GENEVA – Six middle school-age boys examined a giant, makeshift Jenga tower made of 12-pack soda can boxes stuffed with newspaper that stood taller than their heads.
Geneva seventh grader Brendan Prosser gingerly slid a Diet Coke block out from a middle slot in the third row and placed it on top.
The rest of the boys held their collective breath as the tower teetered, then held still.
And so they continued. Darian Holda, Niels Eysturlid, Arthur Maiorella, Will Holzhauer and Adam Coats each took turns carefully pulling a block and sometimes causing the whole thing to collapse.
The boys were among 18 middle schoolers who participated in two hours of Extreme Library at the Geneva Public Library, held after closing time on a recent Friday night.
They divided into groups and alternately played several games, including Giant Pac-Man, Indiana Jones tag with a rolling exercise ball, a scavenger hunt, Zombie tag – and a version of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
For Giant Pac-Man, participants walked a maze with their knees together either as a Pac-Man or a ghost – with the Pac-Man music leading them – either picking up little bean bags, grabbing circles to protect them from ghosts or being tagged out by a ghost.
To play the oversized version of the popular hippos game, participants had to lie on their stomachs on a small scooter the size of a wide skate board while another middle schooler grabbed their ankles and pushed them like a wheel barrow.
The one being pushed tries to catch as many balloons or balls as possible in an upside down laundry basket … screaming and squealing all the way.
Kylie Peters, a middle school librarian at the Geneva Public Library, said she put the program together to fit the specific social and developmental needs of students this age.
“I am the resident expert on middle school literature,” Peters said. “And I run their programs such as Extreme Library.”
Peters was one of the first to lie on her stomach and have a student grab her ankles and push her around as a hungry hippo, trying to capture things in a laundry basket.
“Developmentally, they are in a sort of in-between place,” Peters said. “What I observe is there is still a certain playfulness and clinging to things of childhood. They are moving on and beginning to find themselves, starting to care more about how they look and figure out who they want to be.”
Although she works with and partners with the library’s teen librarian, Peters’ area of specialty is middle school.
“Young adult literature is pretty new. It came in the 1980s and 1990s with things high schoolers are dealing with – and these are not always the same things middle schoolers are dealing with,” Peters said. “What I’m doing with the middle school collection is to let people know these are the good books for middle schoolers at their developmental level on average.”
But on this particular night of extremes, sitting quietly and reading literature was not on the agenda.
Sixth-graders Tom Aldridge and his sister Kate Aldridge both said they came because they thought it would be fun.
And was it?
“Yes,” they both said.
“It’s fun to run around the library after dark when you’re not supposed to be running around,” added seventh-grader Sarah Carter.
Sixth-grader Alma Artega said she liked the program because she could spend time with her friends, “And it’s fun.”
Sixth-grader Grace Frydrychowicz said the Indiana Jones tag with the exercise ball and Pac Man were her favorite games that night.
Eighth grader Tom Antonson – taking a break after being tagged out during Indiana Jones tag – said he loves the library’s programs.
“There’s lots of fun things to do,” Antonson said. “They offer so much for kids our age. There’s not a lot to do in town if you’re older, so it’s fun to come here and have fun with other people our age.”
Eighth-grader Braden Meiners – also resting after being tagged out – said the description of the event sold him on participating.
“Multiple other library programs have proved themselves to be very good for kids our age,” Meiners said. “We got to do life-sized games of normal plastic board games or video games.”
For Maya Hawkins, also a seventh grader, being able to play a lot of games was the big draw for her.
“Normally on Friday nights, I’m just sitting home watching Netflix,” Hawkins said. “This is more fun.”