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When I started as library director in the tiny town of Meservey, I never thought we would be able to pull off large-scale programs like libraries in big cities did. Those types of programs aren’t in our budget, and it’s hard enough getting good attendance at our smaller events. The payoff, I figured, probably wouldn’t be worth all of the money and time spent.
I am thrilled to admit that I was wrong, and that tiny libraries like mine can, in fact, have big events that are just as successful as a library 10 times their size.
In our tiny library, we are forced to think hard about every financial decision we make. Can we afford to book that pricey performer for our summer reading program? Should we be subscribing to magazines if only a couple of people are reading them? Do we need to have snacks at every event? Every dollar counts, and we must stretch that dollar as far as we possibly can, particularly when it comes to programming.
When I started as library director in March 2015, I made a list of programs, fundraisers and events that I wanted to plan at some point. The list was pages long and included things like an outdoor potluck, a dinosaur park and an '80s-themed prom. About halfway down the list I wrote “Elizabeth Berg book signing – LOL.”
That's "LOL" as in "That's hilarious. Why would a bestselling author visit our little library?!” Little did I know that only a few years later, I would be welcoming Elizabeth Berg herself into our tiny town.
We've all been there — the crafts are set up, the snacks are out, and you’ve got your programming director hat on. You're prepared for a great turnout … and then nobody shows up.
It's a huge letdown to be excited about a program only to have zero attendance. You wonder what you did wrong, why no one was interested. It's easy to get down on yourself.
In last month's post, "8 Ways to Save Money on Programming in a Tiny Library (Part 1)," I offered four strategies that have helped me stretch my small programming budget to its limits. I talked about looking to friends and family for free programming; tapping resources in your community; partnering with other organizations; and turning your own passions into programs.
Meservey, Iowa, is a tiny, rural town of just 240 people. We have a church, a bar, a post office … and my little library. There isn’t much to do in town as far as entertainment goes, so the library tends to serve as a community hub — we are one of the only local sources of free events and programming.