I'm on the board of a small rural library...
July 19, 2016 8:22 AM   Subscribe

and I'm looking for suggestions regarding innovative programs and ideas that would significantly benefit our patrons.

We have up to several (less than 10, more than 5) thousand dollars to implement said programs over the course of a year; we are already well stocked with kindles, i-pads, desktop stations, and free high-speed wifi. We already offer the traditional programs: summer reading club, story time for pre-K kids, adult reading groups, local author visits, etc.

What I'm looking in are really interesting, (cutting edge, even) programs that would have the potential to significantly benefit at least one sector of our patrons, be it the elderly or school-aged children, with either programming or services that they might not otherwise have access to.
What non-traditional programs has your library implemented that have had success in improving the lives of its patrons?
posted by Chrischris to Education (27 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Our library has a seed library and Latin Classes for teens. Read Harry Potter in Latin! (Taught by my friend, who is a Latin prof)

They also have a way you can sign out a pass to the museum, gallery, and other local arts attractions with your library card ... they have a limited number, so you sign it out and take your family to the exhibit/show for free. Great partnership with local arts community, great way to increase public access.

Finally they have started a series of language classes for the new waves of refugees from Syria.

Oh, and the main library teen centre has a video game spot where teens can come together and play three person together. Part of the teen outreach, and pretty popular, and a good way to encourage middle schoolers to hang out at the library after school, which is a social good.

I would love a sewing machine library (sign out the equipment, buy needles at the check out) sign out with a manual and guide book .... maybe intro classes required ... machines are expensive but having access can be a real cost saving.
posted by chapps at 8:42 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, they also have kids sets with stories on a theme (i.e. horses) and matching puppets.
Fantastic when a young kid visits ... used one with my nephew, lasted all week, also great for moms.

And sets of books for book clubs -- the club signs up and gets ten copies of the same book plus reading guide.

The local family centre has a toy library where you can sign out a toy or two for a week. Another great cost saving for families, and sometimes a way to access a particular thing for a party.

(I love my library)
posted by chapps at 8:45 AM on July 19, 2016

Wow that was bad. "Also great for moms" My apologies for puppet and book loving parents and caregivers who are not moms.
posted by chapps at 8:46 AM on July 19, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Hartford Public Library has hosted/facilitated a number of community dialogues about critical issues relevant to the community, including education and immigration. These facilitated dialogues followed a specific approach (that has been tried in rural communities as well) and helped activate the library as a community hub. This has really created a new role for the library, which I think is both totally appropriate and vital to a strong community. Message me if you'd like to know more; I have been directly involved in one of these dialogue processes.
posted by cubby at 8:49 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Toronto public libraries have 3d printers and green-screen studios. I would add a recording studio to that and you'll have your fill of teenagers and 20-somethings.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:06 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

Rural library director here--Super successful programs we've had:

-Death Cafes and other programs about end-of-life planning (which reflects our patron base's interests)

-One-on-One computer help for adults with a class of tech students from the local college (specifically for kids with learning differences)--this was as much a success for helping older people with their computers as it was for having local people meet the college kids they might have inaccurate notions about

-All-ages origami during an elementary school break taught by a local community college math prof and her students

-Social Justice Parenting chats--facilitated conversations about talking to your kids about what's in the news in an age-appropriate way, esp using kids books

-Volunteer ghost-hunters presentation (at my last library--people were super into it, though I don't know if it improved lives)

-I'm planning and after-school hair braiding party now for Sept. based on kid requests
posted by zem at 9:08 AM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

Since you have the infrastructure in place, how about classes for seniors on using the Internet -- specifically on how to avoid phishing, viruses, malware, sharing photos, navigating Facebook, etc. Or drop-in times for seniors to learn to use their cameras, iPads, computers, etc.
posted by terrapin at 9:12 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

My library has a cake pan collection, to check out those cake pans for kids birthday parties. I'm looking forward to the 3D skull one arriving.

They also have a read-to-the-dogs program where therapy dogs come into the Library, and kids read out loud to them. Inexpensive....and the kids really like seeing the dogs in the library.
posted by answergrape at 9:21 AM on July 19, 2016 [11 favorites]

Do you already offer assistance with citizenship applications?
posted by praemunire at 9:34 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

One on one (or small group) tech help is a thing there is a never-ending demand for in my rural community. This can be really simple: someone who is decent with technology being available for people to come ask questions or get help with a thing. If your library has lendable tech available, maybe having some of those things on-hand in case people have questions but don't have the thing handy. I've been doing a variant of this at the local vocational school (I have a library degree but am not employed by the library when I do this) for the past ten years. There is always a demand.

Also agreeing with Death Cafe stuff, helping people get wills, healthcare proxy and durable power of attorney. You can also get people from local green burial groups and/or cemetaries and.or funeral homes to demystify some of this.

One thing that has been really enriching to our local community (though not a library-specific thing) is this project called Bethel University, basically a townwide skillshare where people take and give classes at a number of local venues and there's a big wrap-up where the whole town is invited at the end. Helps people get to know their neighbors, gives opportunities for interaction and learning new things, is eminently grant-fundable and (speaking as someone who has given AND taken classes at this) a lot of fun.
posted by jessamyn at 9:55 AM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

When I was a rural teenager, I loved basics at my nearest library like lectures from professors at the state's most well known universities. I still have books, signed by their authors, from those lectures. It was excellent to meet people who did things like write or research for a living. It was a window into an adult world that didn't revolve around cotton, rice, soybeans, chickens, or pigs.

My (very urban) library now has Maker fair type events quite a lot for younger patrons. Recently they built these things, which I could tell was a hit. They also have a somewhat regular ask-a-historian night, where people get help from a couple of neighborhood specialists looking up the history of their homes (who built it, who lived there over the years, if there are any old pictures in the public domain, etc.). Could be a cool thing for the adults in your area, even if it's focused lesson homes and more on local people and events from the past.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:11 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

our local library has 'mystery bags' for loan - they're selections of books of different genres or themes (murdery things, ww2, vegetarian cooking etc.) and they're actually really cool - you find stuff you might never had thought of checking out. Think it could totes extended to the film or music section too.
posted by speakeasy at 10:19 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

My public library's Lego Club is hugely popular.

Discovery passes (free cultural/recreation passes) are also a big thing in my province. They're popular in big cities, but smaller regional districts are also developing successful programs.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:49 AM on July 19, 2016

I've always wanted to do a Lego wall-- liquid nails some Lego bases over the entire wall and let people go to town with some Lego art. I'm told the bricks get stolen a lot, but replacements are cheap and it's worth it for how excited kids get about it and how cool it looks.

Nthing Tech Drop In where you help people figure out their devices. I worked at one and it's both enjoyable for the staff and hugely appreciated by patrons, particularly for people who got gifted Kindles or their first smartphone and are totally baffled by how to even start.

Wifi hotspots for loan could work, but you might need more than you've got to offer it comprehensively without a huge waiting list.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:15 AM on July 19, 2016

Do you serve low-vision adults? A desktop magnifier / reading machine, selection of large print books, and expanded audio collection could be great.
posted by salvia at 11:34 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Or a tool lending library?
posted by salvia at 11:35 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Speaking of Lego, my library's Lego Club has been a huge hit to the point reservations fill up within a half hour of opening.

I'd actually avoid 3d printers and Makers spaces unless you have a community that's pushing for them. Several of our sister libraries got grants to set up spaces but they lay unused beyond occasional demos. Tool libraries might be more useful - drills, routers, oscillating saws, sanders, etc - as people can borrow them for their weekend DIY.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:35 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you could use that money to pay for a volunteer's gas so they could deliver books to the homebound or elderly, that would be a Huge Deal. If you have any retirement communities nearby, you could even put together some 'pop-up' libraries using residents as docent volunteer staff.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:38 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Second Step has a Child Protection Unit, which teaches kids about personal safety. It's a great research-based curriculum, teaching about safe vs. unsafe touch. Some libraries in Massachusetts are using it with preschoolers who come in for story times.

Full disclosure, I'm on the board of an agency whose mission is child abuse prevention. The agency uses and promotes this curriculum here in Massachusetts.
posted by SobaFett at 11:43 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some of the programs my local library offers (aside from traditional story time, book clubs, reading clubs etc):

Museum pass rentals- they have a limited number and are usually all out so you can put a hold on them and are notified when you can pick them up. It give you (I think) free admission for two adults and two children to the local museums (historical, technology and military themed museums). I have used this when unemployed, it was really nice to check them out for free.

Human Library: You sign up to talk one on one with a human "book"- someone who has interesting life experiences or careers (transgendered, refugee, writer, cancer survivor were some of the "books")

Free access to the Ancestry website using computers in the archives or by bringing your own laptop to the library and using their wifi. I've used and really enjoyed this service.

Bookmobiles that take a variety of materials out to different areas of the city on a schedule. You can also have your holds delivered to a bookmobile. They stop at places like seniors retirement buildings, schools, etc. They also have a program where people who are unable to leave their house can have library materials delivered to them by a volunteer.

What would be great for your patrons really depends on their needs and wants. A client base with a lot of young people may want something different than seniors, families, etc.

New to our library is a Makerspace at our central location. They have a digital media lab (photo editing, video filming and editing, audio recording, diitizing vhs tapes or photographs. They also have a 3D printer.
posted by Lay Off The Books at 1:40 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you talk a little bit more about the demographics and the situation in your city, as well as of current library users? Are there are lot of folks in your city who don't have access to computers/internet at home? People who maybe don't have books in the home? Substantial ESL population? How are the public schools? Social services? Do you have high unemployment? Lots of stay-at-home parents, or few? Are there segments of the population of your city who don't use the library, and if so, do you know why? I think it's going to make a difference who you currently serve, and who you currently aren't able to serve, and that might help us make more targeted suggestions.
posted by decathecting at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2016

The website The Library as Incubator Project has a lot of other real-world examples of things that are changing what libraries are traditionally thought of in creative ways. It's a quality site and has good resources.
posted by jessamyn at 3:27 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I learned to crochet at my public library as a kid. Maybe classes in knitting or crochet or other complicated-to-make things? That might be cool as a multi-generational thing, to connect young learners with older teachers.

Also, thank you so much for calling them "patrons" and not "customers."
posted by the_blizz at 5:34 PM on July 19, 2016

Our library had a woman talk to people about Medicare sign up options. Unfortunately, I think I was more confused when I left than when I arrived, but I think the idea of a guest expert who will answer questions one-on-one by appointment is good. Aside from Social Security and Medicare, it could be taxes, or issues at your local school, or parenting, or caring for older relatives. Information about how to access government programs is often hard to find.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:47 PM on July 19, 2016

My library had a very cool program a few years ago; I was on the board but not involved other than as a volunteer handing stuff out, so I can't tell you about the costs. It's called Prime Time Family Reading Time, and it's for getting kids who could use some extra support with reading in to the library -- and also their parents or grandparents.

Families got dinner (and took the leftovers home), book discussions led by qualified and entertaining professionals, childcare for younger kids, and at the end got gas cards for participating for the entire program. The families who participated were invited by the children's librarians at one of the schools in our town.

I can put you in touch with the people who ran it at my library, if you want. It's done by the ALA and has been around for ages, so maybe you already know about it; this was the first I'd heard of anything like it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:33 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Board games are fun, promote critical thinking, and are very social. It would be a rather small investment cost to get started with a few.
posted by ridogi at 11:45 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've seen and like the idea of "learn how to edit Wikipedia" workshops, particularly for retired folks that may have a subject passion they never got to fulfill earlier.
posted by lillygog at 2:15 PM on July 20, 2016

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