October 2018 NMRT Online Discussion: Creative Programming at the Library

The discussion this October centered around creative programming in libraries. Recent media coverage of Drag Queen Story Hour has generated both negative and positive reactions from the public, and has brought attention to libraries’ efforts to offer inventive programs. Among the experiences and concerns raised by NMRT discussion members were programming idea sources, collaborating outside the library, and adapting to your community’s needs.

Sourcing your Programming Ideas

Discussion members had a variety of sources for their program ideas, though the majority centered around online sources. Among the online resources mentioned were:


Programming Librarian

ACRL Library Marketing and Outreach Facebook Group

ALA ThinkTank Facebook Group

Libraries on Instagram

Members also suggested that networking with other library staff could also prove fruitful. At a national level, this includes taking advantage of ALA resources such as the roundtables and networking at Annual and Midwinter. Robust networks of fellow librarians can act as sources of ideas and sounding boards for new ideas. At the state level, both state libraries and state library associations can also provide resources and contacts for programming ideas, conferences, and support. Some resources could be closer than you know, such as among the paraprofessionals or student workers of your library. Your network of library contacts, both online and in person, is an invaluable source of ideas.

Collaborating Outside the Library

Another valuable source of programming ideas and support comes from partnerships with organizations and groups unaffiliated with the library who share similar goals. Members discussed how in academic settings, they found Residence Life to be critical partners in programming. Other departments can also provide ideas or even put on programming together with the library. Faculty members were also mentioned as sources of both programming ideas and potential speakers at events. Integrating faculty and other departments both helps create collaborative, inventive programming and strengthens interdepartmental relationships. Similarly, public libraries should consider partnering with local businesses and organizations to build ties in the community and cross-promote services.

Adapting to Your Community’s Needs

One of the most important aspect of programming is considering the needs of your community. Academic librarians in the discussion stated that they often try to create programs based on the needs and desires of their students. Programming that centers on active, fun, and experimental events can be better received than programming that centers on the library’s traditional services. Programming that is unexpected and creative can challenge the patron’s stereotypical view of the library and invite them to take a new look at the resources it offers.

Understanding your community is the first step in finding programming that will fit the community’s needs. Academic librarians noted that they try to reach students in locations outside the library, as not all students go to the physical library for their educational resources. Paying close attention to the culture and topics of conversation among your customers may also provide guidance in what programming is desired. Public librarians may find that instead of books, their patrons are searching for a neutral space to discuss community concerns.

Continuing the Discussion

As libraries continue to play many roles in their communities, the demand for creative programming will only increase. Taking advantage of both online and in-person networking resources can help librarians plan and present successful programming, as well as provide support for failures. Partnering with local businesses or other organizations can result in successful collaborative programming and strengthened relationships. Paying close attention to the needs of the community and adapting to those needs is essential to creating successful programming. Librarians who are interested in creative programming should not hesitate to reach out to fellow librarians to discuss ideas, collaborations, failures and successes.

Have you presented creative programming at your library? What valuable lessons did you learn from the process? Do you have a resource not listed above that you utilize for programming ideas?

Submitted by: Katie Wheeler

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