Programifesto

I kind of hate that whole “program in a box” thing.

It’s the death of creativity, right?  It’s an industrialized, one-size-fits-all librarianship. It’s that standardized bureaucracy that is killing our ability to be supple and responsive.  It’s programming fast food.  Here is your Big Mac storytime ma’am, made just like every other storytime in the system.

Here’s another niggling peeve: the library is not a theater, even though some librarians seem to think that their programming should consist of paying performers to come give a show.

Programming is the opportunity for the librarian to creatively engage patrons.  Programming allows us to create a stronger bond between our community and the library, both by providing an interactive library experience for patrons and by bringing community members in to share their passions.  We program for our communities, in response to our communities, and in partnership with our communities.

Originality is required.

Library programming helps us to create new stakeholders.  Inviting the community in to work with us creates a sense of ownership in the library.  Once someone, or some group, has attended or presented a library program (as long as it has been a positive experience) they will more actively and vocally support libraries. Programs can identify new user groups, as innovative programs may attract people who do not otherwise use library resources.

Care, attention, and weight should be given to program presenters and attendees.

Library programming gives us the opportunity to share the kind of information that is not well-recorded.  Take for example, gardening. While broader guidelines for when to plant and how to cultivate have been published, gardeners adapt to local soil conditions and microclimates.  They learn through experience what works.  This information is best shared person-to-person.

Programs allow libraries to share more kinds of information.

box

 

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Sorting Patrons

The public library tries to be all things to all people (every reader his book; every book it’s reader)

Bobbi Newman wrote this interesting piece in which she talks about how certain people may support libraries, but they will never use them, no matter how many tempting programs or resources we dangle.

I agree with her, based on my personal experience. I know lots of people who *loooooove libraries* but have’t set foot in one since childhood. Do we really need to expend precious resources to try to get them in the door?

Newman suggests that we focus more on community support for the library, rather percentage of community with library cards. She says that we would be better off accepting that “some people don’t use the library for one reason or another.” 

Here’s the conundrum though, how do we sort the people who don’t use libraries because they just don’t want to, from the people who don’t use libraries because they’ve been turned off somehow (or because they don’t know we have what they want)?

It *is* impossible to be all things to all people. Trying is an exercise in futility and failure.

But then, at what point do we find someone unserveable?  What criteria do we use?

Accepting that we can’t serve everyone threatens the fundamentally democratic nature of libraries. When people become unserveable, we exclude them from what should be the most inclusive of communities.  Libraries are for everyone, even if everyone is not for libraries.

But this is an ideal, and given our limited resources, we need to exercise pragmatism.  Right?

sorting mail