How to Plan and Promote your Programs
Good programs don’t just happen. They are carefully crafted and implemented.
You can design a program to be informational, recreational, educational, or
any combination of the three. Record all details of your program from idea to
Think about logistics of the program:
- The best place to hold the program. The meeting room/children’s area/outside?
- The best day and time. There’s soccer on Saturday mornings…
- Target audience. Should it be family oriented? Best for 5th –8th grade?
- Do we have all necessary materials. Should we order more construction paper?
Programs can be designed to accomplish any or all of the following:
- Attract children to the library
- Increase children’s library usage
- Engage children in a focused activity
- Make books “come alive” for children
- Entertain and create family bonding opportunities
Programming ideas come from many areas:
- “Canned” or prepared campaigns such as ALA’s El día de los niños/
El día de los libros (April 30- day of the child/book) annual celebration with
website activities and suggestions at:
- Other libraries: either locally via personal contact during workshops,
conferences, committee meetings, etc; or universally via library journals,
websites, and listservs, etc.
- Popular culture: awareness through magazines, television, radio, etc.
- Community organizations, such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club
Keep a detailed file of ideas and past programs to refer to. This will help
in future planning or when a colleague requests help.
Program format can consist of:
- Hands-on activity (such as drawing or craft)
- Informational (dinosaur day, using Google)
- Group activities (such as trivia contests, book discussions)
- Casual drop-in (chess, board games, computer scavenger hunt, etc.)
The “Young Reader’s Choice Award” mentioned earlier, also has programming
potential. For example, host a book discussion group for either children only or
a mother/daughter style revolving around the nominees. At least make sure you
involve children/students in the voting process, which takes place each spring.
This regional award, which engages and empowers children, should not only be
featured but also actively promoted in all school and public libraries.
You can present programs yourself or make use of area talent. Often people who
have a passion for their vocation will volunteer to present a program. Sometimes
you may need to pay for a special performer.
When using area performers/talent, cover all your bases. Follow these simple
- After the initial phone or in person invitation, send a brief follow-up
letter listing date, time, address and topic; or a more formal contract for a
- Call the day/night before “just making sure [they] don’t need anything or
have any questions,” when in reality you are reminding them of their obligation.
- Be prepared to “punt” in case all your efforts go in vain and when the time
comes you have no presenter. For example, have an interesting video to show or
alternate activity set to go for your “captive” and antsy audience.
- Begin promotion well in advance and end when the program itself begins.
- Depending upon program content, engage teachers in promotion.
- Promote in many different ways and different places. Some kids pick up on
flyers, others read signs, and for still others word of mouth is best.
- Make your promotional materials visually stimulating yet simple. List the
basics and add a few enticing details then provide a line that says “for more
Make sure you make a habit of sending a “press release” to area media sources
(newspaper, TV, radio) for all major programs. A press release (typed on
letterhead) generally consists of the following:
- Headline – “For Immediate Release”
- A paragraph that answers Who, What, When, and Where
- A second paragraph that answers Why
- A paragraph that states “For further information contact______ “ (provide
name /title or “youth services department”, phone, and refer to website if you
- At bottom provide your name and phone number in case someone receiving the
press release wants more information before releasing it.
Do not be surprised if what you wrote up does not end up word-for-word in the
article or community bulletin board. Editing happens, that is why it is
important to focus on the facts and add just enough details to give them
something to pull from.
Also remember to send information to area schools and home-school
organizations to include in their regular newsletters. Who knows, perhaps a
relationship might develop between school librarian and school newsletter or
public librarian and other area newsletter where they include a regular library
installment called “from the stacks” or other such tagline.
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