What makes a library program successful?

Ever since starting my job in adult programming at the library I’ve been thinking about what makes a library program successful.  It’s not something that can easily be pinpointed.   Much of programming success seems to be hinged on the number of people that attend the program and the number of people who sign up, but I question whether this truly is an indication of success.  Can’t a small program be successful, possibly even more successful than a large program?  I think it all depends on how you define success when it comes to library programming.

The last two programs I have done I consider to be successful.  Heritage Day was a success since we had so many people attend our booth – I think there must have been over 400% increase from the previous year at Heritage Day.  The difference seemed to me was that people actually were able to recognize the pictures of the town that I had put up and another thing was that I had some really good prize giveaways which no doubt helped.  Also, the museum is running a contest so people in the town are becoming more aware and interested in local history.

I also arranged for our archivist to do a talk on local history and advertised that through a number of local channels for free.  That is one of the perks of working in a library is that advertising is generally free, just that there is very little budget to try to run programs.  Also, you never know if what you want advertised will end up in the local papers or not, but that’s part of getting things for free.  Anyway, I ran the local history program during the day and had 13 people attend – some drove more than half an hour to attend the program and all wrote on the reviews that they enjoyed the presentation and one even wrote that they would like to see it become a series.  I also had people e-mailing me that they want this program to be offered again during the evenings.  Funny enough though, in the past this same program has had to be canceled due to lack of community interest.  I am not sure if there is such an incredible change within the community, or if it is to do with different advertising technique, or if its just a different face running programming.  Is there any way to know?

Also, I wonder to myself…  is success simply getting more people to come into the library?  I argue that it is not.  Getting someone to come into the library for a program is not enough, you need to get them to become a library user and to return to the library.  That way there is a real increase in library users rather than an increase in one-time library usage by individuals.  How do we do that though?

I try to put out books that are related to the program that is running and sometimes this works, other times it does not.  I talk to people and find out what they are interested in and see if I can find something that meets their interests.

How do you get people involved in coming to library programs?  Does advertising work?  Which advertising works the best?  I am still trying to figure it out.  If anyone has any tips please let me know!


2 responses to “What makes a library program successful?

  1. Measuring success when it comes to programming is always tricky – library or not! It’s a fine balance between the number of attendees, what they take away from the experience, and whether or not they come back.

    Do your reviews have any space for feedback about things like whether or not the event would make the attendee return to the library in the future? If they felt that the library was more important than it was before hand? Whether or not they already were a library user, etc? Very often, people tend to review the event in isolation of the entire organisation.

    Regardless, it sounds like you’re doing great things! Sorry that we don’t have any of the same classes this year (and that we appear to be on different days!). Hope to see you around,

  2. Hi Dwayne; thanks for the tips! I really appreciate it. Our reviews currently don’t ask those questions, so maybe I’ll look into changing them up into the future. I’ll have to open up some performance measures essays and texts. I hope your library KOHA project is going well and that you are enjoying and learning lots in your classes this term. Also, hope to see you around at FIS too. Cheers, Krista

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