Library Kitchens and Cooking Programs

Jennifer Peterson /

Image courtesy St. Charles Parish Library

Frequently we spot posts on Facebook groups, like ALA Think Tank or the Programming Librarian Interest Group, that get us really excited. Today was one of those days, when we saw a question posted by someone whose library has just opened a renovated meeting room with a commercial kitchen. She is looking for programming ideas for their kitchen space, including success (and horror!) stories and potential partners. In addition to the wonderful responses to her question on Facebook, we collected a few ideas we've heard about here. Some of these programs have been hosted elsewhere in the community, in other kitchens, but all could certainly be hosted at a library with its own kitchen!

  • On WebJunction, as part of our Health Happens in Libraries project, we've shared two case studies, Healthy Foods Competition Heats Up at Crandon Public Library and St. Charles Parish Library Address Food Insecurity with Personal Support.
  • Kitchen Creations at the Library, a presentation from the 2013 Big Talk From Small Libraries Conference, with Lee Schauer, director at the Rock Springs Public Library in Wisconsin.
  • WebJunction/Library Journal webinar, Culinary Literacy: A Library Recipe for Cooking Up Literacy and Community, with Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Culinary Literacy Specialist, and 2016 Library Journal Mover & Shaker.
  • Meadowridge Library Kitchen at Madison Public Library.
  • From the Hartford Public Library in Connecticut, two kitchens, the Kitchen at Hartford Public Library (closed in 2021) and the Kitchen at Billings Forge, with cafés and a farm-to-table catering business that offers job skills training and high-quality employment opportunities.
  • In our Social Library series, we featured the Napa County Library for their Pozole Contest, the Suwannee River Regional Library System for their Recipe Exchange and the Fair Lawn Public Library for their Recipe Club.
  • How To Start a Baking Club at the Library, School Library Journal, 3/21/17
  • And here are a handful of the ideas that have been posted so far to the groups on Facebook. THANK YOU to all who have shared these wonderful ideas:
    • For potential caterers in your community who don't have kitchens of their own, and they might be willing to volunteer to teach a class or two.
    • Class in canning or preserving taught by a local expert.
    • For others who could teach classes (in addition to local Extension Office), high school or community college cooking programs (students or teachers), and local grocery stores or restaurants frequently have someone who will come in and do cooking demos.
    • Inventory the people with cooking skills in your area... bread person? pie maker? Someone who does pickles or jam? If you think they could do a program (or even if you think they could tell you about what they do and you make it more "class-friendly" (think of those celebrity chefs who have their mothers on the show) I think you should give that a try.
    • Make dog biscuits for a local shelter (partner with the shelter for a read to dogs program).
    • Check in with folks at the farmers market and any local cultural societies (e.g. Scandinavian association)
    • A program on preparing freezer meals for the crockpot.
    • Cooking with teens - the big issue was what to do while things cooked, leaving us to either only make very simple and quick dishes or figure out something to keep them busy. Now, we do "Dinner & a Movie" so we can have the kids prepare their own supper (meatloaf & mashed potato, personal pizzas, lasagna & garlic bread, etc.), then we stick it in the oven & go start a movie. I serve while they watch, and use volunteers & any stragglers to do final cleanup.
    • Invite dietitians from local grocery stores or hospital nutritionist to do programs.
    • Local cookbook authors.
    • A class on How to Clean the Oven.
    • The FDA has a grant out this spring for community outreach teaching people how to eat more nutritious meals. You may try WIC dietitians at a local clinic who may have funding and personnel willing to help as well.

If you're not yet a member of these active groups on Facebook (ALA Think Tank and Programming Librarian Interest Group), we encourage you to join and share your ideas, or as always feel free to share comments below, or on WebJunction's Facebook page.