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Robert Sisson's picture

Adult Programming and Outreach Success?

Welcome! Have you run a successful adult program? What was it and why do you think it worked? It seems that in today's economy a library program that is job search or business start-up related will bring people in. Have you worked on a program in those areas  - or another? We can learn from each other and help improve the library experience for our patrons. Thank you. 

Phyllis Larison's picture

We have organized a small International Craft Fair for the past few years at our library.  Usually, there are 7-10 fair trade vendors who provide products from around the world.  This has been a very popular program at our library.  On the afternoon of the Fair, we also have international music at the library.

Robert Sisson's picture

Phyllis, thank you for writing in! A craft fair sounds like an event that has wide appeal! Maybe you got newcomers to your library, people who may not often visit? It seems like a new way to attract new patrons, and then maybe they also see your craft books? Do you charge for the vendors to set up and use the event as a fundraiser also? With your music festival, it sounds like a very busy day!

Robert Sisson's picture

Thank you again for writing in Phyllis! She has 25 years programming experience and recently set up a listserv for Colorado librarians called Coprolib. Thanks again!

Manya Shorr's picture

My person passion (even though I don't plan programs anymore) are programs that serve adults without children. Public libraries do such a good job serving 0-18 and 55+ but what about those 20-40 without kids? There are so many excellent and easy program ideas out there!

For some ideas, take a look at a presentation I gave a few years ago at a state conference: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B-LnpKR3rS-wODNmNWQyN2YtZmMwZi00MjgzLTk3MjAtZjgzNjExOTQ2ODQ4&hl=en_US.

Also, at my current library we have a group called Alt.Library that's just for 20s-30s. And what's funny about it is that the programming is often exactly the same as for kids. Adults love crafts with other adults, especially in the evening. We also have events like Punk Rock Pilates, Hair-obics and Heavy Metal Yoga.

I believe that many young professionals do not see the value of the library and why should they? They can buy their own material and have their own internet. What are you doing to attract them? I think the way to do it is to create the one thing that isn't available---the adult community center. Because not everyone wants to go to a bar.

Robert Sisson's picture

Manya is the Outreach and Community Services Supervisor for the Sacramento Public Library. Thank you again for writing in and sharing!


Lisa Cohn - NJ (non-member)'s picture

Manya, that's a wonderful idea.  I'm in the category of being a "between".  I don't have kids. And you are completely right about our age group not being served in all areas.  And once you hit 40, a lot of the dating sites and groups stop programming for you as well.  When you hit senior, they start again.  It's a great idea.  I'm going to read through your document and may have some questions for you afterward. Thanks for the ideas.

Lisa Cohn - NJ (non-member)'s picture

I work in an urban library in NJ with a very strapped budget.  This year, our programming budget shrank to nothing.  Instead of throwing up my hands, I decided, as I'd long thought, that adult programming should reflect children's programming more.  Just because we grew up, doesn't mean we don't want to play anymore. 

The first thing I tried was a Game Night.  It was slightly successful.  I think the biggest issue was the time of day.  People don't seem to want to come out at night.  Basically, all I did was put out several chess sets on the tables in a public area.  Someone came in, and opened up a board and soon enough, someone would sit down and start playing a game together.  Random people. I may try again in the afternoon, when the kids from the high school next door get out. I wonder if it might not help with the noisy gaggle of teens coming in and causing trouble.  

What really seemed to go well was my next idea...Friday Morning Knitting Club.  We had a few items donated by the community, some yarn and needles.  Aside from that, we had a full conference room of ladies (and one husband!) come in, chatting and helping each other.  Some were learning knitting, some were learning crocheting.  So far, they've donated 2 baby blankets to local hospitals and were rather forcefully vocal in their support of the library when our hours were cut and a couple of layoffs happened. 

Next month I'm starting a writing club and a scrapbooking "crop".  In the spring, I'm starting a recipe/gardening club.  And probably trying that game night again with a different name in the afternoon.

Robert Sisson's picture

Lisa, you've got a lot going on! Chess, is a classic! It works for all age groups and doesn't cost much. I hear what you're saying - time of day and choice of day are big issues for all programs. If your library has limited meeting space, it can be a challenge. Knitting sounds like another classic. These are great programs, they bring in people, the cost is very low and people have fun - and they also help  book circulation.

Robert Sisson's picture

Lisa, good luck with your upcoming programs! Please be sure to keep us updated. That's a full calendar! Questions about your writing club and scrapbooking group: are you going to lead them or are you going to have someone else run them? If you are having others do it, how did you go about deciding who would lead them? How often do you think the groups might meet? Just curious! Again, good luck!

Stacie Delcambre's picture

My library hosts a program that targets ESL speakers who are looking for opportunities to practice English in a conversational setting.  We run the program in 10 week sessions and each week the group leaders focus on different conversational elements - idioms, pronunciation, and various life settings.  Participants are encouraged to attend as many sessions as possible, but new participants can join at any point during the 10 week session.  In our area we have a high population of foreign speakers and in general about 6-10 people participate every week.  Since this is a program that is offered simultaneously at many of our branches, 6-10 people per week is actually a good turn out for us!

Robert Sisson's picture

Stacie, that's awesome! ESL is an excellent way to help the community. It's a service that is in demand more now than ever. It's great your library offers the ESL classes at different locations. ESL is an important bridge for many people to improve their lives through increased educational and employment opportunities. When they are ready, they may want to start ABE or at some point GED classes. Congrats again! 

Tricia Foster-Jones (non-member)'s picture

We've found book discussion groups to be a very popular way to engage the community.  We have over 80 groups we provide a service to.  Eight groups meet in the library each month; every Thursday evening and some Monday and Wednesday afternoons.  This includes an audio book discussion group which we started a couple of years ago.  Each month  members from this group will listen to a book on their Navigators (audio devices) and then meet to discuss.  Nearly all will bring a carer in with them.  We now have a retired, celebrity (for Adelaide, South Australia)  news reader, with a beautiful voice, read short stories to the group when they meet.  They love and so does he.  Every so often the audio book discussion group meets with a regular book discussion group to chat about the same book.  It's been very interesting to see the divergence in opinions on the book largely influenced by  the difference between listening to a book and reading it.  This was certainly the case with "Fat, Forty and Fired" which was mostly disliked by the audio group because the inflection of the reader's voice made the main character extremely unappealing to them.  

Book discussion groups are a value added service with group members paying $20 a year.  There are over 300 hundred titles from which to choose from and 10 books in each title.  Many friendships have been formed, with one group (group 13) meeting for 40 years, 20 of which have been with our library. 

Tricia Foster-Jones
Team Leader Library Customer Services
Burnside Library

Robert Sisson's picture

Here is the link to the books groups web page of the Burnside Library: http://www.burnside.sa.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=862 There are also Powerpoint presentations with how to organize book groups and a newsletter. A lot of helpful information!

That's a lot going on: 80 groups and an audio book group! Twenty dollars per person from so many people helps the library and it's a great way for people to meet. Great publicity for the library! 

Tricia, thank you for your comments!


Tricia Foster-Jones (non-member)'s picture

Thanks for the link Bob and the opportunity to share information about our groups. 

 At present we are recording the synopses of our audio BDG titles into MP3 format.  This will provide our audio group with the same opportunity to peruse titles as our regular groups.  Once again we are using the voice of our volunteer retired newsreader to record the podcasts.  Thank goodness for volunteers as they are invaluable to us and many programs would not operate any where near as effectivley without them.  

Tricia Foster-Jones
Team Leader Library Customer Services
Burnside Library

Robert Sisson's picture

It sounds like a lot of work! The MP3 format could bring in more people, maybe a younger crowd? The volunteer who records the podcasts is a wonderful asset. It takes time and work to find the right volunteers, so congrats again!


Kathleen ODell (non-member)'s picture

 It was sizzling hot in Springfield, Mo., on July 21, but adults (and a few kids) came out to our two largest branches with fleece and scissors in hand to learn from Project Linus volunteers how to make no-sew blankets for a local homeless shelter and Child Advocacy Center. The blankets go to seriously ill or traumatized children ages 0-18. The participants together made 125 blankets during the program, and we heard some amazing stories: One mom and her little son came to make a
blanket because when he was in the hospital, there was a Project Linus blanket
already laying across the bed, waiting for him when he arrived. He uses it to
this day and she wanted him to ‘pay it forward’ by making a blanket for another
child. We promoted the project ahead of time to the public and sent targeted fliers to quilting and sewing clubs and businesses in Springfield.

Kathleen O'Dell, community relations director, Springfield-Greene County, Mo., Library District


Robert Sisson's picture

Kathleen, what a great idea! It really helps the community and is a unique way to bring people together in the library. It helps kids at a very difficult time. It's inspirational. Thank you for sharing!

Robert Sisson's picture

Thank you Jenny Brewer! She emailed me for this site, I'm reposting. Jenny is the Assistant City Librarian for League City, Texas. Her unique ideas including Yahoo Contributor's Network, Etsy and web page design:

"Hi, Bob. The evolution of the program and the background that enabled me to create it are both pretty
random!  I clicked a link one day to post a story about 9/11 on Yahoo, and in the process I ended up with a registration for Yahoo Contributor’s network. I saw that you could conceivably make a few pennies doing that, and I already knew about etsy and print-on-demand, etc, and there had been an Economist article about Mechanical Turk.

I was looking to try something new in adult programming that session, and locally we had a high unemployment rate because the Space Shuttle program had ended that summer and the local
medical field was still feeling the effects of Hurricane Ike wiping out UTMB, so I wanted to do a series of programs that maybe empowered people who had been feeling trapped by circumstances. There were a lot of people who had applied for everything out there and they were just sitting around waiting for someone to decide to give them a chance.  I thought these few sites where you can theoretically earn some income immediately and on your own terms would help those people feel less disheartened.

My background: Besides Yahoo Contributors Network, I was not a regular user of any of the sites, but I
learned enough to give a tour and an overview and get students registered and set up.  For the Etsy class we also did a photography portion and set up lighting and backdrops and invited the participants to bring (limit of 2) craft items to be photographed. One of the etsy participants came back to me for
private tutoring two more times for help on her storefront graphics. I also did a follow-up session with one of the Mechanical Turk students who got into doing Chinese-to-English translations that way.

The final session was the most challenging: I helped some aspiring entrepreneurs create web pages using nothing but Notepad. I had them set up free hosting accounts and each computer was loaded with .txt files containing HTML, CSS, and PHP templates and we just went over them together and I showed them where to edit to personalize- and had them rename their personal images to match the tags I had already embedded.

That is pretty much all I can remember about the back story. Let me know if you have questions and thanks for contacting me!"

Angela Piccola (non-member)'s picture

A little late to the forum, but her ideas are very creative. I think in terms of programming, adults want to expand upon the usual language or basic computer services. I'm aware of all the websites she mentioned to make extra income and I never thought to incorporate that into adult programming. She really helped her whole community out by giving them the means and foundation to make extra money. 

Robert Sisson's picture

It's a tough economy out there! Many people are still looking for work and will take part time work if they can get it. These types of programs help the community and show that we offer more than story time and book clubs: we can help people with resumes, learning computers and starting a business. No, you're not late, thank you for writing! And, if you have worked on a public library adult program you would like to share - please write.


Robert Sisson's picture

A long break!! Thank you all for your posts and views! Tiffany Hudson thank you for joining on 7/26. Is there something you would like to share? And the rest, what are your thoughts? Thank you!