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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.

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.

100 Days/100 Books

Wall of 100 books read by students on the 100th day of school.

Every year in late January or early February, children all over the country celebrate the 100th day of school with all sorts of clever projects — bringing 100 items to school, wearing “100th-day” glasses, listing 100 things they love to do. Why not add a reading activity to this list? Ask a group of younger students to read 100 books on the 100th day of school in one hour!

Size Doesn't Matter: Transforming Big Ideas into Small Library Environments

If you’ve ever heard about a fantastic library idea from a super-big library and thought, “There’s no way I can make that idea work in my understaffed, underfunded small library,” think again! This presentation celebrates all things small and shares big ideas that work in small libraries.State Library of Iowa logo

Participants of this session will:

See What I'm Saying

Three children sitting down and looking at books

See What I’m Saying was a children’s program that promoted reading, writing and public speaking skills in students in kindergarten through grade 5.

The program took place on Saturday mornings over a nine-week period at our county’s Civic Center (since the library doesn’t allow food). At each session, kids were invited select a book, read the book, write a brief report about it, and share their report out loud to a group.

Partnerships: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

A man and a woman shake hands over a table

Our last blog post — in which we assessed our community's needs and set out to create a health and wellness program series for older adults — ended with a good idea, lots of enthusiasm ... and approximately zero dollars. How were we going to fund this fantastic smorgasbord of health, wealth and self-care program opportunities for the 55-and-older crowd on the Peninsula?

Chair Yoga / Exercise Ball Class

Women sitting in chairs in a row with their arms raised, exercising.

This class, the first of its kind at our library, began in early 2016 at the suggestion of a patron. We meet twice a week in our library's community room from 8:15 to 9 a.m.

Our instructor is a patron who volunteers to conduct the classes. We follow a set regime of exercises that are good for joints and building strength. Both men and women typically attend this class.

Big Programs, Little Budget: Forging Community Partnerships in a Small Town

Meservey, Iowa, is tiny — fewer than 250 residents —  and the library’s budget is tight. Despite this, the Meservey Public Library has managed to triple its program attendance in the past few years and create many memorable, budget-friendly events. 

Drawing on her experience as director of the Meservey Public Library, Chelsea Price will share ideas for hosting "big" programs on a small budget and discuss how partnerships can be an invaluable resource for programming. 

Participants of this session will:

LibraryGame

One finished game made by a student.

The Librarygame project teaches fifth graders the concepts of storytelling, technology and project management through the creation of video games. The program is a collaboration between Sacramento Public Library and local Title I schools, many of which lack the funds to hold this type of program without a partner.

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