Need H.E.L.P (Highly Effective Library Programs) ?
What makes an effective library program? Is it the number of people who attend, or the quality of a program, or both? It is not enough to have a good program if no one attends it or have a program that is put together at the last minute that is well attended. As librarians compete to gain the attention and time with the multitude of other activities adults have going on, every program must matter in quality and quantity. Each program offered in or out of the library reflects back upon the reputation of that library.
Effectiveness means accomplishing a purpose or producing the expected or intended result. There are many questions to ask yourself when thinking about what constitutes a highly effective library program. How do you measure effectiveness of library programs? Is it cost versus the number of customers that attend? Is a program effective if it a great program but there is very little customer interest? Do you keep conducting the program in hopes that word of mouth will spread and the program will become popular? If you spend many hours planning a program and no one show up, at what point do you stop trying to reach an audience that is not coming? Never be afraid to experiment with new ideas and programs to see what works. It may take months before a program becomes popular; it can take time to reach the intended audience.
Is your program quality jeopardized by other demands on your time? Any program done in the library must be done with full commitment and dedication from that staff person. Some library systems may require a certain level of programming for funding requirements, but no one should just do to a program because it represents a number for their library. Effectiveness can be subjective in the eyes of a librarian, as many hours can be put into a program you might think is wonderful, but any customer could think it is so great no matter how much staff time, planning, effort, or money is put into it. Even though we may know what our customers want and offer it to them in a program, there is no guarantee they will show up for that program. If a librarian knows they put their best effort into a program and no one comes to it, don't be discouraged. You can't make everyone happy--no matter how hard your try. It may require changing the time or the day you offer the program to see if you have more luck attracting an audience.
Spending more money on a program does not make if more effective, nor does spending less money on a program make it any less effective. And speaking of money, tap into the talents and skills of your customers and see if they can do a program for you. A wide variety of programs can only help your library.
A program may be effective in the library but could be more effective if done as an outreach activity. One example of this could be a program targeted specifically to older adults. As older adults make up a larger segment of our population, not everyone can make it to the library; so going to place where older adults live can be highly effective for marketing the library and for programs for that age group. A great program that may be effective at another local library does not mean it will be effective at your library. Each community is different and it is very important to know the demographics of your community as well as what your patrons want.
We all need highly effective library programs, and by knowing what your community wants, constantly trying new ideas, and having patience along with perseverance, this can be achieved.
Susan McClellan is the Outreach Librarian at Shaler North Hills Library, Glenshaw, PA
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License