One of the big changes in my work this year is how much programming I’m doing – like events programming, not code programming. We’re working deliberately to invite students and teachers to the library for different reasons than “I need a book,” because it’s kind of crucial to break out of the book-warehouse perception. So this year we’ve run a gaming event (which we will repeat), we’re hosting an Hour of Code next week, and we’ll offer a pop-up library (similar to this) during lunch one day right before our winter break.
The events themselves are fun. I really like having students in who aren’t “frequent flyers,” and I love love LOVE the chance to incorporate informal learning and help our community think bigger about it. I do not like the marketing piece. I don’t even particularly enjoy the planning process, though I recognize that it’s necessary. Here are some lessons I’ve learned, just since September, about getting programming off the ground.
- Find a partner. Both the games event and our code event are coming from the library AND another entity in the school. The moderator for our Chess Club was instrumental in the gaming day (he even stayed to play RISK for a few hours after school), and a colleague in our tech department really got planning for the coding event underway. Having someone to work with may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a challenge if (like many librarians) you’re a department of one. It requires a little creativity, a little openness to ideas, and a LOT of flexibility, plus maybe some extra effort to build those connections – but it removes some of the risk and pressure of running an event for the first time.
- Get help where you know you need it. This isn’t just following the right channels of communication for your school; take advantage of the talents of those around you, rather than trying to do the parts you hate on your own. I’m lucky to work with a library aide who NOT ONLY thinks much differently than I do (and is therefore a great sounding board for communicating ideas), BUT ALSO is talented at graphic design and makes all the promo posters for the library. I’m not as good at those processes, or as fast, and I know that what she does with that work will be better than what I would do.
- Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know. I tend to feel like I’m supposed to be an expert at everything – when I might be close to expertise on about two things, maybe. (We can analyze that another time, OK?) Though I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the deep end without planning or research, sometimes it makes sense to learn a little and then try something. If it fails, well, you’ve learned something there. If it’s a success, you can build on it.
Any tips or program ideas that you’d like to share?