Teens organizing the Hazel Park District Library’s  annual prom have been sorting the more than 600 dresses and other accessories donated by Hope Closet.

Teens organizing the Hazel Park District Library’s annual prom have been sorting the more than 600 dresses and other accessories donated by Hope Closet.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Hazel Park library gears up for prom

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published August 3, 2023

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HAZEL PARK — Last year, a group of teens decided to organize their own version of prom at the Hazel Park District Library. This year, the event returns with a murder mystery theme, and more than 600 dresses provided by a local charity.

Titled “Murders and Mocktails,” the free dance will take place inside the library at 123 E. Nine Mile Road on Friday, Aug. 18, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Registration ends Aug. 11.

“It’s fantastic,” said Randy Ernst-Meyer, the librarian for teen and adult services. “Having the teens put together a program like this is always huge. With a traditional high school prom, usually the logistical details are left to the adults, but not here. Here, it was a matter of donations and what the kids wanted. They came up with these things on their own.”

The donation of more than 600 dresses comes from the Royal Oak division of Hope Closet, which retired this year after two decades of serving the community. The nonprofit has also donated shoes and jewelry. The library has been accepting donations from the community as well.

Students have been perusing the items at the library, taking them home to try on. When they find one they like, they’re free to keep it. There is no family limit, and teens who volunteer for the committee organizing the event are able to keep two.

Ernst-Meyer said that one of the reasons for the library prom is the high cost of attending traditional proms, where tickets and attire can add up quickly. The timing of the library prom is also more convenient for some teens, and the venue more comfortable. He said the teens also appreciate having more control over the lighting, decor, music and other details.

“Most prom dresses, like wedding dresses, have to be fitted, and we have kids hopping up and down helping each other get fitted. Some of them have backgrounds in sewing. Some are helping with makeup, with nail painting. The kids all help each other into the dresses, and we talk about what shoes and accessories to wear,” Ernst-Meyer said. “It’s fun!”

He described how last year, one of the teens took it upon themselves to decorate portions of the library by taking books that had been discarded and salvaging their covers to create bunting that spans about 40 feet across, and that is still displayed in the atrium today.

The students are also modifying this year’s event based on lessons learned from last year. For example, the flashing lights at the inaugural dance caused trouble for some students, so this year, the committee has created a new lighting system with electric candles all around the building.

The prom will also feature professional photographers, dinner by a catering company, and several kids will get professional hair stylings made possible by Barbara Winter, one of the library board members. The library was also planning a DJ. To help pay for everything, the teens have been holding fundraisers, selling face paintings and crafts at the library in recent weeks.

“The teens love it. They love helping organize it. It makes it more for them,” said Amy Beem, the children’s librarian. “They have a sense of ownership for it. They can play the music they want, they choose the theme, they decorate the library however they want. It’s just neat to see how much effort they put into it. They’re so proud of their work, which they should be.”

Corrine Stocker, the library director, said she admires the teens’ work ethic.

“They’re very invested in this. They make it unique and special and memorable. This is the big event of the summer for so many of them, and it’s wonderful to watch them work together to make a magical evening for themselves,” Stocker said. “We try to empower them to be able to do that. I think that makes it even more special to them.”