The Idea

The following is the story of how a few dedicated lunatics turned The Trumbull Library in Trumbull, Connecticut into an 18-hole miniature golf course, earned $10,000 for hurricane victims, and staged the biggest event in the library’s history…pretty much by accident. In addition, we've added throughout this article, new ideas and thoughts on best practices from the numerous tournaments that have followed the inaugural event.

During the extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005, news stations aired reports from Gulf Coast libraries caught in the path of the storm. The Trumbull Library Foundation had only recently been formed to support our own library and we were still casting about for our precise mission. Someone suggested we stage a “Gulf event” to raise money for hurricane victims. Another foundation member, betraying a youth misspent on the links, responded, “Golf event? Count me in!” By the time the confusion cleared, the words “Gulf” and “Golf” were inextricably linked, setting in motion perhaps the only charitable event ever generated by a verbal typo.

We considered and rejected the idea of an outdoor tournament. Winter was coming on, and we wanted something that would showcase the library and emphasize the library-to-library spirit of this project. Then it occurred to us: why not build a miniature golf course using the stacks, reading areas and ramps as fairways? We broached the idea with head librarian, Karen Ronald (since departed to Fairfield), half-hoping she would talk some sense into us. Instead, she threw her full support and boundless enthusiasm into the project, even locating the library in Waveland, Mississippi that would benefit from whatever money we raised.

The Results

Despite a postponement due to a blizzard, a visit from fire trucks involving peanut oil in the concession area (don’t ask), and numerous lesser obstacles, Golf for the Gulf, staged on Sunday, March 19, 2006, was an unqualified success, and one of the most talked-about events of the year in Trumbull.

The event succeeded in…

  • First and foremost, raising nearly $10,000, all of which went in the form of an unrestricted donation to the Waveland Library.

  •  Drawing more than 400 visitors to the library on a single day, including many first time visitors. It was by far the largest event ever held at the library.

  • Generating significant media coverage for the event and for the library, both leading up to and after the event. Coverage included local and regional newspapers, television and radio. Some of the publicity can be viewed HERE.

  • Offering Trumbull and surrounding towns a fun and positive way to come together for an important event, reinforcing the idea of the town library as a gathering place for the community.


 The Next Chapter

 There weren’t any plans to expand the program until we were asked by some of our library friends to provide a course as part of the 2007 Connecticut Library Association conference and support the 2007 Community Day at the University of Hartford.  We were glad to help and we’ll admit we hoped the idea would catch on so that libraries would hear about the idea and have their own local resources make course and run events for them. We set up 9 holes in the Capital City Community and a full18 holes at the library on the main campus of the University of Hartford.  Both events went very well and there we lots of questions and inquires that followed, but it seemed no one found others willing to make a course and get the idea started.

And then in 2008, I was talking to the head librarian in my original hometown of Dartmouth, MA about a database product that I thought might be interesting for libraries to license, when she told me the library had a serious budget problem and faced decertification, I casually mentioned I knew of an idea for a fundraiser that had raised $10,000. She immediately said she would do it. I didn’t get the chance to even tell her what it was!  When I explained the idea, she thought it was a bit out of the box, but still definitely wanted to move forward.  So in 2008, we hosted another event and helped the library raise about $10,000.

The story was picked up by the local paper.,

Even more publicity came from the ABC News affiliate out of Providence, MA who set a film crew to the event and we had a 3-minute segment on the Sunday Evening News that night.  An executive at the American Library Association who regularly searched the Web for interesting new ideas for libraries soon called us and after a lot of encouragement, asked if she could write an article about the idea in her very popular blog called the Shifted Librarian. {internal link to article} It wasn’t long before we had inquiries from around the country, Canada, Europe and even Australia.

So we formed a small LLC with no employees or staff and took some family savings to make a few courses and opened for business in 2009 and have since hosted about 135 events in 25 different states.  We are still just two brothers and occasionally our nephews and close family friends that help us work with a few dozen libraries every year with their own Library Mini Golf events.