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Creating an Adult Speaker Series (in a Tiny Library with Zero Budget)

Man standing behind a microphone

My library is in the tiny town of Fenton, Iowa. To garner a bit of perspective of just how tiny of a community we are talking, the nearest gas station is 13 miles away, groceries and job opportunities are 30 miles, and we are equal distance from Des Moines and Minneapolis/St. Paul, which will take you 2.5 hours of interstate, if you don’t stop to see the sights.

No school in town. No elder care facility. No bustling main street. Remote, yet we still pursue quality programming. 

A Marvel-ous Spring: A Superhero-Themed Program Series

A group photo from a superhero program

Anamosa is a community of 5,533 in eastern Iowa, and it's quite remote. Many families drive 30 to 50 minutes to the nearby cities of Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Dubuque looking for family activities.

Our residents are always looking for things for kids to do close to home, so the Anamosa Library & Learning Center put together a spring-long, superhero-themed program series for all ages, culminating in a private showing of “Avengers: Endgame” at a movie theater in Cedar Rapids. 

3 Ways to Build Partnerships at Your Small Library

Two people working at laptops

There are plenty of reasons for libraries to collaborate. Partnering with other organizations and people increases your resources, increases your reach, promotes creativity, models teamwork for others, and helps your community work toward common goals. Lest we forget, libraries have a lot to offer our partners, too; we are trusted, well situated for exposure and usually pretty competent in marketing our programs and services.

A Small (but Mighty) Makerspace

A young patron uses a hot plate to melt crayons while coloring at the Griswold Public Library.

A makerspace — for anyone who isn’t yet aware — is a collaborative workspace where people have the opportunity to construct or explore just about anything they can imagine.

The goal of a library makerspace is to let patrons learn through hands-on experimentation and from collaboration with others. And yes, that CAN be achieved in a small library. Griswold Public Library, located in a small town of about 1,000 in southwestern Iowa, is proof.

Comics & Cosplay Club: An Itinerary

Comics & Cosplay Club

I had just begun my job as director of the Malvern Public Library when I decided to kick off my first summer at the library with the launch of my brainchild, the Comics & Cosplay Club.

The club quickly became our most popular program. Fandom is a great way to bring people together, and I have developed a meeting plan that provides structure and variation to our Comics & Cosplay Club nights.

Amazing Race Scavenger Hunt

Hands holding a treasure map

Corning Public Library serves a town of 1,500 in southwest Iowa. There's not a lot in Corning; we are the largest town in our county, the nearest city is a 90-minute drive away.

The library is especially important in communities like ours, as we provide programming that both entertains and inspires. Hosting an Amazing Race program allowed us to entertain our patrons while showing them that they don’t have to travel to find interesting things to do with their friends and families.    

Wellness Wednesdays in Winterset: Lunch & Learns and More!

Selfie of participants in walking group

Winterset is a community of 5,120 in central Iowa, about 40 miles outside Des Moines. Since 2011, a number of our local organizations have collaborated to present Wellness Wednesdays in Winterset, a program series that strives to improve the health and wellness of our residents. Programs run from early May to late October and are free of charge and open to all ages.

Small Library, Big Community: Soup and Sound

Patrons at Slater Public Library share a meal and prepare to listen to entertainment at Soup and Sound

At Slater (Iowa) Public Library, we find that it's usually tough to get adults to attend programs. But we have also seen a few notable exceptions, one of which is our Soup and Sound program. As the name suggests, this consists of serving a meal and providing entertainment to attendees. Soup and Sound is not only popular — it's fun, community-building, and we've been able to cover our program costs with donations.

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