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To Charge or Not to Charge? A Dilemma for Programming Librarians

A person counting dollar bills

It's a sticky subject in the library world: is it appropriate for public libraries to charge a fee for patrons to participate in programs?

I'm not trying to take sides, but rather illuminate some of the reasons why libraries might charge fees and to start what I hope will be a productive dialogue about this emerging dilemma.

When Programming Goes Digital: The Changing Skillset of Programming Librarians

Illustration of person shelving large books inside of a tablet.

If you’re like most programming librarians, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent a lot more time online in the past year. As COVID sent library workers scrambling to do their jobs in a little- or no-contact environment, many of us have faced a steep learning curve.

So, how is that going for you? Could you have benefited from some training ahead of time?

Elf on the Bookshelf

You've heard of Elf on the Shelf. I've found that the elf is the best low-cost passive program to engage patrons through pandemic times and advocate for our library. My library elf, Tinsel, promotes programming, library services and reading.

The inspiration came from how teachers utilize their elf for classroom management around the hyperactive holiday season. Libraries can use an elf to promote library events and excite patrons with the silly hijinks that the elves get into.

6 Easy Demos, Contests & Tutorials to Fill Your Social Media Gaps

Screenshot taken from virtual Boggle game with Altoona Public Library

Toot, toot! Do you hear that? That’s the sound of me tooting my own horn. Not something I love to do, but I’m doing it anyway because … I wrote a book! It was not easy, and toward the end I never wanted to look at the manuscript again. But now that it’s here, I’m pretty excited about it and wanted to share it with you.

Virtual Minecraft Club

Screenshots taken from Virtual Minecraft Club

Virtual Minecraft Club is an online adaptation of our original Minecraft Club program, a program for ages 6 and up to collaborate, compete and build with other local fans on all supported Minecraft platforms.

Virtual Minecraft Club, like its in-person predecessor, happens for one hour once per week.

BookFix

Stack of books on windowsill.

BookFix is a book subscription service we are providing to our community during St. Ignatius College Prep's campus closure. We hope to continue a modified version once our library doors open.

Students, faculty, administration and staff take our style quiz on the BookFix site and get books sent directly to their home mailbox.

Fantasy RPG Escape Room

Photo of masked group in the escape room.

Duchesne County Library Roosevelt Branch Library's fantasy role-playing game is a new twist on the traditional escape room. Participants assume a role with specific strengths and weaknesses that dictate who can complete which task.

The guild must complete a series of puzzles and find an artifact before time runs out, making sure not to lose all their lives along the way.

Virtual Comic Mini-Con

Photo of child dressed as a superhero.

The Virtual Comic Mini-Con was a family-friendly celebration of comic books, movies, graphic novels, anime, comic art and more. Our virtual event featured a variety of activities for all ages.

The event was a collaboration between Bridgeville Public Library and South Fayette Township Library. Videos are accessible through the libraries’ YouTube channels. 

Virtual Story Times at Denton Public Library

Man playing guitar in front of puppet theater

We began having weekly virtual story times using the Facebook Live platform on March 20, shortly after closing for the COVID-19 virus. We wanted to give people a chance to be together synchronously, even if it was virtual.

We included books, interactive songs, fingerplays, dances, puppets and craft ideas. We also used a guitar and a ukulele and encouraged interaction by having participants pick which instruments we would use for certain songs.

Small-Town Library, Big-Time Author: How a Town of 240 Lucked into a Visit from Elizabeth Berg

Author Elizabeth Berg hugs a girl at her Meservey Public Library visit

When I started as library director in March 2015, I made a list of programs, fundraisers and events that I wanted to plan at some point. The list was pages long and included things like an outdoor potluck, a dinosaur park and an '80s-themed prom. About halfway down the list I wrote “Elizabeth Berg book signing – LOL.”

That's "LOL" as in "That's hilarious. Why would a bestselling author visit our little library?!” Little did I know that only a few years later, I would be welcoming Elizabeth Berg herself into our tiny town.

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