The Sikeston Public Library's Phantom Ball erases all these hassles by encouraging people to do something relaxing and enjoyable: stay at home and read.
"We aren't asking people to show up at a set time for a one-time event," said Sue Tangemann, director of the Sikeston Public Library. "We are encouraging people to spend time at home reading -- whether it's reading to one's children, reading as a family or enjoying a current bestseller -- and send a donation to the library in lieu of attending an event."
Invitations to this "non-event" of the season were mailed in mid-April. The Phantom Ball extends through the entire month of May.
This is the first Phantom Ball for the library in over a decade. The Friends of the Library organization sponsored a similar event in the mid-1990s.
Proceeds from the Phantom Ball will be used to assist in the purchase of new books and materials for the library's collection.
Expansion of the library's collection, especially in the area of non-fiction, has become more of a challenge as new demands have arisen.
"With the establishment of two higher education centers in Sikeston, many of the students at those centers turn to us to be their 'college library,'" Tangemann said. "As a result, we are striving to provide a wider variety of non-fiction material to support college classes."
In addition to providing materials in printed form, the library is looking to maintain and expand its selection of electronic databases which allow students to research hundreds of professional journals through the Internet.
Even before students get to the university level, they often seek the library's help for high school classwork. Research projects for a variety of classes send students to the library for current, comprehensive information on a wide range of topics.
"We have to be ready with information for these students," Tangemann said. "We can't know ahead of time what their needs will be, so we try to have a wide variety of materials to supplement what is available at the school libraries and to support these students' research needs."
Science-related materials are in demand year-round but never so much as during high school science fair season when middle school, junior high school and high school students all turn to the library for help in researching their projects.
In addition to new science fair how-to books, a new science and technology encyclopedia set was ordered to assist these students as they create future science fair projects at the local, regional and state level.
Elementary and middle school students use the library frequently for participation in the Reading Counts program. The library keeps a list of books for each school building in Sikeston so students can refer to the list as they select books knowing the books they check out at the public library have the corresponding test available when they return to school.
"Keeping elementary students reading year-round is important to maintaining and building reading skills," Tangemann said. "Students are more likely to check out books at the public library if they know they can take a Reading Counts test at school and build points toward school competitions."
Keeping up with these increased demands while still providing leisure reading for adults strains the library's book budget every year.
"Book prices, like everything else, increase all the time," Tangemann said. "We try to maximize our book budget by shopping around for the best prices but many materials are not available at reduced price. Often if we see a book or series of books that we know will have value for our patrons, we will purchase it at full price. Eventually it does place a strain on our book budget."
Anyone who did not receive an invitation to the Phantom Ball but would still like to make a contribution is encouraged to mail or bring in a donation during the month of May.