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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.

Skincare of the Ancient World

Photograph of a ancient Grecian bust with a towel and face mask on. Text reads: Skincare of the Ancient World

Inspired by a make your own ancient perfume station at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Skincare of the Ancient World was a program in which I taught patrons how to create their own skincare using the oils and spices that Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans would have used.

This hands-on program combines self-care, sustainability and history to teach patrons how they can use everyday, natural ingredients to create inexpensive, yet effective, skincare products found in ancient times.

Bridgerton High Tea

Text reads: Bridgerton High Tea. Photographs show marketing fliers created for the event.

Bridgerton High Tea is a program that combines a discussion of the "Bridgerton" novels and Netflix series with a classy afternoon tea and flower-arranging demonstration. 

Some participants dressed to the nines in gowns, gloves and tiaras. Regardless of attire, participants were treated to a spread of scones and teapots filled to the brim with hot tea.

Farm-2-Library

Photo of strawberries. Text reads: Fresh Books Fresh Food

The Southern Adirondack Library System works with two regional food distribution networks – the Comfort Food Community and Capitol Roots’ Squash Hunger Program – to reduce food waste by rescuing food. The food gleaned from local farms is shared through libraries located in rural food deserts to alleviate the challenges of food insecurity and food access.

Film Discussion Kits

Photograph of a Film Discussion Kit for "The Biggest Little Farm." Photograph shows the DVD, Film Discussion Guide binder, and container.

The Chatham Area Public Library's Film Discussion Kits each focus on a topic of social justice: race, voting rights, gender and sexuality, and environmental justice.

The collection consists of five kits, each containing a DVD and discussion guide with questions, watch-alikes, ways to stream content with your library card, and paper for notes.

Supplies are contained in a plastic ArtBin with a label showcasing the enclosed film. Depending on interest and impact, the collection could adjust and grow in the future.

Event Planning ≠ Program Planning: Teaching Event-Planning Skills

Illustration of a group of people stand near big calendar, watches, document.

When you set out to plan a new program for your library, you likely think about content first. What information will you cover? What will the program be named? What are your goals, and how will you achieve them based on your budget and resources? This is the process we have come to know as “program planning.”

Books & Looks

Illustration of person drinking out a mug with icons of makeup and books surrounding. Text reads: Books & Looks

Through this online video program, librarians fuse together the power of makeup, art and a love for books. The program requires a makeup artist (this can be a librarian with makeup skills) and a model. The two casually chat about a selected book while getting glam.

It's like a makeup tutorial and book podcast in one!

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