What is programming? For children, many people think of the children’s summer reading events and story times. And it seems that most libraries do offer these types programs. Some now offer movie screenings and craft days for the children that are tied to specific books. My own library has been offering a series of events for the children based on the American Girl book series. But what do we offer our adults? Most libraries, including my own, offer a book discussion group. With the advent of technology some libraries now offer computer training and movie showings for adults. What else is there and why is it important?
Lear (2002) discusses the history of programming in his book’s introduction and found that libraries in the United States have been doing programming of some sort since the late 1800’s. This included lectures, exhibits, art classes, games, concerts, and festivals (pp. xiii-xiv). This explains what libraries provide as programming but not necessarily what programming is? Lear also explored various definitions of library programming and determined that it was “a process by which the informational, educational, and recreational needs of patrons are met by bringing patrons into contact with the human resources best able to meet those needs” (p. xv). Robertson (2005) takes this a step farther by defining cultural programming as “programs and series of programs presented by libraries that seek to entertain, enlighten, educate, and involve adult and family audiences, primarily in the disciplines of the arts, humanities, sciences, and public policy or community issues. This type of programming is designed to elicit dialogue, discussion, and consideration of ideas and issues, as well as to further independent study” (p.3). These definitions show that programming is more involved than the monthly book discussion and should be explored in greater detail.
Lear (2002, pp. xvi –xvii) and Robertson (2005, p. 5) also discuss reasons why it is important for libraries to have programs.
· Gain visibility for the library
· Increase circulation
· Become a community center
· Reach people who might not come to the library otherwise
· Public goodwill
· Service to people who can’t afford to attend similar programs or workshops at other venues.
After reading through the available literature on adult programming I have learned that it is much more involved than leading a book discussion or even arranging a speaking event. Planning involves developing goals and objectives, determining a target audience and how best to reach them, choosing a theme, format and frequency, funding, finding the talent, marketing, and finally evaluation of the program (Lear, 2002; Robertson, 2005).
Long Overdue, a report prepared the Public Agenda based on a national telephone survey, discusses the public’s priorities. As they pertain to programming the respondents say that high priority should be placed as follows (2006, p. 24):
68% adult literacy programs
62% programs for senior citizens
51% providing job-searching assistance
43% provide meeting rooms for the use of community groups and for public activities
41% cultural programs or exhibits
30% book discussion groups
26% programs and services for business owners
Programming for adults is important and developing a calendar of events geared for your adult programs would benefit your library. Much of the literature on this subject is based on larger libraries with more staff and bigger budgets but the issue should be addressed in the small library as well.
Lear, B. W. (2002). Adult programs in the library. Chicago: American Library Association.
Public Agenda (2006). Long overdue: A Fresh look at public and leadership attitudes about libraries in the 21st century. New York: Public Agenda Foundation.
Robertson, D.A. (2005). Cultural programming for libraries: Linking libraries, communities & culture. Chicago: American Library Association.