HELP! I Need Somebody!

It’s every youth service professional’s nightmare.

You have a room PACKED full of anxious attendees waiting (not-so-patiently) for the paid performer to arrive to give their groundbreaking, amazing show that ties in perfectly with the theme of the week/month/summer. And you wait.

And wait.

And they NEVER show up.

What do you do?


Unfortunately, I’ve had it happen to me more than once, and it’s a VERY uncomfortable situation, for you, the library, and often times the performer. Most likely it’s either a mix-up of days or addresses, or there’s been a traffic accident or a medical emergency. In any case, you have to be prepared to appease the horde that’s now stomping feet demanding answers.


There are a few ways that you can make it less likely that your performers will be there and not AWOL for your performance.

  • Make sure that in the contract it states that they have to be there at least 30 minutes ahead of time. That will give them time to deal with traffic issues, time to set up, and time to get organized. Good performers typically have this in their contracts anyway.
  • Make sure that your performer gets paid AFTER their performance, not before. More often libraries are going paperless for payment to performers, and it can be tricky about when performers are paid. One thing you can do is check the dates with your payment person and make sure that the payment will go through the day after the performance.
  • Get a good phone number for the performer, preferably a cell phone, and call the day before to confirm all the details. Calling the day before makes sure that both of you are on the same page as to the date, place, and time, and also makes sure that it’s fresh in their mind. Getting a cell phone number makes sure that if they are late (they didn’t make the 30 minute window), you can start calling or have a staff member call to see what’s going on before the program is to start.


So you’ve done all that, and it’s still happened. Now what?

First step, take a deep breath. Remember, it’s NOT your fault that this person/group didn’t show up or is late. You are NOT responsible for them, no matter how you feel, or how your superiors make you feel, so don’t start taking that onto yourself.

Second, face the music. Go up to the front with your best Show Face (the one where you never let anything slip past, where everything is pixie dust and roses and perfect even if the building is on fire), announce that due to unavoidable circumstances Mr. Snufflepuff and the Ommpha-Lumpfs were called away to Grumpyland on urgent business.

Third, have a back up and make it sound exciting. It will be off-the-cuff, and the tweens and teens will know it, but something is going to be better than nothing. If you can tie it in to the theme of what the performer was going to do, so much the better; if not, punt. This is a great time to put that umbrella movie license to use, or a surprise craft palooza party, or pull out the gaming equipment.

Fourth, let them know that *if* Mr. Snufflepuff will be coming back, you would be more than happy to let them know by email/text or whatever the normal means your library uses. I know a lot of systems use text programs that allow librarians to have a email-to-text feature, so that they can send one email from an account, and it’ll text everyone on the list. Gather up interested contact info, and go from there.

Fifth, go on with the program as if you’re not seething inside that the performer didn’t show. Never let it crack your facade, because if the tweens and teens see that you’re upset, then they’re going to pick up on it, and not have a good time.


You’ve made it through, you should be able to kick back and get a stiff drink, right? Not yet.

After the clean-up of the program, and you’ve caught your breath, unfortunately, you still have to do damage control. This performer may be booked at other locations in your system, or you may not know what is really going on, and you need to find out the truth.

First, check to see if they were paid or not. Depending on your system, you will either have their check in your hand, or they will be paid electronically. If it’s electronically, contact whoever handles the billing to make sure that they’re not paid for services they didn’t provide.

Second, contact them. Phone them and see what is going on. Did the car break down, did the cat run away–what is the excuse for them not making the performance?

Third, take some time to calm down and reflect, then write down what happened *without* emotions. You’re going to be upset, embarrassed, and a whole other host of emotions, four letters or more. However, there could be complaints about how the program was not what it was advertised to be, so you need to be prepared with a factual account of what happened, what you did to mediate the situation, and the steps you took after the fact to figure out what went wrong.

Fourth, if you feel it’s serious enough, let others in your system and in your support network know what happened. There have been times where a performer didn’t show because his mom had died that day- that’s one that I’m not going to call around and say, hey, don’t hire this guy. However, someone who doesn’t show or shows up 30 minutes late and has an “whatever” attitude? That one will be a ‘do-not’ hire recommendation in my circles.

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