Episode 214: Programming

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Programming in libraries is the tool we use to connect our services with our community members. All libraries and archives do some level of programming, and for most of us doing more is better. But finding time to develop programs our community members want and need, advertising it to everyone, getting needed materials, doing the programing, and doing evaluation of the results. It’s a lot to handle! To help us with this, we have Guest Host Angie Yanke, from Zimmerman Middle-High School.


We have talked about building connections across your community, and programming can be a tool you use to reach out to connect people with your materials and resources. This is something very individual to each library or archive or history center – everyone will have a different population needing to be reached.

Some jobs are all programming and outreach, all the time. Most public services library people will be doing some level of programming, in addition to their other work. So, how do you know what to do? If you are new to your job, or new to doing programming, or just want to spice up your programming offerings in your library, where do you start? We have a few tips!


  • As we say so often in these podcasts: you need to know your community. Not just the people who come in to your library, but everyone who is part of the group of people who could be using your resources. Look up information on the census website, or city-data.com; get some demographics from your provost, walk the halls to see how many first graders are starting this year.
  • Next, you need to figure out what they need and what they want. This can be pretty straightforward: high school students need information literacy skills to make them college-ready. You can ask teachers what skills they need students to master to get through their classes – and that may be developing citation skills to avoid plagiarism, or finding the best chemistry resources, or helping them to develop their technology skills in the Maker Space.
  • Make it accessible! This has two meanings.
    • First: make your program reach your desired audience on their level. Don’t dumb things down because you think they won’t understand, but also presenting nuclear physics to a group of three year-olds would have to be carefully designed to be entertaining.
    • Second: Remember that your community members have all kinds of different physical and emotional backgrounds and issues that may be very different from yours. If you do not see blind patrons, people in wheelchairs, or people with developmental difficulties in your library – you are missing out on serving them. These people exist in your community, so spend some time seeking them out to find out how to make your library more accessible.
  • Programming can meet all kinds of needs.
    • It can be educational: it serves a specific need for the people who attend.
    • It can be fun: we are all here enjoying ourselves. This is a perfectly valid reason to have a program! Not everything needs to be a learning experience; just having fun is a great reason for a program.
    • It can meet some community or society need: this is a bigger picture need, but can involve conversation circles to help people feel more comfortable in English, or to help people learn about child custody situations, or to help connect people with their elected politicians.
    • And of course, programs can have a mixed focus: maybe you have a program to introduce freshmen to the library, and it’s a campus-wide game that is both fun and skill-building.
  • Evaluate, so you know what went great, what didn’t connect, and how to build this even better next time! We have talked about Evaluation a few times, and spent all of Episode 208 focused on it. So by now you know that evaluation does not mean anything scary; it just means that you ask some questions, take some measurements, and figure out how to make every program even better the next time you do it!


Of course, all of this is theory. It sounds great, and can give you some ideas for your own work. But talking with people who are actually doing neat library programming can give you a whole different perspective. Thanks Angie, for coming to talk with us today!


Books We Are Reading



We know that programming can be a challenge. But remember: CMLE is here to help! We will have a variety of resources available for you on our website, so you can browse around for ideas or materials that would be helpful.  And with such great members as Angie around, there is always a helping hand

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Thanks to Angie for her time and information.

Tune in next week for our final podcast of Season Two: Library Impact and Return on Investment


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