Earlier this year my colleagues and I decided to boldly step into the world of passive programming in order to serve our busy patrons. Passive programming encompasses a variety of types of programs that allow patrons to participate with minimal to no staff direction. Often they allow for varying amounts of patron involvement and/or time commitment. On the spectrum of passive programming you can have something as simple as a jigsaw left out on a table for communal puzzling or as complex as a forensic science program with clues, activity stations, and prizes for participants who figure out the culprit. We’ve found that passive programming not only increases participation, but also caregiver-child interaction and exploration.
Thinking of trying passive programming? Here are some of the pros:
- Less staffing at the time of the program.
- Flexible length (a day/week/month) allows you to serve a large number of patrons
- Easy to save, reuse, modify
- Can draw in people who don’t necessarily like to be in a group setting
- Customizable to the individual – self paced, self guided
On the other hand, there are some cons to keep in mind:
- Often requires more prep time
- Younger kids who cannot read may need an adult to help them
- Difficult for groups with lots of kids and few adults (One way to work around this is to put multiple activities in the same space)
- Some people are hesitant to do the program because it’s not what they’re used to, but this can be overcome by a friendly and welcoming explanation.
As you plan your program, here are a few elements to consider:
- Keep your coworkers in the loop so they can help patrons
- Make the space welcoming (signage, music)
- Think about your target age range
- Provide modifications for age levels if possible/appropriate
- It’s ok to step away and let patrons figure things out
- Signage and instructions -Enough that patrons can complete and reset activities, but not so much that they feel overwhelmed by text Check in during the program to clean up, check supplies, etc.
- Having a “prize” for completion gives you a chance to interact with participants and glean feedback
If you can think it, you can probably figure out a way to make it a passive program. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Staff Recommendation Bookmarks
- Question of the Week: Posted in the foyer each week, kids get a prize for guessing the answer at the info desk
- Who Stole the Cookies?: Forensic Science
- In Your Own Words Display: Our big glass display case is divided into sections, each one showing a scene from a well-known children’s story, such as The Three Little Pigs or The Tortoise and the Hare. Signage encourages caregivers and children to retell the story with one another
- Superhero Training Day (Recycled as The Batman Academy)
- Animal Obstacle Course
- Monster Hunt
- Harry Potter (Recycled in December and called Holidays at Hogwarts)
- A Day in Wonderland
- Animal-ology: Animal Science
- Art Heist
- Mission: Spy Secrets
- Out of This World: Outer Space Science
For more information, check out the Prezi from a recent passive programming training my colleague Kahla Gubanich and I presented.
I hope this post has given you some new ideas and encouraged you to explore passive programming. What kind of passive programming do you do at your library? Anything you’ve been hoping to try?
Our guest blogger today is Amy Seto Musser. Amy has her MLS from Texas Woman’s University and is a children’s librarian at the Denver Public Library. She is always on the look out for creative ways to incorporate the arts into children’s services and programming to extend books beyond the page. Check out Amy’s blogs: http://picturebookaday.blogspot.com/ & http://chapterbookexplorer.blogspot.com/
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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