Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Passive, not aggressive

Oh, I do love a good passive program!

What's a passive program?

According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, "Passive programming promotes the library and its materials and services without providing a formal program at a specific time or date."

Why do I love passive programs?

1. They provide a lot of "bang for their buck". A good passive program will attract patrons to the activity and, while it may require planning, does not require a huge amount of staff time day to day.

2. They provide something for bored kids to do at your library. You know the kids I mean. Those kids who get dropped off after school or during the summer and they're bored. Passive programming can give them something to do without taking up every hour of your day.

3. They may reach a different audience than your formal programs. Jenny and Michael might not be interested in signing up for storytime, but when they see crayons and paper laid out for them they jump right in!

Passive programming can be cheap, low-key, and provide a lot of enjoyment for the kids in your library. When planning passive programs, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Statistics. Can you track how many people are participating? You could have kids come to the desk for a sticker once they've completed the program or you could keep track of the amount of supplies you're putting out. Collecting statistics will help show you what's working and what's not. And having stats to show to your boss/director/board is never a bad thing.

2. Amount of supervision needed. If you're leaving out craft supplies, it might be a good idea to place them near your reference desk to prevent coloring on books/tables/floors. Also, if preschoolers might toddle by, consider whether your craft pieces might be choking hazards.

And of course I won't leave you high and dry... here are a few of my favorite passive programs:

Hide something in your library. One summer we hid Waldo in a different spot every week with a different item of clothing on. One time we hid a cardboard cut out of the Pigeon in our library. Former coworker J printed out several different versions of the Mona Lisa and hid them around her library. Starting in September, I'll be hiding photos of authors all around the library (the author of the month is someone whose birthday is that month - September is Roald Dahl). When kids find the item(s), invite them to tell you at the reference desk and give them a small prize like a sticker.

Magnetic poetry. April is National Poetry Month, but any month can be Poetry Month with a small magnet-friendly board and a set of magnetic poetry. Put it out in your teen section and watch the poems form. (How do you take stats on this one? I don't know... maybe check it each day and count each day that the poems have been rearranged?)

Guess the book character. The summer we did Get a Clue @ Your Library, one of my coworkers came up with this program. We created silhouettes of well-known children's book characters (i.e. Frog & Toad, Amelia Bedelia, Curious George) and posted them on the wall. Any kid who guessed who they were got a small prize (a sticker or something) at the reference desk. We left each character up for a week and posted clues throughout the week.

Share a book review. Hand out or leave out forms for kids to review a book and then post the reviews on the side of your desk or on the wall or bulletin board. Alternately, have kids draw a picture about a book they have read and put it up in the library. Other kids can check out their reviews and maybe find a book they'd like to read. Adapt this for Library 2.0 and start a teen book review blog!

Help decorate the library. I mentioned before that this summer we set out crayons and paper and invited kids to create a picture to decorate the library. My advice to you is to cover the table with a table cloth. :)

So, those are a few ideas for passive programs... anyone have others they'd like to share? Sami's sharing her ideas over at Twisted Quill. What's worked for you?