Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We Could All Learn a Thing or Two from the Children's Librarian

After our discussion in class, I've been thinking about library programs for adults. Why did so many have a bad or so-so experience? That seems like missed opportunities on the part of the libraries in my opinion.

The program I attended was interesting, but there were no librarians present. There were no library books. It didn't really feel like a library program. It made me wonder if readers' advisory and reference librarians should be talking with children's librarians a bit more.

Children's librarians, I feel, on average are better programmers. I think children's programming is more expected in libraries than adult programs which may be the main reason for that. I mean the preschool storytime is a library staple. But children's librarians know how to engage their audience. They know how to entertain while educating. They know how to promote their collection. They know how to get people to come back for more programs. It seems to me that librarians who program for adults could learn a thing or two from children's librarians.

Now, I'm not suggesting that there should be adult storytimes that begin with the group singing "Mr. Golden Sun" followed by the librarin sitting in her rocking chair reading a picture book. I don't think that'd go over too well with an adult audience. However, there are aspects of a children's program that could work very well with adults. A good storyteller can be enjoyed by any age. The story may be made more sophisticated, but a storyteller telling an engaging story can be an enjoyable program for adults.

Another children's activity that translates well for adults is crafts. Crafts do seem to be in several programs I have seen listed at different libraries, whether it be sculpture building or watercolor, arts and crafts are an activity enjoyed by any age.

The main thing though that I have seen children's librarians excel at is promoting their collection. They'll have books available for check-out lined up near the door. They'll have books related to the program in hopes that someone will be intrigued by the program and want to learn more. I've also seen children's librarians create handouts or bookmarks that they pass out at the end of a program with a list of similar titles that program participants may be interested in.

There may be many librarians who program for adults out there who excel at creating programs, but from personal experience this has not been the case. I feel more like their created to fill space. Their created on the fly almost. Whereas the children's programs I have seen are full of energy and well thought-out activities. It just seems to me that more of that joy of the library should be able to translate for adults as well.


  1. Yesterday, I watched 10 enthralled children waving streamers, singing songs, listening to stories, and coloring. Some even asked us to hang their pictures for them. Part of what I did was go through the section and put books on display to replace the ones that had been taken -- probably a good third of the books on display. Kids, as a whole, appear to be tremendously excited that anyone is interested in what they're interested in. Maybe adults are just too busy or more jaded, but the service appears to be a much bigger draw than the books; I've seen a lot of adults go away mad because we didn't have a book that was released that day, and they wouldn't consider anything else. I don't know if it's the programming; I tend to think we reach some critical mass of knowledge and become more selective. But the joy just isn't there anymore for some folks, and that makes me sad. And determined.

  2. craftsssss!!!!!! i would so go to a craft thing! and you are right, i feel that a lot of times there just isn't as much enthusiasm in certain libraries when it comes to their adult programs. i know nyc is a completely different story from indiana stuffs, but they should be used as a pattern to follow- the amount of free activities (there have been operas, plays, meet-and-greets... all sorts of stuff!), author readings and displays set up is amazing and not what i was used to. love it!