National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment, PLA, April 2, 2018
Feeling like you are being pulled in too many directions when it comes to programming? You are not alone. Programming demands time, brain power, and a mashup of many difficult skills.
“What skills or abilities do you think are necessary to successfully run public programs at libraries?”
More than 1,200 library professionals from all around the country and from all types of libraries weighed in on this question last fall as part of the NILPPA research. As we read their responses, we found nine categories of skills that came up time and again.
Top Nine Skills for Programming
- To do public programs, library workers need communication skills, including customer service, networking, public speaking, facilitation, and “people skills.” Running programs requires talking to all kinds of people in all kinds of contexts.
- Staff working in public programs also need organizational skills. We included two frequent keywords, “project management” and “time management,” in this category.
- Perhaps obviously, event planning skills came up time and again.
- To run programs at libraries, it’s important to have knowledge of the community. That means everything from listening skills and open-mindedness to intercultural and diversity skills. It also includes group-specific competencies like second language skills or knowledge of child development.
- There’s no point in running a program if nobody comes. Outreach and marketing also made the list.
- It’s also important to be creative. Unexpected challenges come up with programs all the time, and quite a few people mentioned “flexibility” and “problem-solving” as essential.
- This job function also requires financial skills: budgeting, grants, and fundraising, depending on how the library functions.
- Many of the library staffers who answered the survey emphasized evaluation skills. To assess the value of programs, library programming staff need to understand statistics, benchmarking, and how to assess a community’s needs and resources.
- Finally, we received many responses pinpointing content knowledge. For example, it’s nearly impossible to run a coding class if you don’t know how to use a computer.
A quantitative analysis generally corroborated the popularity of these categories among the responses.
What resources do you rely on to develop programs for your library?
The Programming Librarian gathered a list of nine Blogs for Programming Librarians.
The Programming Librarian has programs organized by age, budget, topic, and library type as well.
You might also check out The Sowing Seeds Librarian by Emily Zorea from the Brewer Public Library in Richland Center. Emily’s blog provides lesson plans for STEAM, storytimes and passive programs. Emily includes resource lists, cost per child (free or 30 cents or less!), and a review of each program.
-Submitted by Anne Hamland