Are the Programs Your Library Offers the Programs Your Community Wants?
Angela Hanshaw | April 26, 2011
I suspect I’m not the only one who came across the “Murder by Numbers” post on the Agnostic, Maybe blog. For those who haven’t, the blogger, Andy W., described how perturbed he was by some graphics that were being floated online to encourage support for libraries during National Library Week. There were three graphics he commented on, but I was most interested in the graphic (shown to the left, or view a larger image) he used to question the state of library programming. Here are some extracts from the blog post:
First, take a look at the list of most popular topics. Then, take a look at program topics at your local public library. Or you can do what I did and take a very non-scientific randomly chosen look at the programs being offered in the public libraries of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Denver. With cooking as the #1 most popular topic, only Los Angeles had anything with cooking in it consisting of three programs with two of aimed at younger audiences. … For a topic that two-thirds of the public say they are interested in, we are missing the programming boat on this one.
Health or medicine is a hit-or-miss affair as well, depending on the topics covered. There were at least a handful of programs ranging from finding health information online to children and mental health to (I’m not kidding) ancient secrets to looking & feeling younger. … As to politics and current events, I can’t find any events whatsoever. …
The four major public libraries turn the corner when it comes to business and careers. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a job resume class or business plan assistance. Finally, a topic we can say that we are addressing even if it only covers one-third of those people polled. The same can’t be said for travel/vacation and self-help/psychology programs which simply drop off the chart. …
Back to the question at hand: are public libraries actually in touch with the topics of interest?
Clearly, there are many more cooking programs being held in libraries than the blogger found in his small sample. But does he have a point? Does your library actively make sure its programming matches up with the community’s interests? If so, how?
Angela Hanshaw is Program Officer/Web Editor for the ALA Public Programs Office.