The Best Library Programs
February 10, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Friends, librarians, patrons, lend me your eyes. What are your favorite library programs in your area? Links and pictures are appreciated.

If you can, also talk about the library system where the program was - is it wealthy? poor? This is for a friend who is now managing a branch of a library system.

That library itself is fairly small and not in a wealthy area, but any program details or ideas are welcome because even if I can't think of a way to adapt it, it still may give me derivative ideas.

If you have too many favorites to whittle down, share craft programs or other programs that let you take something home in your hands. Links and picture gallieries if you have them.
posted by cashman to Education (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My library has something called an Instrument Petting Zoo where musicians come in and demonstrate a bunch of different musical instruments. Sometimes they do string, sometimes percussion. They let the kids actually touch and try all the instruments, but teach them to be respectful. Its really pretty great.

I also like the program where young readers go into the library to read to the library dogs. They have therapy dogs who sit quietly while kids who might struggle with reading have a chance to read to a non judgmental pup for a bit. Kids + dogs + book = super cuteness.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:50 AM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

I recently heard about some marketing the Kitchener, Ontario Libraries are doing.

They have partnered with schools to promote online resources like music and online databases by bringing presentations into the schools. They use Captivate software to created "live" presentations to show kids how to use and access resources. They increased the use of their online encyclopedia 7fold in their first year of the program.

Secondly they have used a local writers festival to promote audio books and music downloads. They had a booth with speakers and a lpatop and allowed people to download an audio book onto an mp3 player if they had one handy. They also allowed people to sign up for a library card on the spot no ID required. This allowed people to skip the many steps and barriers that would normally be required to go through in order to download material from the library. The library users can get right to the fun part!

I can give you the contact name by memail if you are interested.
posted by Gor-ella at 11:15 AM on February 10, 2011

My library has something called an Instrument Petting Zoo

One of the things we've done at local library conferences is something like this: A Gadget Petting Zoo. It would be easily adapted for a tech program somewhere that has a lot of people who don't necessarily have gadgets but are gadget-curious. It's tough to remember that if you don't have an iPad or have friends with iPads, all you know about them is the ads. The ads tell one very slanted story. I think a useful thing about these events is that people can touch and see the things and draw some of their own conclusions. They can also ask questions and see the library staff as people who understand tech.

If her library has library fines, I've really liked the idea of fine amnesty or food4fines. The idea is that people have fines, they can either bring their overdue books back on one day, or do something else smallish, or bring in food for the food bank and wipe the fines away. It makes paying off the fines in some way seem more community-orieented and less punitive. In reality a lot of people accrue fines and then never come back to the library.

I've had luck doing library card sign-up drives during card sign up week outside of Wal-Mart or other places where the community might not necessarily overlap with the library-going community. People like to feel solicited for this sort of thing ["Hey we have DVDs for free!"] and it's a good way to boost card enrollment.

Using the library's public space for community projects is a good way to mesh community interests. We had a guy in my local area come to the community to tell people about the Christmas Bird Count [slides and handouts and everything] and I think he got a bigger turn-out than he would if it was just at the school or something.

GAME NIGHT - either console-type games or even board games if you're someplace that has winter. One of the local libraries here does Winter Evenings which are specifically to have high interest programming in the community so people get outside and don't just sit at home with the TV/Internet. Here is their programming list.

Usually the trick is having someone else suggest the program and then have the library act as facilitator not have the library try to drum up interest for their own ideas. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:18 AM on February 10, 2011

Our library has some amazing family engineering contests: egg-drop (build a device to protect an egg dropped from the library roof), newspaper chair (make a chair out of nothing but newspaper, chair that holds the heaviest load wins), mail a pringle (package a pringle in such a way that arrives in the library mail unscathed) and a cardboard canoe race in which participants have one hour to construct a canoe out of a roll of packing tape and a sheet of heavy cardboard, and then everyone carries their canoe to a nearby lake to race. Their blog (not always up to date) has pictures and details from these events.

The community is neither wealthy nor poor by NJ standards, but is chock full of engineers, science geeks and Tiger Mothers; this may factor into the immense popularity of these events.
posted by apparently at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2011

My library is AWESOME but that is because our taxes come from Disney, NBC and Warner Bros. Mostly, the greatest parts are the childrens' programs, and the children's area. It has an area with a trompe l'oeil forest and another area with a large resin tree.

I take my niece there just to hang out because it's so beautiful. She loves reading under the tree. I know this isn't possible for every library, but it's data and with a couple of crafty/handy and dedicated neighbors, it isn't such a far cry to have something really stunning.

There's also all kinds of events. Storytime is awesome but the "Made in Burbank" Film Series, pajama story time and contests are all awesome. I love our library. Did I say that already?
posted by Sophie1 at 12:07 PM on February 10, 2011

This may stretch your intended definition of library program.

My library has this amazing program in which they send large-font books via the mail to homebound seniors and books-on-tape and Braille books to those who are blind – free of charge.

My grandmother is 95 years old, reads 3-4 library books per week, and has not set foot in the library for at least a decade. She receives large-font books in the mail and returns them using the same envelop/container, sort of like Netflix. The library keeps track of the books she has read, and once they receive the ones that she returned, they send out new ones from authors that she likes or within the same genre as those she typically reads.

This service has improved her quality of life immeasurably.
posted by tr0ubley at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not a program, but having a magazine-exchange shelf is great, and something I miss in my current library. Just a place where people can bring in magazines they're finished with and get others, no limits or formalities or anything.
posted by martianna at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2011

There is the Living Library of human "books" to check out.

"A Buddhist, a teenager, a nudist and a raw foodist are just a few of the people who will be available to check out for a 30 minute conversation at the Santa Monica Public Library’s first Living Library. " from SMPL site.

Santa Monica PL introduced in the States, as modeled in Denmark.
Info here.
posted by calgirl at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2011

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