On the morning of June 25, attendees of the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla., gathered to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The vigil not only provided an opportunity to mourn, but it highlighted our profession’s commitment to creating safe and welcoming spaces for all patrons. ALA Annual focused on inclusion of patrons from all sections of our communities, whether or not they fit into our majority demographic. From collection development practices to program development, attendees were encouraged to listen to and learn from their patrons.
If I had to choose one key piece of advice that echoed throughout every program, it is the importance of building your library according to your entire community.
Admittedly, I’m still parsing through my notes from the conference. Some of the most inspiring program ideas and discussions came from YALSA’s President’s Program
. Presenters discussed their own successful programs for teens who are overlooked in general programming, ranging from California libraries' programs for teen parents to Washington Talking Book and Braille Library’s
gaming club for teens who are visually impaired. All of these programs had one commonality: activities were suggested and led by participants. For example, Ady Huertas from San Diego Public Library
discussed her library's LGBTQ+ Spectrum Club, an idea brought to her by teens at her library. Teens shared the activities they wished to learn — everything from applying makeup to tying a tie — and the library supplied the room to make it so.
Another program answered the question: How can we serve our community members during and after incarceration? Once again, presenters showed how ideas came from cooperation with the community. Leo Hayden of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana discussed a program he created that allowed technology mentors to help incarcerated citizens learn computer skills. One excellent program from the Hennepin County Library
called Read to Me allows incarcerated parents to read a children’s book and record it on a disc for their child. These programs serve patrons at a point of need, even while they were outside of the physical boundaries of their neighborhoods.
If I had to choose one key piece of advice that echoed throughout every program, it is the importance of building your library according to your entire community. While we think we know what our community wants, we should never assume we’re doing the right thing. No event should be planned without input from your target audience; creating space for dialogue and listening without judgment is the key to creating lasting community relationships.
Did you make it to ALA Annual? What were some of your favorite program ideas? Tell us in the comments!