Interactive Programs at Hennepin County Library

Editor’s note: Inspired by this month’s feature article, Meeting Needs and Making a Difference: Outcomes Based Planning and Evaluation, Johannah Genett, Senior Programming Librarian at Hennepin County (Minn.) Library, wrote to share some recent programs and their evaluations at her library. Here’s the first of two blog posts; read the second blog post on some successful talk programs held in December.

In fall 2011, Hennepin County Library (HCL), Minneapolis, offered a variety of workshops on science, theater, and creative writing focused on providing patrons the opportunity to get hands-on experience. To keep the group size intimate, workshops were limited to twenty attendees, who were encouraged to register online.

Library Laboratory was a series of art, technology, and engineering workshops for adults. The two-hour workshops for adults featured an introduction by a guest artist and included materials and technology patrons could use in their project. Offered in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Center, which provided the instructor and supplies, the workshops included Misfit Toys for Adults (deconstructing and rebuilding unwanted and noisy moving toys), Sensitive Machines (building a machine that responds to light and sound sensors), Glowing Clothing (LED embedded clothing and shoes), Shadow Puppet Animation (created with stop motion animation), and Folded Structures (re-creating crystal or sea shell structures that are sometimes used by architects). Seventy-five people attended five programs.

Evaluations indicated that 96 percent of attendees knew more about technology and science after attending the program, 56 percent planned to check out related library materials, and 98 percent were more likely to attend another program at the library. This program appealed to a wide age range: 32 percent were ages 18–25, 14 percent were ages 25–35, 24 percent were ages 35–45, 14 percent were ages 45–55, and 16 percent were 55+. Selected comments included “Thank you so much! I didn’t think I could ‘do’ technology”; “Outstanding program! More of these type of programs”; “More adult hands on programs would be great”; and “fun, relaxed, very, very valuable to me! Thank you!” HCL plans to continue the Library Laboratory brand with new topics such as bike maintenance and homemade cleansers and soaps.

In collaboration with the Guthrie Theater, which provided instructors and supplies, HCL offered twenty-five workshops with separate programs for children, teens, and adults. Topics included how to tell a story, acting games for beginners, introduction to Shakespeare, and stage combat. More than two hundred patrons attended.

Evaluations indicated that 98 percent of adults and teens and 89 percent of children knew more about theater and acting after attending, 62 percent of teens and adults and 42 percent of children planned to check out related library materials, and 56 percent of teens and adults and 92 percent of kids tried acting at the program. Selected comments included “This was a lot of fun! I was hesitant about being embarrassed and not ‘very good’ but we all felt empowered to say ‘yes’ and try new things”; “This is a very good opportunity for beginners to get a feel for acting”; and “I loved moving around and the twists with books! Thank you!” HCL plans to continue this collaboration with a fresh slate of workshops in summer 2012.

First Pages was a series of twenty-three writing workshops offered in collaboration with the Loft Literary Center, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive literary center, which provided instructors. Classes were offered to a variety of ages. Topics for adults included capturing life-changing experiences, creative writing for the business writer, poetry, creative writing for book lovers, getting published, time-management for authors who are parents, writing for children, editing, and memoirs. Teen classes included flash fiction and poetry. A character creation class for children was also offered. One hundred and thirty-six patrons attended.

Evaluations revealed that 100 percent of teens and adults received encouragement to continue their writing, and that 83 percent of children were more excited about writing after attending. Ninety-five percent of teens and adults learned a new tool to improve their writing skills or process, and 92 percent of children learned something new that will improve their writing. Sixty-two percent of teens and adults and 25 percent of children planned to check out related library materials. Selected comments included “Thanks! I’m appreciative of the time and effort to come alongside aspiring, but novice writers” and “I really liked how [the instructor] talked about the characters and was supportive.” HCL plans to continue this collaboration with a fresh slate of workshops in spring 2012. New workshops for adults will include selecting a literary agent, overcoming writer’s block, and tapping your journal for ideas. Teen and children programs will include careers in writing, fan fiction, and spoken word poetry. Additional advertising will be pursued to strengthen attendance.

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