JEFFERSON — This month, the Jefferson Public Library is the place for hard-core Harry Potter fans to go if they’re looking for an interactive experience based on the famous books and movies about a young wizard.
Library director Leann Lehner said the library received incredible feedback from community members and visitors alike about the free activities it hosted during last year’s “Harry Potter Fest USA.”
A crackdown by Warner Bros. on community Harry Potter festivals resulted in a change in direction for Jefferson’s former “Harry Potter Fest USA.” Rebranded as the broader “Warriors and Wizards” festival, this year’s event will take place from Oct. 19-21 at locations throughout Jefferson.
Despite that change, the Jefferson Public Library is sticking with the Harry Potter theme, and associated activities are interspersed throughout October to assure that not only festival-goers, but also members of the area community, can take full advantage of the fun.
Already having taken place were a Harry Potter-themed diorama contest and a Potter-themed “Clue Room” for fans of all ages. Still to come are:
• This Saturday, Oct. 13’s, “Pottercon,” with a free movie viewing, costumes, refreshments and interactive activities.
• Numerous activities on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19-21, of the festival, including a “Chamber of Secrets” challenge, costumed character appearances, kids’ crafts, potions and treats; and an exhibit on “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine.”
• A month-long “Dobby’s Sock Drive” to benefit Jefferson County Christmas Neighbors, People Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse and other local charities.
• A raffle for two donated Harry Potter-themed quilts, and more.
To participate in official festival activities, people must purchase a wristband. However, because it’s a public library, Jefferson Public Library’s events — even those taking place during the fest — remain free and open to anyone who wishes to come.
Lehner noted that after last year’s success, board members and planners for the Jefferson Public Library wanted to stick with the Harry Potter theme. One reason was sheer economics: The library could reuse some of the decorations it already had that transformed the unassuming municipal building into a mini-Hogwarts.
Secondly, the book theme appealed to coordinators.
And third, as a public library, Jefferson Public Library is able to piggyback onto some professionally created and licensed exhibits that explore and reflect on Harry Potter’s world and where it intersects with our own.
Lehner noted that as a member of the National Library of Medicine, the local library has free access to health courses, exhibits and displays created by that group. In fact, Lehner serves on the committee to advise the Midwest chapter of the National Library of Medicine.
Looking through that group’s display opportunities, she spotted a Harry Potter-themed exhibit she thought would fit in well with the local festival, and as a member, the Jefferson Public Library qualified to have it shipped there for free.
She said local officials were disappointed to learn that the exhibit was booked until 2023. However, investigating further, they learned that the Jefferson library could use the national organization’s source files to produce its own exhibit.
To this end, the National Library of Medicine shared its files, program details and credits with the Jefferson Public Library to make it possible for the smal- town library to host an exhibit of its own.
“We felt this was a good idea and a great investment,” Lehner said. “We could use the materials again and again, and they could also be used by all the sister libraries in the Bridges system.”
The Bridges Library System serves public libraries throughout Jefferson and Waukesha counties.
As with other library programs, the exhibit will be free to everyone wishing to view it.
Lehner credited Angie Rosch, Jefferson’s reference/tech librarian, with researching how to print the display banners, and she noted that a Middleton company provided free shipping to the library.
“The banners themselves were not without cost, but it was a good investment because they can all be reused,” Lehner said.
Additional library festivities this month revolve around the second book in the Harry Potter series, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
The “Pottercon” this Saturday will include a showing of that movie, starting at 10:30 a.m.; costumes; and popcorn and butterbeer refreshments.
During the movie, audience members will be encouraged to interact with the story in several ways, said Melissa Anderson, youth services librarian for Jefferson Public Library.
Library staff members are hard at work creating a “chamber entrance” that will serve as the main entrance to all library activities during the festival Oct. 19-21. That will be located on the east side of the municipal building, with the big ramp.
“There will be a lot of signs to direct people,” Lehner said. “The library was pretty overwhelmed last year and we felt the traffic flow would be better if everyone came in the same way and followed a certain path.”
Along the way, visitorswill be invited to use five clues to find Harry Potter-themed items strategically placed throughout the building.
As it did during last year’s, the Friends of the Library will host a “potions and snacks” area in the library kitchen.
Meanwhile, the Renaissance magic/science/medicine display (created by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, curated by Elizabeth J. Bland) will be on exhibit in the public meeting rooms.
Lehner noted that although classified as fantasy fiction, the Harry Potter book series features magic that is based partially on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science, including alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy.
Incorporating the work of several 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, the series also examines ethical issues such as the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice and the responsibility that comes with power.
The exhibit looks at five broad areas where the world portrayed in the Harry Potter books and Renaissance innovations intersect: Monsters, Herbology, Magical Creatures, Fantastic Beasts, Immortality, and Potions.
For instance, alchemy was considered cutting-edge science at the time, and Harry Potter character Nicholas Flamel actually was a real scientist/alchemist who lived in the 1300s.
Also during the festival, the Jefferson Public Library will offer Harry Potter-themed make-and-take crafts for children of all ages, and finally, a number of characters inspired by the Harry Potter books will be available for people to meet and photograph.
Due to copyright regulations, specific character names cannot be mentioned, but loyal readers of the series and fans of the movies will recognize the “intrepid reporter,” the “young woman associated with toilets,” the “distinctive bird” and, of course, the “librarian from a wizarding school.”
The final activity of the month will be the raffle drawing for two Harry Potter-themed quilts, which were donated to the library by the Friends of the Library to raise money for the library’s general operations.
One features a crossword puzzle with names and words associated with Harry Potter. The other features a wizard world print with glasses and wands.
Tickets cost $2 apiece or $5 for three and will be available through Oct. 31.
As the library enters a whirlwind of Potter-inspired activities, Lehner recognized all of her staff, the library board and the friends group for all they have done to prepare.
“Everyone has put forth a tremendous effort,” Lehner said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
Meanwhile, the diorama winners were Rose Kerwin in first place for her depiction of “#12 Grimmauld Place”, Noah Nabak in second place for his depiction of “Harry’s First Quidditch Match,” Lauren Gauger in third place with “Welcome to Honey Dukes,” and Adrian Joseph Weber in fourth place with his version of the Whomping Willow.”