Too Much of a Good Thing
Angela Hanshaw | July 27, 2010
The good news? Your library programs are so successful that people have to line up for them. The bad news? Your library programs are so successful that people have to line up for them. Offering programs that are extremely well-attended by patrons seems like the ideal, but a recent article on New Canaan Public Library’s overcrowding issue showed me that there’s a downside to success as well.
The article described a recent event with pianist Andrew Armstrong that went beyond standing-room only. The library dealt with it as best as they could—setting up a monitor in another room so that people could watch—but there was no good solution to the problem. As New Cannan resident and library trustee Elizabeth Ellsworth said, “My kids and I just went home really disappointed. That’s the kind of thing where there’s no point to watch it in front of a television set.” Library director Alice Knapp noted, “What’s happening now is not happening just once a year. It’s happening five, six or seven times a year.” That’s a lot of disappointed patrons.
So what can you do? The obvious—build an addition or a larger library—isn’t going to be an option is most cases. And it doesn’t always work: “Whenever we make space available it becomes filled,” Ellsworth noted. You can require registration, but that will still mean leaving out people who would like to attend. Partnering with another organization in your community that has more space available may be a good option. How do you deal with overcrowding?
Angela Hanshaw is Program Officer/Web Editor for the ALA Public Programs Office.