If you want to help your members strengthen the cultural and community programming at their libraries, you don't have to do it alone. A number of organizations, program models, and potential partners can transform what seems like one more task you don't have the time or the resources to do into an opportunity to expand your chapter's reach and appeal.
One of the best sources of ideas is ALA's Public Programs Office, which sponsors traveling exhibits, reading and discussion programs, and author appearances at libraries (p. 41-43, this issue). These national demonstration projects offer training, resources, and programming support to libraries that apply and are accepted for participation. Chapters can play an important role in getting the message out to their members, not only by encouraging them to apply for new programs, but by using examples from past programs to build local models.
A Rhyme in Time
For example, Texas librarian Nancy Milnor Smith recently presented a Texas Library Association conference workshop based on her participation in "Poets in Person," a reading-and-discussion program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and produced by ALA's Public Programs. She invited Deb Robertson, director of Public Programs, and Rosellen Brown, a poet who also teaches at the University of Houston, to be copresenters.
The workshop, titled "A Rhyme in Time: Library Programming with Poets and Poetry," was intended to give participants the necessary skills to present their own programs with confidence. The "Poets in Person" model covers how to structure a program, choose a theme and readings, find and work with an author/ scholar/presenter, and promote the program to attract an audience.
"We've helped hundreds of libraries develop reading and discussion programs for adults," says Robertson, "and we've learned a lot. We want to make sure that as many libraries as possible share in that knowledge. A national organization like ALA can develop these demonstration projects, but state-level participation is essential to make these lessons and accomplishments a permanent part of the way libraries do business."
A group of Illinois librarians who had participated in another ALA project, "Writers Live at the Library," decided to share their experience at a recent Illinois Library Association conference. They hosted a panel, describing their experience with this Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest-funded project that brings authors from a national roster into libraries in small and medium-sized communities.
Librarians in your state who have experience with public programs are the best resource for sharing that knowledge with others. Contact ALA's Public Programs Office for a list of libraries and librarians who have participated in national projects and for additional information and opportunities for training and support in cultural programming.
Everybody wins . . .
A number of parallel local and state organizations can serve as cultural program partners for chapters, especially state humanities and arts councils, museum associations, college and university consortia, and local art or writers' groups. The Minnesota Library Association is working with the Minnesota Humanities Commission to develop conference offerings and explore reading programs for both children and adults. The Minnesota Center for the Book and Metronet, a Minnesota collaborative that spans public, school, special, and academic libraries, is bringing together community and cultural groups to support its literacy initiative, "Everybody Wins . …