Are you a Programming Librarian?
Tracy Paradis | July 02, 2010
Editor’s Note: In case you missed it, this week we’re featuring blog posts on ALA Annual Conference programs. This entry focuses on “Are you a Programming Librarian?” designed to help programming librarians create and coordinate programs for their communities fueled by creativity, connections, and shoe-string budgets. Attendees heard from beginning programming librarian Heather Paulson and experienced programming librarian Henry Fortunato as well as discovered ProgrammingLibrarian.org, a new online hub for resources and inspiration.
Today’s session from the ALA’s Public Programs Office served as an introduction to Programming Librarian, and it’s a resource I’m happy to see as the events and programming coordinator for my library. The session also offered a panel of presenters who shared their knowledge of the programming process and experiences with struggles so common for do-it-all librarians and staff. Here are my main impressions:
Be enthusiastic, love it, sell it! One thing that is apparent is that being engaged and interested in bringing cultural events to your patrons is essential to doing this job well. You aren’t going to know from the beginning if an idea will work or not, but if you’ve got an idea that you are excited about, then commit and go with it.
Take a chance. Experience isn’t a determining factor in your event’s success. The panel represented both beginner as well as experienced perspectives, and both were successful in their efforts because they keep trying new things and learning from them even if they weren’t a hit. A side benefit? Getting an enthusiastic audience is a fantastic natural high, so adrenaline junkies, get involved!
Don’t allow (lack of) money to get in the way. Sometimes “merely” offering a comfortable and welcoming space for people of like mind to come together and engage in thought is all that you need. Having some kind of reception with food and drink can make your patrons feel at home, and a happy patron brings great rewards. Often this is the very situation that forces programming librarians to get the most creative, which leads me to…
Don’t go it alone. Developing partnerships with other institutions has many obvious advantages and is easier than you may think. Look at your local area and think about who wants to share or expand into your audience. Consider what other stakeholders might gain in splitting expenses with you. Grant providers live to encourage new collaborations, so it opens up the possibility for additional funding.
Ask a Programming Librarian. Definitely find the opportunity to talk with seasoned practitioners such as Henry Fortunato of the Kansas City Public Library. He shared several practical and important tips, such as:
Be sure to develop themes and series. This gives you branding and makes for easier marketing, as patrons will begin to expect the next event.
Think about and find local connections to broader issues. This heightens interest and everyone has a local celebrity if you’ve got a local reporter.
Find a student studying graphic design. This gets you quality graphic design that shows how your event is special and important and gives them practical experience for their portfolio. Be sure you give them the broad idea of where you want to go and give them the reins to do their thing.
I’ve had my experiences learning the ropes of exhibits and programming over the last three years, and after a brief perusal of the site today, I’m looking forward to participating in and seeing this resource grow.
Tracy Paradis is Reference and Instruction Librarian and Fine & Performing Arts Liaison at Milne Library, SUNY Geneseo.