Staff at the Converse County library have launched "Project Prom." It's a chance for residents and retailers to donate new or used formal wear to help make teenagers' prom dreams come true.

"A library is one of the very, very few places available in a community where you aren't expected to spend money. In essence, libraries can be a living room for communities, or a community center, or a home away from home. A library can and should be a safe, inviting place where you can come and read (obviously), but it can also be so much more, and that's really what we want for our library." ~ Butler

The idea to do Project Prom at the library came to staff in March 2021 when some local girls booked the meeting hall to get together and trade prom dresses. Staff loved the idea so much they brought it to Jenn, the teen librarian, and offered to help plan a yearly event.

"Our meeting hall was being remodeled last year so we weren't able to start then, but this year not only is the building open, but we're hosting prom, so the timing was just right to finally get started" says Butler.

The Glenrock library has always been very community oriented, but during the pandemic quarantine when the librarians were working from home, a lot of them watched webinars about how things are done at other libraries.

"We ran across so many neat community programs, run by libraries all over the country, that the idea of doing even more for our community really took root. Since then, we've ended up doing more and more programs like the ones we learned about -- everything from setting up a community cupboard in the library (with the help of Glenrock Area Food Pantry), to starting a coat closet for the teens, to hosting community events every few months. So far those events have included our Festival of Trees & Polar Express, our Love Local Valentine Festival, and now our Project Prom."

Butler says that, so far, even just gathering donations has been really special for them because almost every person donating has had a story to share about their items.

Project Prom, Glenrock Library
Project Prom, Glenrock Library

"Being able to give people a reason to tell those stories, and a chance to know that their special items will go on to help teens make special memories too, that's been really amazing for us."

So far they've collected 27 dresses and five suits in a range of styles and sizes. Butler says they have sizes from 0 to 18, and every style of dress you can think of.

"So far though, the fully sequined, beaded, vintage 1980s gown has inspired the most ooos and awes from staff, followed closely by the white quinceanera gown."

Anything teens decide to take is theirs to keep, free of charge.

Butler emphasizes the importance of libraries providing a safe space to the community:

"We want kids to come by after school and play on our computers. We want parents to come by during the day and have playdates in our Family Room. We want seniors to come and do puzzles and ask us to fix their phones. And we want to provide all of this with no expectation of payment, because we are in the unique position to do so. Project Prom is just another extension of what we want our library to be to our community - a resource, a safe place, a home away from home." ~ Butler

People can donate new and gently used formalwear, clean and in good repair, to either the  Glenrock or Douglas library. They are also happy to pick up items in Glenrock, Douglas, and Casper. They are accepting formalwear donations in all styles, for both girls and boys: dresses, suits, tuxes, shoes, purses, jewelry, etc.

The first event will be April 7th and 8th. Teens can drop by anytime during library hours after those days. After that, "we'll need a few days to get our permanent closet set up," says Butler, but afterward teens will just need to talk with a librarian and set up a time to try things on.

"All of the community projects and events we do here at the library have a certain feel-good aspect, and this one will be the same. There's something really special about not only having a job you love, but being able to use your position to help others. I think anytime one of us (the librarians) helps a kid with homework, or shows someone the food pantry, or now, helps a teen find a dress she maybe couldn't afford otherwise, well, we're the lucky ones." ~ Butler

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