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.

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