February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Fresh Paint: Planning Programs in the Dark

How do you plan a party for someone you’ve never met? It’s stressful enough planning one for someone you know very well—even though you already know what foods to cook, what music to play, and who to invite. But planning a party for a complete stranger—or a whole group of them—with no inkling of their interests? That’s downright terrifying. Nevertheless, it’s what I’ve spent the past couple months doing. Our library’s calendar of events for spring 2013 was due last Friday (for publicity and calendar-printing purposes), a full four months before the first program will be hosted at our new Gum Springs (VA) library location. I have, with assistance and advice from coworkers who have been in my situation, planned an entire season’s worth of programs for teens that I’ve only met briefly at school visits and Back-to-School nights. This is how I did it:

It was important for me to establish a calendar that set a standard, but left plenty of room to grow. I was inclined to host dozens of programs during the first few months in order to show the community everything we were capable of doing, but heeded the advice from the director who advised me to leave enough room in the schedule to add, but never to take away, programs. Adding programs as we get to know the community’s interests is a step forward; cancelling a program because of overbooking or realizing there’s no interest in it is a step backwards. While we may not have as many programs planned as other libraries, we have plenty of wiggle room in the schedule as well as preapproval for last-minute additions, if need be.

Teen Tech WeekAlthough I was trying to keep the overall number of programs relatively low, there were just too many programming opportunities in March that I couldn’t pass up. So that month, we’ll be celebrating Teen Tech Week with a weeklong QR code scavenger hunt, and we’ll be hosting a mathematician who will talk about the role of women in mathematics to celebrate Women’s History Month. These nationally-celebrated themes allow librarians to be creative with programming and show patrons that libraries are for more than just books, which our patrons—many of whom are first-time library users—might not know.

With two full-time teen services librarians and two full-time assistants, we have plenty of time and talent to host “stock” programs, including a book club and teen advisory board. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with these tried-and-true programs, just some tweaking to make them applicable to our patrons. Other branches host monthly anime and graphic novel clubs, Picturing America art clubs, and writing clubs. We’ve left our schedule open so we can offer these types of programs if our teens express interest in them (we hope they will!).

Taking into account holidays and special celebrations, but not wanting to stretch the staff thin, I scheduled a Saturday afternoon to make Mother’s Day cards and a Monopoly tournament during spring break. Setting up a craft or game and occasionally checking in to see how they’re going is all that’s required, though a librarian should be present during these activities. We can help make cards or even be the Monopoly banker! These opportunities are perfect for building relationships with teens, and we should take advantage every chance we get.

It's All WriteThe library hosts annual county-wide programs for teens, including a summer reading program, an AnimeCon, and a film competition. When the Gum Springs library opens in February 2013 we’ll be in the middle of accepting entries for our third annual “It’s All Write” short story contest. The deadline to enter is early March, so beginning in January, we’ll have to publicize it as much as possible during outreach events at our local schools, as well as on our social media pages.

Planning programs is difficult enough, but now we need to tell people about them before we open, in just three months. Our talking points just went from informing teens of our existence to informing them of the specific programs and events we have planned. We’re now passing out program flyers printed with program names, dates, and times. We’ll use what we have scheduled as a jumping-off point, and make additions and adjustments as we get to know our patrons interests, likes, dislikes, and desires.

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April Layne Shroeder About April Layne Shroeder

April Layne Shroeder is a Teen Services Librarian in a Northern Virginia public library system, and loves it! One of her favorite job duties is reading/being knowledgeable about YA literature, and discussing/recommending it to young people (and open-minded adults).

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  1. auntie mary says:

    Ok! This is the BEST ever article! Thanks April Layne Pavis