Not many library programs begin with an infected bite wound on the arm, but that's exactly how Logan Sivils, an eighth-grade student at Shiloh Middle School, began his day in preparation for zombie tag at the Finksburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library. Sivils' wound was given to him from librarian Melanie Fitz, through the magic of makeup.
Sivils was patient zero for the horror-inspired game of tag. About a dozen children armed with foam dart guns were loosed into the library's field to fend for themselves in the zombie apocalypse. Humans tagged by zombies were then converted to the zombie horde and were forced to hunt down their former friends. If a zombie took a blast from a foam dart — contrary to what every expert zombie hunter has learned, the students were explicitly told not to aim for the head — he or she was frozen for five seconds, allowing the survivors to race to one of several marked safe zones.
Fitz said this is the first zombie-themed game the branch has held, though it's done outdoor activities, including water balloon Wednesdays, in previous years.
"A lot of kids who are more active might not be inclined to think books are fun," Fitz said. "These kinds of events help them realize there's more things they can do at the library. We've got games they can borrow that helps with other forms of literacy like developing narrative and hand-eye coordination. The key is to get people thinking of the library in a positive light."
The game was held in three separate rounds, with each round becoming steadily more difficult. Throughout the game, Fitz would yell out a variety of game-altering mechanics, like gun jam, in which all weapons had to be dropped to the ground, and tank, in which zombies increased their resilience to be able to absorb three foam dart blasts before pausing.
Friends Curtis Dvorak and David Daugherty said they came to the event after Dvorak's mother saw an ad for the event online. Dvorak said he's a zombie fan, with particular interest in the video game "Left 4 Dead," which emphasizes zombie action over the slow-build drama of the early zombie films including George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead."
To celebrate Halloween, the library featured a display of zombie and horror-related books for the participants to check out after the event. Fitz said today, zombie fiction comes in a number of genres and tones.
"They don't have the charm of vampires, but you can get a number of different things out of a zombie story depending on how it's told," Fitz said.
In the week leading up to Halloween, each of the branches of the Carroll County Public Library will hold spooky Halloween events for children and adults. Monday, Wednesday and Halloween night, the Westminster branch will host ghost walks throughout downtown Westminster for children 10 and older. Tuesday, the Finksburg branch will host the third annual pumpkin carving lab for adults, in which the library will supply tools to create advanced designs for jack-o'-lanterns. Wednesday, the Mount Airy branch will host a Ghoulish Goodies program for children age 5 to 10 in which they will decorate cupcakes and cookies with ghosts, goblins and ghouls. Friday, Halloween night, the North Carroll branch will host a Boo Bash for all ages with scary stories and a costume parade. Each branch will hold Halloween-themed story times throughout the week.
Fitz said it's important to remind people that libraries can be community centers, and that each branch offers more than just books.
"This kind of thing gets kids to actually come to the library," Fitz said. "As they get older, they may stop thinking of the library as a cool place to be, but this reminds them that you can come here and it's not just shushing ladies with hair buns."
Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or email@example.com.
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