Maximizing the Impact of Programming

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, this week we’re featuring blog posts on ALA Annual Conference programs. This entry focuses “Maximizing the Impact of Programming,” where presenters offered real-life examples on how to get the most return on investment for your programming dollars.

Stories take many forms, far beyond just text or pictures. This means libraries are more than merely a book lender or an internet provider. Libraries are at the forefront when it comes to providing enriching educational and cultural programs that aim to inform, enhance, and instruct their surrounding communities. ALA’s Public Programs Office session titled “Maximizing the Impact of Programming” showed how two different libraries tuned into the needs of their individual communities to develop and maintain successful cultural programs.

In Portland’s expansive, nineteen-branch Multnomah County Library system, there are wide variety of programs and many attendees (numbering more than 45,000 last year), but some patrons still found it difficult to make it to the library for events. In order to provide an added convenience to the users, the system decided to begin podcasting some of their programs. Programs selected for inclusion in the podcast series have a unique or original content, meet a particular time constraint, and present information that is not readily available elsewhere. By developing a readily accessible database of podcast for select programs, the library was able to spur discussion outside of the physical boundaries of the library, as well as tap into a new audience via the internet.

On the opposite end of the size spectrum is Wilkerson Public Library in Telluride, Colorado. Located in a town of about 2,400 residents, Wilkerson takes inventory of the interests and concerns of the population, and uses that information to develop popular and well-received programs, series, and events. The library also cultivates healthy partnerships with local non-profit organizations that assist in the advancement and creation of many of the current programs. Program coordinator Scott Dozer likes to keep a hand on the pulse of the town, and noted that, “programming begins with people [and] the most exciting programming comes from the community. ”

Wilkerson Public Library also chooses to employ the skills, abilities, and talents of the community to create new programs. Using the talents of locals helps the library to craft programs that not only cater to the desires of the residents, but also involves them in the implementation of the program, making their participation integral to a program’s success. Putting the keys to programs’ success in the hands of the town’s residents initiates active investment by the town as a whole, thereby creating an atmosphere of desire for enthusiastic contribution, loyalty, and authentic support.

Though the two libraries are dissimilar in size, their ideas regarding programming and its importance are the same. Contemplating the needs of the community and building programs that meet those needs can assist in facilitating positive results for any library, regardless of size or location.