Multiple images of Barbie using different modes of transportation

Embracing Barbie (and Ken)

Sep. 27, 2023 Jill Kergan

Over the summer, the iconic Barbie doll made a remarkable comeback. Criticized in the past for promoting unrealistic body standards and consumerism, this cultural phenomenon has evolved with the times. With the release of the new Barbie movie, she has been rebranded to symbolize female empowerment and self-expression.

Undoubtedly, the movie's success stems from its inclusive and diverse presentation of the doll, as well as its theme of self-empowerment. Also, Barbie is fun. She's nostalgic. She encourages us to don pink and play dress-up. Who among us can resist a Barbie fashion shoot? The fact that she now symbolizes female self-empowerment is the icing on the cake.

"But what does the Barbie craze have to do with libraries?" you might be thinking. Libraries can capitalize on this seemingly frivolous trend and leverage the widespread popularity of Barbie to promote their services and attract new users. Some libraries have ingeniously created Barbie Photo Booths shaped like the classic Mattel box, drawing people of all ages to the library for their own Barbie Photo Shoot. Other libraries use green screens, smart boards or photo editing apps to provide the Barbie themed backdrop. 


Libraries are devising fun and innovative Barbie-inspired programs for all age groups. From Barbie Storytime sessions for kids and fashion design for teens, to Barbie history and trivia for adults, libraries are wholeheartedly embracing the Barbie craze and responding with engaging and creative programs. Here are some exciting ideas:


  • Barbie storytimes or movie screening. BYOB (bring your own barbie) for a playdate after
  • Barbie club: kids gather to play with Barbie & Ken dolls
  • Barbie reading program: kids practice reading to their dolls
  • Barbie party featuring meet-and-greet with real-life Barbie princess
  • Barbie SWAP: kids trade Barbies and Barbie accessories
  • Barbie Sleepover: Barbie storytime and craft. Kids leave their dolls at the library for a sleepover. Library staff show kids pictures of what the dolls were up to overnight. 


  • Barbie Fashion workshop: teens design and sew clothing for their Barbies. Or just invite teens to dress up the dolls and make creative fashion choices. 
  • Barbie Mod Bods: Teens express themselves by designing Barbies to express their unique identities and values. Design sessions culimate in a fashion show. 
  • DIY Barbie Zombies: teens transform Barbie dolls into zombies. 
  • Weeping Angel Barbies: Transform Barbies into weeping angels from Dr. Who. 


Reader's Advisory

Many libraries are also curating Barbie-inspired booklists and eye-catching displays, using the craze to draw attention to library services and promote their collections. Designing current, humorous, and visually striking displays is an excellent way for libraries to attract passersby, boost foot traffic, and entice new users. Take a look at these ideas and follow the links for examples.

Follow this link to view displays and RA videos.
Social Media

Many libraries are skillfully leveraging social media to tap into the Barbie craze with clever and often hilarious posts. (I can't get Kenough of them!) Some examples include:

Final Thoughts
Libraries have embraced the Barbie craze with enthusiasm and creativity, developing Barbie-inspired programs, displays, and social media content. By embracing this trend, libraries can modernize their image, attract new users, and showcase their adaptability in meeting community needs and interests. These efforts not only bring a sense of fun and relevance to the library experience but also foster stronger connections with patrons of all ages.

That's my take. Whether or not I've convinced you to hop on the Barbie bandwagon, I thoroughly enjoyed researching Barbie-inspired programs, displays, and social media content. The Barbie hype will fade in coming months, but there's still time to use it to promote your library. If I've piqued your interest and you're wondering where to begin, start by watching the movie. I hope you enjoy the Go Places Scavenger Hunt and consider planning some addotopma; Barbie-inspired activities!