Blogger Chelsey Roos

How Do You Choose Your Next Project?

How do you decide what programs and projects to bring to your library each year? For the last five years, I’ve had a lot of projects I’ve wanted to do “someday.” A tiny sampling from my giant list includes:

  • A librarian get-together for all the area school library staff once a semester
  • A toddler process art class
  • Creative writing classes for elementary and middle schoolers
  • A book club for our 1-3 graders
  • A storytelling festival
  • A monthly parenting seminar featuring local experts and resources
  • A back-to-school night for area teachers to visit the library and pick up free books to build up their classroom libraries
  • So, so much more
Chelsey Roos stands in front of a white screen and red curtains, gesturing while telling a story.
In a previous library job, we hosted a Storytelling Festival where staff, professional storytellers, and local kids all came together to tell tales. I’d love to bring that tradition to my new library.

Big Dreams, Little Programming Space

All of these projects have remained dreams instead of realities, because no matter how hard I try, I can’t do everything (can you relate?). I work for a public, county library, at a busy branch where I’m one of a children’s staff of two (sometimes two and a half). We have one programming room which we share with not just all the other library programs (and the members of the public who book it) but library administration and other county agencies. Finding an available time slot for the room, when I’m not covering the desk, and when I have time to plan, prep, put on, and clean up the program requires a series of mental gymnastics they should have taught in grad school!

But Coronavirus has forced us to stop all our in-person programming and most of our projects for the last year (my library has been closed for the entirety of the pandemic), and now that we’re slowly working on a reopening plan, it’s time to decide what programs and projects can and should return, what changes we should make, and what just isn’t feasible this year (or possibly ever again).

For example, two of our biggest programs, Baby Prom (usually in May) and our Halloween Trick-or-Treat Parade, are off the table this year – they usually attract 200-300 patrons, a no-go until we reach a level of safety I don’t see happening this calendar year. Other, smaller programs, like our STEAM Lab, often only attract around 50-100 patrons. These could probably be scaled down to safe numbers for our space by requiring registration, but I’ve always been loathe to do so – I like to keep access to programs as open and equitable as possible, and try not to plan anything where someone would be turned away.

A toddler sits with her back to the camera in a red push car labeled "Baby Limo." Text beneath reads: "This Program is Bananas: Baby Prom Edition."
Baby Prom is such a popular program at my library that it’s my go-to example of a giant, chaotic event (that’s also a blast).

And then there’s my big list of dreams at the top – can any of these be made a reality when we start to open our doors again? If so, I have to decide which ones can makes the cut, and which ones will stay on the “someday” list.

How Do You Meet Your Community’s Needs?

Whether your library has been opened, closed, or a mix during this pandemic, have you changed what you prioritize for your programs and projects? How do you find out what your community needs, and match that up with your own skills/area experts/general mental bandwidth? When you’re able to return to in-person programming, or if you already have, what changes are you making? 

As for my library, our programs are staying all virtual for now, so we have the luxury of planning time like never before. If only it were under other circumstances.

Headshot of blogger Chelsey Roos

Today’s guest blogger is Chelsey Roos. Chelsey has been a member of ALSC’s Advocacy and Legislation committee, and is currently a children’s librarian at the Castro Valley Branch of the Alameda County Library.

This blog relates to ALSC Core Competencies of III. Programming Skills

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