Friday, August 10, 2012

Thinking Outside the Box: Putting Some Randomness Into Your Programming

"Always Play With Their Minds"- Lucas, Empire Records (1995)

TPIB: We have 31 teen programs for you to pick and choose elements from!

I am in an extremely unique situation.  At my library, I am *the* librarian.  All programs, whether they be for babies or adults, fall on my shoulders…as well as materials ordering, and staff management, and computer troubleshooting, and everything else.  I am youth librarian, teen librarian, adult services librarian, branch manager- all in one.  I have one full time and two part time paraprofessionals rounding out the staffing for a library that’s open 40 hours a week, and between us all we run our 3000 square foot library in our community building.  (Although thanks be praised, we will soon have a part time youth librarian on staff, so I can shift a little of the younger kids onto them).

It’s no wonder that at times the schedule has to go out the window.  I try to plan out my days so that they’re not too full, and make sure everything gets done from planning to statistics, but at times, things have to give in order to run the library. Someone calls in sick- instead of working on my book order, I’m at the reference desk all day.  However, when we have a slower patron day, I can go outside the box… When *everyone* is here, then I can have a Surprise Saturday.

Surprise Saturday is an unscheduled, unplanned program that at my library can draw between 10 and 50 patrons.  It’s not on the official calendar; it gets posted on the blog and Facebook when possible, and I make in-house flyers the day of on publisher describing what we’re doing and when. 

It can be as simple as bringing out some of the board games from the back and have a gaming afternoon, or having a Monopoly contest to see who can be the biggest tycoon.  Or having a huge Uno competition.

Another Saturday, it can be going through the leftover craft kits from the season, making a huge pile, and letting the kids go through them and make whatever they want- following directions or not.  Or bringing out scrap paper and glue sticks, and letting them create while letting them watch a book based movie.

There’s no plan, there’s no limit, and there’s no planning involved save for getting together the parts for the program- which are always on hand.  There’s no stress because it doesn’t matter if no one comes- it’s an extra activity.  However, I’ve found that once one kid finds out about the program, word spreads, and they bring friends, and then others will come.  Your small group of 5 turns to 10, and then 25.  And then the next Saturday, they’re asking what special thing is happening next- the perfect time to promote the next program at the library, or ask them what they want to see.

While my situation is unique, this is a type of program that can certainly be applied to any library setting.  If your setting or administration needs things laid out, or your schedule needs things blocked out, then block out the time- just don’t tell the public what’s going on until the day of.  Step outside the box, and play with their minds.  See what happens, and enjoy the results. - Christie Gibrich

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the reminder that last minute can still be successful! Like you, I do a bit of everything at my library (maybe a little less variety as we are part of a 38 branch library system, with some central services).