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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.

Summer Sidewalk Poetry Competition

Photograph of a poem painted on the sidewalk. Pottsboro Library Poet - 2023.

The Summer Sidewalk Poetry Competition celebrates the poets of Pottsboro, Texas. The competition recognizes five poets from our community and engages the senses and emotions of our residents with delight and inspiration.

Approximately five poems from local poets were curated, made into stencils and painted on sidewalks and pedestrian pathways throughout Pottsboro.

1000 Paper Cranes

Photograph of strands of colorful paper cranes.

Our library is located a few miles from a shooting that took place in Highland Park, Illinois last summer. As the one-year mark of the shooting approached, our library wanted to provide an opportunity for our community to demonstrate their compassion for our neighbors in Highland Park.

We asked patrons to stop by the library lobby to pick up paper and instructions to create an origami paper crane, a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. Our goal was to create 1,000 paper cranes.

Titanic Dinner at the Library

Scanned image of a real ticket for the Titanic

The Titanic Dinner invites guests to select real Titanic passenger tickets from a blind draw. Guests sit with their selected class (1st, 2nd or 3rd), and have dinner while watching a history lesson from a historical impersonator.

At the end of the dinner, patrons discover the fates of their selected passengers and whether or not they were survivors of the sinking.

Operation Gardeners' Advisory

Photograph shows seed bundles and microgreens display in the library.

Tulsa City-County Library has had a seed library at some locations since 2014 but the pandemic hit just as Tulsa’s spring planting season began. We were completely closed until mid-May 2020. Meanwhile, everybody and their brother had taken up gardening. How could we get as many seeds as possible in Tulsa gardens while offering only curbside service?


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