How to Plan a Program
Just as a carefully selected YA collection is
important to meeting the special developmental needs of YAs, so too
should programming be carefully designed and implemented.
YALSA defines a program as “a library sponsored event or
activity inside or outside the library which appeals to a group rather than an
individual. A program can be informational, recreational, educational or all
three.” A program differs from a service in that services encompass all
activities offered by a library of which programming is one.
Programs are designed to:
- Attract YAs to the library
- Increase library usage by YAs
- Get YAs excited about the library and make them life-long users
- Help meet the developmental needs of YAs
- Empower YAs and give them a voice
- Demonstrate the library cares
Programming ideas come from many areas:
- “Canned” or prepared campaigns such as ALA’s “Teen Read Week”
which takes place each October. ALA provides materials such as bookmarks and
posters, as well as programming ideas to make celebrating this annual event
- Teen Advisory Board or TAB. This volunteer group, created to
assist the library in effectively reaching other YAs, regularly meets to
generate ideas on collection development, programming, and outreach, which
prove very valuable. The board concept is a program in itself.
Meetings are informal and generally include food. Each member is
encouraged to participate and the group as a whole is empowered to achieve
gains in library YA
- Other libraries: either locally via personal contact during
workshops, conferences, committee meetings, etc; or universally via library
journals, websites, listservs, books such as Excellence in Library Services
to YAs which contains numerous successful programming ideas from
around the country, all ready to replicate.
- Popular culture: awareness through magazines, television, radio,
- Community establishments catering to interests such as sports,
fashion, comics, and music.
Program format can consist of:
- Hands-on activity (such as tee shirt design, writing workshop)
- Lecture/informational (covering topics such as job seeking, health
- Group activities (such as poetry reading, book discussion)
- 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 revolving
around the nominees, or simply formally (or informally) involve the YAs
in the voting process, which takes place each spring. This regional award,
which engages and empowers (children and) YAs, should not only be
featured but also actively promoted in all school and public libraries.
Make sure you have all your bases covered. Record all
details from idea to implementation. Notify all staff about the event. Begin
promotion well in advance and end when the program itself begins. If you have a
presenter, follow these simple steps:
- 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 paid performer.
- 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”
Some final tips on planning
- Give the name some careful thought. Remember, YAs do not wish to be associated with a children’s program and they are
very trendy. Which of the following would be preferred: “Halloween Tales for
Teens” or “The Howling Blood and Guts Horror Hour”? Here too, your
teen advisory board can help.
- When scheduling, check all angles. What else is going
on in the community that evening or Saturday? Are there any
“not-to-be-missed” television shows?
- Decide the best place to hold the program. In the meeting room?
In the YA area? Outside?
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