There is Joy for All: Tips for Joyous Library Programming

Joyous library programming can be a game-changer for many patrons. In a world with so much going on — oppositions, debates, challenges and uncertainties — the library can be a reprieve for folks, especially those who take advantage of the library’s programming. We all need a little (or a lot) more joy in our lives.

How do you incorporate joy into your programs or program planning?

Programming that provides a bit of fun, a chance to learn something new and meet new people helps patrons feel good. People may not feel joyful in the workplace, the world, or even in their homes, but library programs can supplement a sense of joy and lightheartedness in everyday life.

Here are three tips for hosting more joyful programming at your library.

Be inviting

Library programs can bring about spontaneous and unexpected joy for patrons but, as we know, sometimes people need a little nudge. I hosted an author talk and a woman picking up a book asked what was happening in the meeting room. I gave her an overview of the program, told her about the author and invited her to join us. She looked surprised and asked if the program was open for anyone to attend. I assured her that it was.

When the author's talk concluded, the woman looked delighted and explained that she had never attended such a program. I was so pleased to see her and her sister at another author's talk program at the library later on.

It's safe to say that the enrichment and fulfillment that patrons feel after participating in joyous programming can have positive ripple effects on everyone around them. 

Be inquisitive

You were successful in attracting people to attend your program, and now you have a number of connections. With enough curiosity and a bit of probing, you have the chance to learn about what types of programs patrons would be interested in. After all, we create programming with our communities’ needs and wants in mind. What better time to discover this information than at a program?

Programs present the perfect opportunity to get to know people, learn their names, find out what they would like to see program-wise, tell them about future programs, and invite them to return. We are intentional about ensuring that those who spend time at our libraries, specifically at our programs, enjoy themselves. We want them to not only feel joyous at our programs but to leave feeling as though their time was well spent. We want people to want to come back and feel joyous again and again! 

When we librarians are successful in accomplishing this outcome, we get the pleasure of knowing that we created an opportunity to positively impact someone’s day, which brings us to the third tip.

Be interested

Have fun! Joy is contagious, so if you exhibit joy in being at your library program, attendees will see and feel it. They will be able to observe that you want to be there as well, which will most likely make them feel uplifted and glad to be there. 

Nowhere is it written that you should not enjoy yourself. You have spent the time to ensure attendees have an amazing experience, so why not take pleasure in what you created and enjoy the experience alongside them? 

Joy for all

I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people who come to programs and learning about their interests. I especially enjoy telling them they are all among like-minded people and encouraging them to get to know one another. 

I love acquiring new knowledge that the programs I create provide. Even if the program is on a serious topic, it can be a joyful experience because I have intentionally created a welcoming, safe environment for people. This intentionality is all a part of the program-planning process which can be a joyous experience in and of itself. 

At times, I will ask staff to weigh in and share their opinions on anything from the best venue/library space to the playlist we use to create a joyous ambiance before the start of a program. Sometimes, we provide curated giveaways and refreshments based on the program. For instance, I did an author talk about a book based in New Orleans, so we did a free raffle and gifted the winner with a bag filled with beignet mix and chicory coffee. Everyone also received Mardi Gras beads!

Intentionality and small touches like these add to big fun and contribute to the joy we all want our guests to feel and leave with.

This article was written by a member of ALA's Public and Cultural Programs Advisory Committee.