For Public Library Youth Services staff, summer programming is often the busiest time of the year when we are most visible to our communities. As libraries around the country work to transition to new virtual summer reading and learning programs, we can still reach out to our stakeholders, show them the importance and benefit of the work we are doing, and involve them in our virtual programming.
Here are some tips to make the most of programming with your stakeholders during this time:
- Find out what your library’s procedures are for reaching out to stakeholders first and get the support of your manager.
- Learn about your stakeholders’ interests before reaching out to them. For instance, if you are contacting members of your City Council or Library Board, try to find out what issues they are already passionate about, such as equity, sustainability, or education, and brainstorm ways you can tie these topics into your program proposal.
- Keep stakeholders’ commitments in mind when planning programming with them. Many things are changing rapidly in our communities and this means the schedules, responsibilities, and priorities of many stakeholders are changing as well. Stakeholders may not be able to commit to live programs and they may need to change days and times at the last minute. Be prepared to be flexible.
- Look ahead and ensure you have the necessary technology, resources, and permissions to host a program before you suggest it as a possibility to your stakeholders. For instance, if you want to record a Spanish language storytime with a community leader and post it on Youtube, first determine: where and how you can record the storytime; if you are allowed to post this content to your library’s Youtube page; and if you have access to Spanish language books whose publishers permit their reading in Youtube videos. The last thing you want is to sell a stakeholder on an idea and then not be able to follow through.
- Be prepared to do all the planning. Stakeholders want the events they participate in to be successful, but they often don’t have a lot of time to offer. They are counting on you and your expertise to work out the details and ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Advertise your program everywhere you can and tag or send links to your stakeholders. One benefit to stakeholders in programming with the library is positive visibility in the community. Promoting your program heavily will help draw a great crowd, make your library’s programs and services more visible, and give your stakeholders more opportunities to share your event and library information on their platforms.
During this summer unlike any other, remember it is okay to not be an expert yet at virtual programming, and it is okay to admit this to your stakeholders. Not having all the answers does not mean your program won’t be a success. We are all learning, evolving, and trying our best, even our community leaders!
This post addresses the Core Competencies of III. Programming Skills and V. Outreach and Advocacy.
Diana Price is a member of the ALSC Advocacy and Legislation Committee. She is the Central Library Youth Services Manager for Alexandria Library in Alexandria, Virginia.