What philosophies, goals, and practices give heft to other public libraries’ programs and special events? And how can my library tap into that, too? I recently set out to tackle these questions by chatting with administrators at several nearby Kansas libraries, as well as public libraries in other Midwest university towns. Besides getting to talk to some awesome librarians, I learned volumes about how my peer libraries are fulfilling their mandate to become a public forum, classroom for lifelong learning, and community living room.
You didn’t seem to mind the nerdiness of last week’s post, so I thought you might be ripe to handle a little bit more. Here’s what I found out! Synthesized from verbal and written answers, strategic plans, and programming policies from Midwest college town libraries, I bring you:
15 Programming Trends in College Town Libraries
(The fine print: this data was collected by visiting 3 libraries and emailing 62 to interview them about their programming practices and policies. I received feedback from 20 libraries total, for a 32% response rate. 16 provided substantial feedback. Scroll to the end to see the full list of contributing libraries.)
1. Programming is a Core Function of the 21st Century Library
- Programming is one of the Library’s three core services, along with collections and services.
- Programs foster community, meet the educational and entertainment needs of the community, promote the collection, cultivate lifelong learners, and give citizens the opportunity to interact with their fellow residents.
- The purpose of programming is to recognize and respond to current issues facing the community, and to encourage cooperation and collaboration within the community.
2. Programming Supports Exploration and Lifelong Learning, Stimulates the Imagination, and Facilitates Community Engagement
- Library programs can satisfy community members’ needs for successful lifelong learning, everyday information, and exploration of topics of personal interest. Support and nourish the community’s spirit by offering programs that stimulate imaginations and enrich lives.
- Create a safe, comfortable, and welcoming hub of community living and culture, providing a forum for social connections, civic engagement, and the exchange of ideas.
- Promote the Library’s meeting facilities to government and community organizations as a neutral place to hold hearings and meetings.
- Cultivate a philosophy of open access to information and ideas by offering non-discriminatory programming; refrain from excluding topics, books, and speakers that might be controversial.
3. Deliver Patron-Driven Programming by Talking to Your Community
- Provide customer-focused programming that meets customer needs and empowers Library users.
- Develop new approaches to Library services that reflect the needs of the aging generation of baby boomers and active older adults.
- Utilize a professional marketing firm to target the Library’s audience and discover customer wants.
4. Offer Popular Programs that Respond to Current Events and Community Issues
- Make programming innovative and relevant by offering programs that tie-in to popular culture and current events.
- Provide a forum for community discussion by developing a mechanism to respond quickly to community issues.
5. Offer Programming that Supports Traditional Adult Literacy
- The community places a strong value on the Library’s role to provide education and literacy for children and adults.
- Offer workshops and classes to adult patrons who want to improve their literacy skills to meet personal goals and fulfill responsibilities as parents, citizens, and workers.
6. Offer Programming that Supports Multi-Media and Multiple Literacies
- Offer programs that stimulate the imagination and incorporate reading, viewing, and listening for pleasure.
- Provide programs beyond-the-book, including lectures, community forums, discussion groups, demonstrations, displays, live or media presentations, art contests, film series, and live music in unconventional spaces.
- Provide services and support for community members to express themselves by creating original print, audio, or visual content.
7. Offer Programming that Supports Technology and Information Literacy
- Emphasize technology training opportunities to address “technology gap” concerns.
- Provide individual training appointments and group classes for information fluency to help patrons learn how to find, evaluate, and use information.
8. Offer Programming that Supports Business and Job Seeking
- Offer regular programming on business, career, and personal finance topics.
- Provide coworking space for local entrepreneurs.
- Improve economic conditions in the community by building successful enterprises via business and nonprofit support.
- Develop job search partnerships.
9. Enhance Programming for Underserved Populations
- Increase Library usage by underserved and emerging communities.
- Train bilingual staff and volunteers, offer outreach to at-risk teens and underserved children, and facilitate book discussions outside the Library.
- Develop means to assess unmet needs.
- Reach out to underserved populations like “men” / “boys.”
10. Rethink Traditional Library Spaces to Offer Innovative Services
- Offer services beyond the Library walls, such as outreach to targeted community groups, school visits, and “pop-up” libraries at local venues.
- Stimulate the imagination by using existing Library space in novel and innovative ways, such as flash mobs, exhibits, and live music in unconventional spaces.
- Supplement programs with interactive, online components such as virtual scavenger hunts, online reading journals and patron book reviews.
11. Develop Collaborative Community Partnerships
- Actively seek partnerships with key organizations and institutions in order to promote literacy, education, and library usage, and to explore opportunities for collaboration.
- Promote downtown and cultural districts; explore museum partnerships.
- As a strategy to attract patrons, work with partners that can guarantee an audience.
12. Be Strategic and Cost-Effective with Library Programming Resources
- Identify essential services and drop or deemphasize marginal ones, in close consultation with the community.
- Focus on what the Library can uniquely provide to avoid programming duplication and competitiveness in the service area.
- Enhance funding for cultural programs and to create greater opportunities for civic engagement.
13. Develop Top-Quality Staff to Deliver 21st Century Library Services
- Strengthen initiatives to recruit, develop, and retain top-quality staff who excel in premium customer service, Library programming, and technology & social media.
- It’s the job of each public services librarian to help deliver Library programs.
- Develop consistent standards and evaluate all staff on customer service skills; update job competencies and descriptions.
- Examine current allocation of time and determine what additional staffing would relieve professional / experienced staff of routine functions so they could concentrate on more goal-associated programming.
14. Utilize Professional Graphics and Web Design to Support Programming and Other Library Services
- Utilize a dedicated graphics team to enhance marketing and promotion of Library programs and services.
- Coordinate with the PR / Graphics Department to promote major observances such as National Library Week, Poetry Month, and Banned Book Weeks.
- Adult Services staff markets Library materials and programs by: updating website blogs weekly; creating new book, music, and movie lists for the website monthly; and creating and maintaining displays of Library materials annually.
15. Develop Programming Standards
- Develop a programming philosophy and focus on goal-oriented programming with specific results.
- Develop programming standards to ensure reliability of information, timeliness, popular interest, integrity of presenters, and determine availability elsewhere in the community.
- Develop programming procedures and manuals in order to plan, advertise, and conduct programs in a consistent manner.
- Capital Area District Library (Lansing, MI)
- Champaign Public Library (Champaign, IL)
- Daniel Boone Regional Library (Columbia, MO)
- Denton Public Library (Denton, TX)
- Iowa City Public Library (Iowa City, IA)
- Johnson County Public Library (Johnson County, KS)
- Kansas City Public Library (Kansas City, MO)
- L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library (Eau Claire, WI)
- Lincoln City Libraries (Lincoln, NE)
- Monroe County Public Library (Bloomington, IN)
- Stark County District Library (Canton, OH)
- Stillwater Public Library (Stillwater, OK)
- Southfield Public Library (Southfield, MI)
- Topeka Shawnee County Public Library (Topeka, KS)
- Waukegan Public Library (Waukegan, IL)
- Westland Public Library (Westland, MI)