Program Planning

Goals and Objectives

By now, the grant has been awarded and a preliminary plan for programs has been put together. As the program dates approach and you begin implementing the program plan, revisit the reasons why you want to hold a Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys series. It may seem like you already know the answer, but it’s worth taking another look. Think about what you want the series to accomplish:

Audience Goals

  • Who will your program serve (ages, demographics, library use)?
  • How many (% of target population)?
  • Why this audience?
  • What are the interests of audience?
  • What are the needs of this audience and how will they benefit?

(For more on target audience, see Promotion)

Collection/Thematic Goals

  • Is there an area of the collection that you want to emphasize or build around the series theme?
  • Does this discussion series theme relate to other library or community programming or events?

Community Goals

  • How will the community benefit?
  • Which partner organizations might be interested in your library’s Let’s Talk About It series?
  • What community issues/agendas tie into the Muslim Journeys theme you’ve selected?

Program Goals

  • What do you want this Let’s Talk About It program to accomplish?
  • How will the library benefit?
  • What future activities might this series foster?

Good programs find connections between goals.

Planning the Series

Good programs are the result of good planning. After your project goals are in place, review your timeline and break your planning process down to construct a practical working timeline that will enable you to complete an excellent Let’s Talk About It series. The following checklist should help you give yourself enough time to produce a well-organized reading and discussion series.

  • Prepare a project budget
  • Recruit program scholar(s)
  • Select program dates, times
  • Recruit potential program partners
  • Apply for funding
  • Receive funding: (Congratulations! You have been awarded an LTAI grant and are already this far along in the planning process.)
  • Alert library staff, Friends, Board
  • Secure “buy-in” from library staff and administration
  • Apply for matching funding, contact potential sponsors
  • Contact scholar, program partners with notification of grant award
  • Reserve meeting space
  • Finalize marketing plan
  • Order any additional books, alert local book stores
  • Finalize audience recruitment plan
  • Publicize reading and discussion series
  • Distribute publicity materials to program partners
  • Place ads, public service announcements
  • Put together staffing plan; if need be, recruit discussion group leaders
  • Track potential participants through sign-up system
  • Order refreshments
  • Distribute program materials to pre-registered participants
  • Last minute confirmations with scholar, partner organizations
  • Send email reminders to registrants (week or day before sessions)
  • Hold discussion sessions
  • Monitor book circulation
  • Publicize throughout series
  • Conduct evaluation of each program
  • Collect end-of-series evaluations from participants and scholars
  • Submit ALA/NEH online final report (due September 30, 2014)

Not all of these steps may be necessary for your program series, or you may come up with other items for your checklist—tailor the checklist to fit your library’s needs.

Program Personnel Job Descriptions

Project Director

The project director has the job of managing the Let’s Talk About It series from beginning to end. This may seem like a large undertaking, however, with adequate planning it can be quite manageable.

Although the project director may have help from a planning committee, volunteers and other library staff, he/she is primarily responsible for overseeing:

  • Selection and coordination of the scholar(s)
  • Reservation, preparation of the meeting room
  • Pre-registration of participants
  • Distribution of program materials
  • Publicity and outreach
  • Working with community partners
  • Preparation of budget, payment of bills, honorarium
  • Management of programs
  • Coordination of assisting staff and/or volunteers
  • Evaluation and reporting

Project Scholar

If you’ve worked with humanities programming before, the idea of involving a scholar is not only familiar but also appealing. The scholar isn’t an obstacle to be overcome—if that’s your approach it could all too likely become the result. Think of the scholar as your program partner and make sure he or she understands that role.

Both of you, the project director and the scholar exist only to make this discussion series a terrific experience for the participants. You must both be open to the interests of the group, encouraging their ideas and offering assistance. You both have a great deal to offer in facilitating this program, but the program is for the participants, not for the scholar or the library.

Minimum scholar qualifications:

  • Must possess appropriate academic qualifications to speak on the program themes and have teaching or other experience relevant to selected titles;
  • Must be engaging, comfortable and experienced speaking before and facilitating discussion with adult audiences.

Preferred scholar qualifications (the above qualifications, plus):

  • A Ph.D. or advanced degree in world history, world literature, religious studies, Islamic or Near East studies, or another related humanities subject.
  • He or she should be adept at facilitating discussion with adult audiences on themes related to the human condition, and in particular on Islamic history, literature, or culture.

Working with a Project Scholar

Finding and contacting a scholar(s) for your series is only the first step; working with them so you have a mutual understanding of program goals and expectations is what will make this a successful experience for the participants, the scholar, the partners and you.

  • This is not a college-level class—people are participating for the pleasure of reading and talking about the things they’ve read. They want to learn about—but not necessarily major in—the subject or subjects introduced by the themes. Make sure your scholar understands this and has experience working with non-college student audiences.
  • Try to “interview” the scholar before making your selection. Ask if they’ve worked with library audiences or out-of-school adults before; gauge their interest in the overall subject; ask for a short biographical statement or other background information.
  • Make some educated guesses about the general characteristics of your audience (age, interests, education, etc.) and share that information with the scholar.
  • Be clear about the format—an opening set of remarks from the scholar, usually not more than 20-25 minutes, followed by discussion for the rest of the program.
  • Be clear about the scholar’s role—the scholar is not only to take the lead in the opening remarks, but also to facilitate participation by the group during the discussion portion of the program.
  • The scholar may want to prepare points for discussion for the group, based on the theme, books and essay. These discussion points may be distributed to participants in advance of the sessions, along with the rest of the program materials.
  • Outline the commitment from the library and the commitment from the scholar in writing—include honorarium to be paid, any expenses to be covered, and schedule of all programs.
  • Provide the scholar with any background materials you feel would be helpful, including the theme essay, copies of the books, related articles, “typical questions,” or prompts for discussion, copies of PR materials, roster of pre-registered attendees, etc.
  • If you’ve held Let’s Talk About It programs before, share some of the comments from participants’ evaluation forms, to give the scholar an idea of what to expect.
  • Involve the scholar in publicity, such as an interview with a local newspaper or magazine about the program. Encourage the scholar to market the series to his or her own network.
  • Keep the scholar informed throughout the process. Let them know how pre-registration and publicity progress. If you receive feedback from participants after each session, share their comments with the scholar.

See Tips for Scholars for reading and discussion program tips to share with your scholar.

Community Partners

Partnerships can assume many forms: co-presenters, financial partners, organizations that will donate goods or services, marketing and outreach efforts, and volunteers.

A partnership is successful if both partners gain something from the relationship. Identify groups that you have worked with in the past and ones that you would like to work with in the future. Share your project plans with potential partners and see if your goals resonate with their mission, interests, or intentions for community outreach.

Possible Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys program partners:

  • Arts and humanities organizations (historical societies, museums, cultural centers)
  • Book clubs
  • Community centers
  • Senior organizations
  • Area mosques, churches, synagogues, interfaith groups and other religious organizations
  • Public libraries in neighboring communities, library systems
  • Professional associations
  • Community colleges
  • Universities
  • Literacy organizations
  • Social justice agencies
  • Literary magazines
  • Writers groups and poetry guilds
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Local businesses
  • Councils on Aging/AARP groups
  • Minority group associations
  • Local chapters of national organizations (ADL, ACLU, ZONTA, ROTARY)

More information on promoting the series by working with community partners can be found in the Promotion section.

Program Length

One-and-a-half to two hours are about right for this type of reading and discussion program. Attendees should come prepared to discuss the book and the essay. Distribute participant folders at least two weeks in advance of the first program, to allow for time to read and consider the essay. The scholar will talk for twenty totwenty-five minutes, group discussion will last for about an hour, and time will be needed for getting started, seated, wrapping up, and if needed, taking a break.

Group Size

There is no magic number for the best group size. You want to make this program available to the largest number of people who will make an active commitment to participate. If the group is large, either break into smaller groups for discussion or plan to hold the program at additional times, and/or venues. Asking people to pre-register by signing up in advance for these programs is the best way to predict group size, as well as to ensure a commitment to attendance.

If you know you will have very large attendance and opt to break up into small discussion groups, recruit staff or experienced volunteers to serve as discussion leaders. Under this model, the scholar floats between the discussion groups.

Day of the Program Checklist

The following items should be in place before the start of each program. An affirmative answer to the following questions should mean you are ready to go.

  • Staff: Has staff been alerted to the program location?
  • Signage: Are there signs telling people where to go?
  • Room Set-up: Are the chairs, nametags, and sign-in sheets in place?
  • Refreshments: Have you checked delivery and setup?
  • Scholar: Has the scholar been called to confirm directions, time, place, and other arrangements?
  • Volunteers: Do volunteers and staff have all the necessary information?
  • Pre-registration: Have participants who signed up for the program in advance picked up their program materials? Do you have a sign-in sheet ready for the program?
  • Introductions & Acknowledgements: Have you prepared introductions and a list of funders, sponsors, partners, and others to thank?
  • Reminder email: Have you sent a reminder email to pre-registrants?
  • Greetings: Has someone been designated to greet participants as they arrive?

Program Support Materials

Promotional Materials

Each library will receive the following printed promotional materials, to support Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys programs:

  • 200 bookmarks for distribution to library patrons.
  • 5 theme-specific posters to display around your library or other strategic community locations to promote the upcoming program series.
  • 30 copies of the national project scholar’s thematic essay, to be distributed to program participants.
  • 30 folders, to be used to distribute supporting materials to program participants. Feel free to slip in information about other upcoming programs at your library, along with the Let’s Talk About It materials.
  • 125 bookplates, to be affixed to your library’s Muslim Journeys books

These promotional materials will be shipped via FedEx to the attention of library project directors within a week of the national workshop, to arrive in three to five business days. Libraries wishing wish to print additional copies of these items (excluding the folders) may download PDF files from Promotional Materials.


Libraries are responsible for making sufficient quantities of books available for patrons to check out and/or arrangements for patrons to purchase the books. See Themes, Books, and Materials for tips on ordering books.

Project-Related Website

You may also wish to consult the Muslim Journeys website for the general public, developed by the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University and the National Endowment for the Humanities. This site is a useful resource for librarian project directors, project scholars, and program attendees.

Customizable Program Flyers, Postcards, and More

Professionally designed, customizable flyers and postcards may be downloaded from Promotional Materials. These promotional resources are available as high-resolution PDF files, for libraries that wish to print and customize their own. The project bookmark, poster, bookplate, and essays are also available to download and print.

Web Banners

To make program advertising via your library and partner organization websites, you may wish to download one of several professional designed web banners from Promotional Materials. Banners are available in several sizes, for each of the five project themes.