All contents of this website © Thom Jones, 2016.
Library programs have been one of the main ways that I have been able to present information about forensic science and crime scene investigation. I have done over 250 library programs, and I am constantly working on new and exciting programs to offer in library settings. I have divided my program offerings up by age on this page to make it easier to see what I can offer for any group.
CHILDREN (AGE 7 AND UP): The basic program that I offer is a 1 to 1.5 hour program that covers fingerprints and one other type of evidence. There are hands-on activities for the kids. They all get to take their own prints (which they take home to show their families) and they also find prints using real fiberglass brushes and dual action latent print powder. I demonstrate fluorescent powder, magnetic powder, and a solution that sticks to fingerprints on the adhesive side of tape. The kids figure things out about fingerprints, and we talk about really neat, advanced methods of finding prints.
I also do longer programs, 3-4 hour or all day programs. The 3-4 hour program adds more types of evidence and provides the kids with a small mystery to solve. The all day program includes the full range of evidence and activities and has a full mock crime scene which allows the kids to find and process evidence, question suspects/witnesses, and solve the crime.
TEENS: My teen programs have been hugely successful because the subject matter is something that grabs teens and holds their interests. A few years ago, I was getting ready to do a teen program at a library in Illinois. The librarian pulled me aside and said that she wanted to apologize in advance because these kids never got involved in anything. She came back in an hour later and was shocked because the whole group was participating and discussing what we were doing. I said that it wasn’t me; it was the subject matter. Teen programs can be tailored to the interests of the group.
The basic 1.5 hour program introduces the kids to one or two types of evidence and lets them do and activity or two.
The 3 hour program goes more in depth and finishes with a mini-mystery where they are given evidence so that they can solve the crime.
The all day (5.5 to 6 hour) program includes a full range of evidence and has a full mock crime scene where they collect and process evidence, request lab tests, question suspects and witnesses, and solve the crime. My mock crime scenes challenge their assumptions and have multiple layers that make the scenes difficult and engaging.
Teens can also be a good target for my Maltese Falcon program or the Mystery Writing program. Full details about those programs are available on their own pages (see above navigation tabs).
ADULTS: I can tailor adult programs to themes that the library is using for their programming, or I can present programs that have been extremely popular with adults. There are three programs that are particularly well suited to adult groups:
The Maltese Falcon program: This program was developed as part of the NEA’s Big Read program and was first presented to teen and adult groups at Marist College in cooperation with the Poughkeepsie Public Library. Attendees will have read Dashiall Hammett’s Maltese Falcon prior to the program (and many have also watched the 1941 film). Instead of present a dry analysis of the case with a modern forensic science outlook, I have created a “next chapter” in the saga of the black bird. I take on the role of a modern day forensic investigator who is visited by the relative of one of the book’s characters who wants to prove that her relative was wrongly convicted. I use stills from the film as police photographs, and we look at the case and characters. With each new finding, the “client” changes her questions slightly until it becomes clear that her interest is more in the location of the supposedly fake statue. The program ends with a surprise, as I reveal the statue, wrapped as it was in Sam Spade’s office in the film. I have created evidence which fits with the story and demonstrate how I would analyze it as we go along. I have gotten extraordinary reviews for this program. Many older adults who attend have been amazed at the amount of research and preparation that goes into it.
UNSOLVED CRIMES: Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, the Zodiac, the Lindbergh baby. Everyone seems to be fascinated by these iconic unsolved crimes. Building off of a college course I teach on Unsolved Crimes, this program presents the latest and most reliable research into these cases and attempts to explain the difference between forensic analysis and behavioral analysis (profiling). Often, people will have read books or watched TV shows and developed their own theories, which add to the discussion. I offer the dominant theories about “who dunnit,” and I also suggest some rather provocative alternative theories.
MYSTERY WRITERS PROGRAM: This program is geared to adults who want to write mystery stories. I start with a discussion of the realities of investigations and the ways that forensic science is currently used in real cases. We also discuss the roles of different people and agencies in an investigation. Finally, we discuss the creation of a viable mystery that is believable on its face and engaging to a reader. Ironically, many of the famous unsolved crimes would never be believable if people thought they were works of fiction, so I go into some detail about the need to avoid loose ends.
For information about any of these library programs or to discuss booking one, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.