Monday, March 19, 2012

Programming Tales from the Field

Prepared as a supplement to session 9 of LIS 712 The Public Library.  Accompanied by a big thank you to this week's "guest lecturers"!

Chapter 1.  Shared by Tom Carson, Head of Reference Services.


Kenosha Public Library has a very robust adult programming schedule. All programs are generously supported by the Friends of the Public Library. We do not use any library money to pay for programming except for staff costs related to planning, marketing and implementation of the programs. We plan 6 months ahead of schedule and concentrate on fall/winter/spring programs. We try to schedule programs that do not require sign up, but sometimes we have to because of limits set by the presenter.

We have a wide range of programs that cover several different topics from organic gardening to scrapbooking. Where do we get our ideas? We do research and borrow ideas from other libraries. We pay attention to the program schedules of local museums. Browse local newspapers. We also talk to program attendees and ask them to fill out a comment card. We like to know how they find out about the program.

We still use our local paper as our main source of publicity but we also partner with the Kenosha Public Museum. They promote us, we promote them. We also use social media. Unfortunately, the City decided to develop a social media policy [item #4 here], and we had to deactivate our Facebook page until the policy was put in place. We lost many friends. We are trying to get them back.

Our most popular programs tend be those that cover current topics. The current series on couponing [through 2/24; can't guarantee link still works] has been widely successful. The limit was 50 but we had to turn away several people. We started a music jamming session and has been very successful. People bring their instruments and jam. One our more popular program to date is a simple one, we have local railroad model enthusiasts set up their models in the activities room and people just flow in all day. We see a lot of fathers and sons at this program. We now host it every February.

Our greatest success so far have been participating in the Big Read program. All programs were well received. We are now getting ready to kick off our second Big Read in March.

Technology classes are very popular as well. We can never offer enough MS Word or MS Excel classes. The goal for adult programming is to continue to develop the public library as community gathering place by offering a diverse and robust schedule of classes and programs.

Chapter 2:  Shared by Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Manager

The 1000 Books Club is based on an idea that we had seen other libraries do (including at my former job). The program encourage parents of 1-5 year olds to read a wide range of books to their child to help them get a jumpstart on learning and school . We chose a 1 year old start because we wanted the little ones old enough to appreciate the fun of receiving stickers and little incentives. And we designed it to encourage frequent trips to the library to encourage families to use us often.

Rubber Ducky Club.

We have long invited our one and two year olds to be part of our summer reading club but the fit was always...uncomfortable. Food coupons and geegaws didn't really fit the tiny tots' interests or needs. And most little prizes were definitely not recommended for under three year olds. But we wanted to encourage parents reading to their children and using the six pre-literacy skills. What to do, what to do?

And then, like all good things in children's librarianship, we discovered that someone had an answer that would work for us! We stumbled on the great idea of the Rubber Ducky Club when Karen Burke at the Naperville (IL) Library in Illinois shared their information on this club on ALSCConnect newsletter (another reason to be an ALA/ALSC member...great ideas are shared!). We were intrigued. A quick email exchange ensued and Karen generously shared their club materials. And here is what we developed:

Developing stealth (or passive) library programs for children.

Second Grade Library Stars.   In terms out outreach, we do everything possible to reach out to schools and be there for them and encourage them to be there for us. Our current partnering success is setting up field trip adventures for all 2nd graders. You can’t sit in the library and expect folks to come. With only 50% of kids NOT having cards, we know that this effort will make a difference and encourage return visits and familiarity with the library

Chapter 3:  Shared by Rachel Muchin Young, Public Services Coordinator

Manitowoc Public Library has been fortunate to have collaborated with a number of community organizations on several successful events. One of my favorites is the Great Decisions Discussion Series. This series, a project of the Foreign Policy Association  is designed to get Americans talking about international topics. The idea was brought to us seven years ago by the League of Women Voters of Manitowoc County.   We have since partnered with the League of Women Voters, Lakeshore Peacemakers, UW-Manitowoc and Silver Lake College for successful annual series.

We average about 100 people per discussion, and that number has held steady for 6 years. The program is free and open to the public. The Friends of Manitowoc Public Library pop for the refreshments. The Manitowoc Public Library Foundation pays the speakers’ honoraria and mileage, and the League of Women Voters finds the speakers and pays for their dinner and accommodations, if necessary.

What makes this so successful is the nature of the program, the quality of the speakers, and the fabulous scholars we bring in to introduce the topics.

Chapter 4:  Shared by Julie Metcalf, Director

Our biggest effort goes into the Summer Reading Program. I put in a plug for it all the time throughout the year. For example, last October 1st we sold scarecrows at a ‘Make your Own’ spot outside the library with pre-painted scarecrow heads attached to broom sticks and then let the families stuff them themselves with the shirts and jeans and straw all available right there. (I picked up the clothes at Dig n Save in Madison). The price for each kit was $10 each. We plugged it as a fun family activity amongst others that the Chamber of Commerce was promoting that Saturday.

During that event we told the people participating that the money we raised was for prizes for our SRP. We give away pretty cool come-along prizes each week and have quality projects for them to take home and do. Teachers don’t have time to do the hands on fun things in their class rooms anymore, so we try to hook the kids into nonfiction book activities as much as we can.  We don’t have a craft room or time to do them during the year, but we do try hard to supplement with that in the summer.

We are gearing up again to have lavish displays in each teacher’s room for their third quarter grading and parent/teacher event. I will have sign-up sheets all over the school as well as a display of what the come-along prizes will be.

Our newly developing web page will have information, as well. I also plug it in our local paper with articles each week about what’s happening in the library. Our posters were made by a professional artist for free as well as the faces on the scarecrows. I bought rolls and rolls of canvas last summer and she used some of that. They were the nicest scarecrows I’ve seen in a long long time. I think putting effort into anything the public touches is important.

The idea came about in a brainstorming session the Friends of the Library had. The Friend who is the artist is also a fanatic about planning things in detail so her lists were extremely helpful. Thinking the project through, making lists, checking up on people, starting early enough …advertising at least 2-3 weeks in advance, putting your work around town in businesses, deliberately talking about it all year round and training all your advocates to talk…this is standard operating procedure here. Read business marketing books, talk to both successful and failing (or failed) business people and recruit lots of people to help and keep them motivated with your wish list and/or programs for the library.

Our checkouts this year increased 30.8% with this strategy among others.

And then there was an appearance by World Guy.

Chapter 5:  Shared by Diana B. Anderson, Director

We have had an annual month-long judged display of art by members of Wisconsin Regional Artists in all genres held during the month of May for many years--before I became Director. Four years ago, I asked the WRA leaders whether there would be interest in having an Artist of the Month program, because I believe art and libraries are good companions. We've had no problems finding artists--the first year were members of the WRA, but after that people came to us. We advertised in the local paper, and put up posters telling about the program. Libraries in our NWLS Consortium asked if they could borrow our idea. That was cool!! We're still going strong.

Chapter 6:  Shared by Jessica MacPhail, Director

The idea for this came from a meeting that was arranged by (Jim Walczak) the director of the Civic Centre (which includes Memorial Hall and Festival Hall).  He wanted to get some performers that would help motivate children to read, and was looking at a show based on RosemaryWells' "Max and Ruby" characters.  He and I talked about how we could approach a possible major funder who makes floor wax, and we ended up inviting everyone we could think of who was involved with children's literature: the Literacy Council, Racine Unified School District, Cops N Kids literacy program, Girls Inc., Early Start, etc. to meet with SC Johnson.

At that first meeting, the idea came up of challenging students to read a million books. It seemed to SCJ a pretty far-out goal, but I was certain the children would hit it. We were asked to "dream big" about the challenge, and the budget is more than $250,000. SCJ has underwritten the kickoff (book giveaway), mascot ("Booker the Owl"), bookmobile wrap (featuring the mascot and a measurement of books read up to a million), "One Book/One School/One Community" (each student in K-5 received a book), authors (Barbara Joosse, Richard Allington, Rosemary Wells), website revamp (, as well as incentives.

March 2nd, Read Across America; we've invited guest readers to read to students.

March and April, the library's Battle of the Books program has expanded by 50% and is being held at a larger location. I wrote to the new Children's Literature Ambassador, Walter Dean Myers, to see if he would come - and he'll be here in May to help with the wrapup celebration. This has inspired the entire community to help children reach that goal.  Mayor John Dickert has read to more than 50 classrooms. It's been amazing to see how excited the students are! Each school is doing things a little differently; some have their own incentives, some have focused the whole school on silent reading (have you ever seen kindergarten students reading silently for up to 35 minutes at a time??!!!???), some have been reading books over the PA system and at lunch - very creative.

I'm blown away.
Chapter 7:  Shared (primarily via phone conversation) by Don Litzer, Assistant Director & Head of Adult Services at the T.B. Scott Library, Merrill

While Head of Adult Services at the Macmillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, Don Litzer served as coordinator of the Macmillan Coffeehouse, a literary and fine arts series initiated in 1997.  According to Don, Library Director Ron McCabe felt it was important that the library be a center for artistic, literary, and musical expression in the community, particularly if performers did not have any other local outlets to share their talents.

In 2001, the Macmillan Memorial Library received the Wisconsin Library Association/Highsmith Award for this endeavor.

At the T.B. Scott Free Library, Don has continued with the Coffeehouse philosophy he developed at Macmillan with Words Worth Hearing, the "brand name" given to the library's adult program series.

Don notes that print media (the Foto News) works as well as anything in getting the word out.

Hat tip to my LIS 712 "guest lecturers".
Thanks for sharing!

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