PALM HARBOR — Books aren't the only goodies waiting for little ones in the Palm Harbor Library Children's Room. Until the doors close Oct. 31, parents can take their children shopping there for a Halloween costume during the library's 5th annual Halloween Costume Swap.
"The idea came to me when I was shopping and saw how expensive even the simplest of costumes were in the stores," said Lois Eannel, assistant library director and head of Youth Services. "I thought that, with so many families and children who want new costumes every year, the cost becomes somewhat daunting, especially if you have more than one child."
Five years ago, after the library was renovated and Eannel had more space in the Children's Room, she asked for costume donations. Next, she used a bit of fundraising money to buy several inexpensive ones and get the swap going.
After the first year, Eannel said it became self-perpetuating. How? She always has a few costumes left over and money from those who buy rather than swap. After Halloween, marked-down costumes are purchased and stored until the next swap.
"We have different costumes coming in every day," said Youth Services librarian Diane Colson. "We ask parents to bring in gently used costumes. Then a child can look through what's on the racks and shelves and choose a different one. "
On one rack hangs princess dresses in every color of the rainbow. A small Yoda outfit is a big hit. There are duds for cowboys and witches. There's even a dragon costume, infant-sized.
Here's how the swap works: Bring a gently used costume to swap. Choose one for free. Don't have a costume to swap? No problem. The cost to buy one is only $5. Stop in any time the library is open.
"This is such a community endeavor and spirit of sharing," said Colson. "Parents know they will not get ripped off. They come here and feel safe within the arms of the Children's Room."
To be fair, the library makes the swap first-come, first-served, and sets a limit of one costume per child. No costumes can be held for anyone. But since costumes come in as quickly as they are swapped, that leaves a lot of choices available.
"We'd like to expand to teens," Colson said. "We have mainly toddler and young children's costumes, not so many for older kids. If we had a wish list, it would be to have costumes for big kids, so we could provide for older children and teens."
Colson said that princess costumes are big this year at the library, as are super hero costumes. For little ones, teddy bears are in vogue. But anything might show up. Colson said one year an adult costume was donated. It contained a whoopee cushion and before anyone could figure out what to do with it, a woman came in and bought it for her husband.
Eannel said families look forward to the swap all year. It is a service the library enjoys offering.
"It's the looks on the children's faces who have found that perfect princess dress or creepy creature costume that makes it all worthwhile," Eannel said. "With tight budgets and families needing to stretch their dollars, they know that their community library can provide a service that costs little, if anything, to make Halloween extra special for their children."