Friday, October 11, 2019

The Why Of Programming

At a staff meeting recently, my fellow librarians and I were discussing our programming. The question came up of why we do what we do. (This wasn't a judgment at all, but rather an invitation to think more about our work and attempt to make it better.) I mean, of course we offer crafts for kids! But... okay, why do we actually do that?

As an institution that used to be dedicated solely to books, it's interesting to think that we do so many activities - movies, author talks, craft programs, science clubs - the list goes on! Why do we do so much, and how can we make it as effective as possible? This is not to say that every single program has to check off every single box, but it may be worthwhile to consider the different reasons for programming, so we can try to offer a wider variety.


Because we have a background in information and knowledge, of course we want to continue to offer educational opportunities as much as possible. This could look different in every program: children learning how cool science is when they're not in a school setting, or teens making healthy snacks so they're not always reaching for Doritos, or adults attending an author talk to hear about the writing process. Everyone will hopefully take something away from a program that they didn't have before.

I am also including many programs for young children under this umbrella; they may come because they get to make a craft, but they will also be practicing hand-eye coordination.


The world has changed drastically in the last few decades. With the rise of social media and the ubiquity of cell phones, people are both much more connected with friends and family, and much less connected to their physical neighbors. Getting to know your neighbors is, in a way, a lost art, which keeps people feeling like they are not part of the place in which they live. What better way to foster a sense of community than to bring everyone together for a program? It will give people a common topic to discuss and a chance to get to know one another.


Of course, libraries want to promote literacy and a love of reading. To this end, we offer book clubs for all ages, story times, poetry circles, author talks, and other ways in which our reading lives, as a whole, are enriched. Discussion groups encourage readers to broaden their horizons and read books that may not have reached them otherwise.


Of course, literacy isn't just about books! Our cultural literacy has expanded to include movies, television shows, podcasts, music, YouTube channels, and more! Having a Welcome to Nightvale party may seem a bit odd to some, but it's embracing the enjoyment and sharing the cultural experiences of the podcast to fans (and potential new fans).

This can also work with cookbook clubs - have you tried making foods from different cultures? It might be fun to try some new things!


The phrase "lifelong learning" has come to be a buzz-phrase, that simply means an enjoyment of experiencing new things and learning about what you care about throughout your life. What better way to spur a love of learning than to share some opportunities to try new things that may not otherwise be available?


Of course, there is nothing wrong with doing a program because people want it. Will they enjoy it? Yes. Will they then come into the library and see all the wonderful things you have to offer, and think of the library first when looking for any of the above topics? Then it sounds like a successful program to me.

All In All...

Of course, there is no bad reason to have a program, but thinking about the Why can help with planning when you're stuck, and can help with funding when you need to ask for it.

Why do you do what you do? Tell us here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Graphic Novels ARE Real Books

I recently had an interesting patron interaction. A mother came in with her 8 year old daughter and brought her up to the desk, where both my assistant and I were sitting. "My daughter doesn't much like reading," she said. "She only reads graphic novels, and I'm sure you'll both agree with me that those don't count as reading."

"Actually," we told her, "we agree with HER." After singing the praises of graphic novels - during which, the daughter's face lit up more and more! - the mother said, "okay! I guess I'm not always right." She let her daughter check out one graphic novel for each chapter book, which seemed like a win for them both.

Much like the debate about audio books being "cheating," I thought we might want to address the reasons why graphic novels are real, worthwhile, wonderful books.

They Are Not "Just" Comic Books

While comic books are valid in their own right, the graphic novel format is not just a "glorified comic book." Artwork is combined with narrative storytelling to create a cohesive piece of work wherein a story is told. They are not always superheroes saving the day the same way every single time; graphic novels can be any type of story, including biographies, retellings of classics, historical pieces, science fiction epics, and more! And also, of course, super heroes saving the day. (We love you, Lunch Lady!)

The Format Is Great for Reluctant Readers or Struggling Readers

There are a multitude of reasons!
  • The artwork reinforces the narrative, which helps struggling readers more clearly understand the context of the words, which aids in comprehension and gives a better foundation to decipher an unfamiliar piece of text.
  • The fast pace of graphic novels helps those who are reluctant to pick up a book, to keep reading. Especially for those who struggle to "get lost" in the printed word, it's easy to quickly get immersed in a story when you can see what's happening, which in turn will encourage readers to go back and read the words, and figure out the text they are missing.
  • Because space is so limited, every single word has been cultivated to have maximum impact. The language is carefully chosen to pair with the illustrations, meaning that there are no "meaningless" phrases. 
  • Graphic novels are excellent for visual learners. A reader who might not be able to remember something easily when reading of hearing the printed word can actually see what is going on, and as such may be more likely to learn and remember it.
  • For those who struggle to read body language, the graphic novel helps to reinforce what is easier seen than read about, in a format that can be studied frame by frame (as opposed to television or movies, which sometimes move too fast to analyze).
  • They have been proven to assist struggling readers with the foundations of literacy, such as sequencing, recall and memory, and critical thinking.
  • It also makes it easier to reinforce story elements, such as character, plot, and theme.
  • The format feels more relevant to many students, so giving reluctant or struggling readers the graphic novel of a Shakespearean play or a Jane Austen novel may help level the playing field with students who are able to read and comprehend the prose, which enables them to join in conversations about the plot.
  • Reading as a whole helps readers to empathize with other people, and helps people to create their own value system.

Graphic Novels are Great for Modern Literacy

The pairing of text and graphics dominates the online world in which we live. The ability to easily pair a few words with an image is crucial to understanding memes, which - while some may not find "important" - are vital to our modern cultural literacy. The graphic novel format helps to reinforce the ability to understand and appreciate this multimedia method of cultural exchange. 

Graphic novels also strengthen appreciation for the arts; each image is carefully created to look a certain way, and an appreciation for the reasons why each illustration is chosen to look that way is a valuable foundation in fine arts and even architecture.

There's More!

What did we miss? Let us know how you feel about graphic novels here in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.