them were there to do a fifteen minute mini-show/pitch to the librarians. Many of them ended up filling their whole summer performance schedules during that one day. When I was a children's librarian, I generally booked a dozen performers at the showcases.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Aug 24, 2014 09:51PM)
Anyone else have tips on doing library showcases? My concern is that there will be few if any kids watching the 10 minute showcase, and my whole show is dependent on kids laughing, participating, volunteering, etc., so I don't know how it will go over for adults or what part of an act I can do in 10 minutes. I don't do shows just for adults, they laugh during my show, but I'm not very comfortable doing a show just for adults. Do you spend a few minutes on a pitch or just do your act?
Message: Posted by: Ed_Millis (Aug 24, 2014 10:03PM)
The library showcases I have seen involve various selected performers giving a 10-ish minute explanation/demo of what they do. No kids in the audience - just other performers waiting their turn and library people watching and passing judgement.

You either have to spend the time impressing them with your program explanation, run through something that does not require interaction, or pull some adults up and treat them like 7-year-olds.

At least, that's how they ran down here.
Ed
Message: Posted by: harris (Aug 25, 2014 01:58PM)
I also have never done a library showcase.

Another option in our area is to
A. get listed on their website
B. send your written information to be available for librarians attending the show case.
Message: Posted by: pickin_grinnin (Aug 29, 2014 02:42AM)
[quote]On Aug 24, 2014, danfreed wrote:
Anyone else have tips on doing library showcases? My concern is that there will be few if any kids watching the 10 minute showcase, and my whole show is dependent on kids laughing, participating, volunteering, etc., so I don't know how it will go over for adults or what part of an act I can do in 10 minutes. I don't do shows just for adults, they laugh during my show, but I'm not very comfortable doing a show just for adults. Do you spend a few minutes on a pitch or just do your act? [/quote]

Dan, take it from a librarian - don't worry about the fact that the audience is made up of adults. The adults will likely be children's librarians, and will most likely laugh, participate, volunteer, etc. just as the kids do. Remember, these are professionals who are interested in evaluating your program from a child's perspective. They want to see the show as you would do it for an audience of children, and will help you demonstrate it by pretending to be an enthusiastic audience of children. There really is no need to be self-conscious at those showcases.

I have been to a lot of these things, and always went out of my way to give the responses to the performer that (s)he needed to drive the show. The vast majority of children's librarians in attendance did the same thing. Keep in mind that many children's librarians are performers, too (at least in their own library), and tend to have a lot of empathy with other performers.

We often do the same thing when the performer comes to our library. Very young children don't always know when to clap, and sometimes you get an audience who is enjoying the show, but is very quiet. I have experienced that personally when I did storytelling in schools, where the kids are always told to sit still and be quiet. A good children's librarian will help to lead the clapping, laughing, volunteering, etc. in those cases so the kids see that it's okay to participate. I have found that there are usually a couple of parents in any given library audience who do the same thing.
Message: Posted by: danfreed (Aug 29, 2014 09:04AM)
That's good to know Pickin, though maybe they do things bigger in Texas! Thanks for the info, helps me figure out a game plan.
Message: Posted by: Mary Mowder (Aug 29, 2014 03:29PM)
I've done a couple of Showcases.

What struck me as odd is that ALMOST all of the acts had to be given the "hook" even though they knew the time limit weeks ahead of time.

Plan and script your tiny show and include aside material in your timing and practice. Aside material is stuff like what age group is best for your show, how many show choices you have, If you can perform outside, website, etc… Keep the aside material to a minimum.

Do direct and visual material. Do a trimmed down version of a good effect if it gives a good impression of the longer one.

I was blown away by the variation in acts.
Some were sweet grandparent types that were disorganized and had to struggle to get through a story and some were clearly Professional Circus Acts or had been on national TV. (Don't give up hope, there is a wide price variation as well so if you are fairly priced you can still book).

You are in for a fun day once your set is over. It is an entertaining and informative show.

Good luck!

-Mary Mowder