About a year and a half ago, as a colleague and I were preparing for an upcoming book club discussion, she asked me a basic question: How many chairs should I set up? On its face it seemed simple, but I found it to be a question that I could not really answer. As a relatively new programming librarian at Towson University’s Albert S. Cook Library, I had tried to put forward workshops, lectures, and discussions that I thought our students, faculty, and staff, as well as local community members, would find interesting and useful. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I failed miserably.
We’ve all been there. You plan a great program, and only a handful of people show up—or no one does. Maybe something that has always done well in the past mysteriously fails to draw an audience. Maybe you start something new specifically because someone asked for it—and still it doesn’t get off the ground. You’re doing everything you can think of and everything your schedule and your budget allow to promote your events to potential audiences. How can you draw people to your programs?
There’s a lot of buzz about evaluation these days. Are programs effective? Do they make the library, and by extension, the community, a better place? Do they accomplish what we intend and/or do they sometimes have other, maybe even better, unintended consequences?
The act of planning programs is a big job with a lot to consider. Where will you have your program? How big is the space? Do you need to limit guests; will you need to have them register ahead of time? Will weather or parking spaces be factors? Can you choose a date and time when there are not too many other conflicts for your target audience? How much staff time or money will you need? How will you evaluate the program’s success afterward? These are just some of the questions you need to answer as you plan.