The murder victim…

I was a murder suspect last month. So were 25+ others that attended Ely Public Library’s murder mystery party. The event was set in the 1970s Harry Potter universe, during a Hogwarts Midwinter Ball.

Before dancing occurred though, a scream echoed through the library. News spread fast—there was a murderer among us. Attendees quickly began sleuthing for clues and conspiracies. Who and why had someone murdered a wizard diva that had performed live as people arrived?

During the party, I played Gregard Avery, a moody prankster with ties to the infamous Lord Voldemort (as a keepsake, attendees each got a personalized character glass for sipping unpoisoned punch). My costume was inspired by the setting’s disco era. For a prank, I passed around Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (which have a random mix of horrid jelly bean flavors like booger, earwax, vomit, etc.).

At the end, I got two votes as the likely murderer. With the large cast and numerous schemes afoot though, many suspects got votes. Yet only one person smartly deduced who the real murderer was.

Each murder suspect gave a big speech at the end.

Impressive, fun library events like this are surprisingly common nowadays. Libraries are now community centers with activities, classes, and social events—many inspired by popular books. Such as the following week, when library fun continued with a Harry Potter “prep school.” There, children learned about potions (making colorful, bubbling lava lamps), herbology (planting chives in seed starter pots), and cracking secret codes. The week after, an event encouraged people to bring in their favorite games, as well as play test their invented games (Minnesota winters cultivate board games, story here). Ely and other public libraries also regularly host book clubs, hobby clubs, craft sessions, jigsaw puzzle swap meets, storytime, STEAM classes, escape room events, and oodles of other activities! Clearly public libraries aren’t just for housing books anymore.

Ely’s Friends of the Library logo

After my winter stay in Minnesota’s northland, I salute Ely’s library staff and its Friends of the Library organization. They demonstrate that public libraries make reading and lifelong learning fun for all ages. Even if fun means being a murder suspect now and then.

(All event photos are courtesy of Ely Public Library’s Facebook post, link here)