As I mentioned back in early August, I’ve been trying to relaunch my library’s adult programming. Since then I’ve held two programs, set up a third, and sketched out ideas for 15 or so more. I’ll probably learn so much more as time goes on, but I thought I would record some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. Remember, I’m a beginner, so don’t laugh when it comes to my relative ignorance. I will say that I had nightmares about both thanks to all the stress. This has made it really difficult to get excited about planning events, but really I just have to learn to stop putting so much pressure on myself. As Woody Allen says, “80 percent of success is showing up.” Just by having programs, I am calling our programming at least an 80% success, especially since we had roughly zero last year. While it is up to me to get that number as high as I can, it’s nice to rely on at least some measure of success just by having an event for people to show up to. Now I only have 20 more percent to go to reach my lofty goals for myself, so wish me luck! Continue reading
Well, as usual, I find that I get so busy at work that I have little time or motivation to keep up this blog. A whole bunch of stuff has kept me busy, but one thing has kept me busy more than others: Library programming.
Programming is the joy and bane of many a librarian, and I am no different. Going above and beyond to offer that next level of service for our patrons is important, but the stress of planning a program can be overwhelming. How will I decide what will draw a crowd? How do I get a speaker to share their knowledge, hopefully for free? Will anyone show up? Will someone complain to the director that my program sucked and they plan to never come to the library again because of it? (I’ve had an actual nightmare about that one!)
And yet, when a program is successful, it feels amazing. And really, as long as one person gets one thing out of a program, it’s a success? Right? There are many ways to rate a program, so many in fact that the topic warrants its own blog post (or many). Thinking about how to define “failure” in terms of programs can be problematic, but worse is refusing to have a program because you are afraid of the many ways a program can be deemed a failure.
According to a chapter in the Library Innovation Toolkit: Ideas, Strategies, and Programs that aims to incorporate Zen teaching into library program planning:
“Nonattachment helps us to try out new ideas even if we may fail, to freely share and collaborate, and to move on when necessary.” p. 9
If you don’t define your identity by your ideas for a program, then it isn’t a huge hit if your program isn’t a success. Why is this important? For me, I find planning programs to be a bit paralyzing. I immediately become a hundred percent committed to and excited about each program idea, often causing me to think of all the possible ways it can (or in my mind, will) fail. I don’t want to see something like that fail, so I sometimes just give up and don’t plan the program at all, choosing instead to stay in the safety net of the tried and true programs that previous colleagues have found successful here.
But this sort of thinking severely limits innovation. Our lives are built around the idea that through failure, we learn. So programming is all about learning to face the fear and being okay with failing. With that in mind, I’ve planned two programs, one in August and one in October. One features local authors and one educates patrons about the importance of bat populations (Get it? Halloween? Bats? Never mind). One or both may fail, but the important thing is to try. Strike that. The important thing is to do:
A library science student came to the library today for help with a project that was quite similar to one I did while pursuing me own degree. In both you have to visit libraries in person and evaluate their services, as well as compare and contrast them. One of her questions was this: What is the mission of your library and who do you serve? My library’s mission statement stresses the need to meet both the entertainment and educational needs of my county’s residents, as well as patrons who come to us from the surrounding areas. As a huge supporter of lifelong learning (it is the source of inspiration for my blog’s name), I love my library’s focus on education. During my conversation with the student, I realized that many have a very narrow understanding of education. Generally, people see education as the structured process by which people earn a piece of paper that certifies that they learned something. This student can be forgiven for her misplaced focus because she is actually a teacher going for her library media specialization, but that’s not how I view lifelong learning at all. Instead, I believe learning is any knowledge acquired through experiences, whether those experiences be reading, watching, listening, or interacting. So when I say the library can support learning, I mean we can support it in more than just providing educational books or movies. Instead, I think the library has a vital role in teaching through example. Although, I think every business has the opportunity to better the world in this way. I was disheartened to see this headline in my own state: “Mother Says Bob Evans Customer Called Police On Her Son With Autism.”
Those with ASD we can help by accepting and understanding. The American Library Association offers an array of resources focuses on serving those that are different from us in a way that helps our other patrons be more aware and accepting. Here is a list of more resources:
- Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transexual Roundtable: This subsection of ALA focuses on those whose gender identity differs from the “norm” (I hate that term!), although the norm is thankfully beginning to be more inclusive of everyone.
- Youth Services and ASD: This link further discusses the role libraries can serve those with ASD, especially youth.
- Diversity: Libraries can serve as powerful advocates for supporting diversity inside and outside the library. It’s our differences that make us beautiful, whether our differences are visible or under the service, they should be embraced and celebrated.
President Barack Obama reiterated this week his continued support for libraries. He also announced an initiative to increase access to digital books for children across America. As Obama stated:
“America’s librarians connect our kids to the books and learning resources that inspire us to dream big, and ensure that we set off on a lifetime of learning. And right now, not enough kids have access to those vital learning resources.”
The interview was given at a public library in D.C. and the kid given the task of interviewing the president is incredibly cute. Mr. Obama used the event to outline the two initiatives aimed at supporting childhood literacy: The Open eBooks initiative and the ConnectED Library Challenge. Here’s how the Institute of Museum and Library Services summarize of the programs (IMLS provides grants that promote leadership and advancement of museum and library services):
“The Open eBooks initiative will make over $250 million in popular e-books from major publishers available, for free, to children from low-income families via an app. …ConnectED Library Challenge is a commitment by more than 30 communities to work to put a library card into every student’s hand as soon as they enter school.”
A recent reference interaction taught me a valuable lesson last week. That’s the wonder of working in a library: While there are inevitably the same interactions, there is always something new to challenge you. Mixing the familiarity and comfort of answering the same questions with the adrenaline rush of magically discovering the answer to an impossible question gives me perfect job satisfaction. Here is an example of an “impossible” reference interview: