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Even though library programming is widespread, programmers still find themselves faced with having to persuade the library administration, board members, colleagues, and even patrons and the public of its value. As different agencies and library departments compete for limited funding, it’s important to be able to articulate why cultural programming is worth the investment.
As librarians, we tend to take for granted our love of reading. As we gather around our conference, lunch, and dinner tables our conversations often fall back on old favorites we recommend to a reluctant reader, new authors that are going to be the next big thing, and books that surprised our sensibilities or generated controversy. But what if we couldn’t have these conversations? For many adults and children living in our local communities, reading and discussing books is simply not part of their daily lives because of low literacy rates.
In January 2007, KPBS, San Diego’s local public broadcasting station, and the San Diego Public Library (SDPL) launched “One Book, One San Diego,” a community-wide reading initiative designed to educate and enlighten on topics and themes of concern to our community while promoting reading as a source of pleasure and enrichment. This campaign is similar to some found in other cities, but with the distinction of having a public television and radio station join forces with a public library.
When I heard that the District of Columbia Public Library was receiving a set of high-quality posters of American art for each site—thanks to the NEH/ALA Picturing America grant—I couldn’t have been more excited. Our staff of 50 children’s and teen librarians had just received training in Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). They had new-found knowledge that could bring these images to life in programs for any age group. Now they would have resources to use while their training and enthusiasm were fresh.