Blogger Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee

Passive Programs in a Time of Transition

More of our patrons are getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and our library systems are slowly easing back to normal operating hours and codes of conduct. Children’s librarians are still walking a tightrope of safely providing services while dealing with the reality that our charges (children ages 0-12 years old) are not able to get vaccinated yet. Outdoor programming is great for families that can make it work for their schedules and register far enough in advance to avoid being put on a waitlist. However most of my families do not fit into that category.

This summer my library has maintained our focus on “take and make” crafts and projects, and put an increased amount of effort into creating engaging passive programs that families can participate in during their brief visits to pick up books and report summer reading challenge points.

Inspired by this year’s summer reading theme of Tails & Tales my branch has two displays that children can interact with. The first was created by a very talented coworker and is on our bulletin board in the children’s room. It is titled “Guess Who is Behind These Tails.” Close up pictures of different animal tails are displayed with sentences offering a clue to help them guess the identity of the owner. It has been so fun to see families discuss and debate the answers. I even had two sisters come to my reference desk asking if I could show them where books on iguanas and chameleons were so that they could use the pictures in the books to help them determine which lizard’s tail was the correct answer. For showing us their answer sheets, they get to claim a small prize. Not only does this create a fun opportunity for family engagement, each of the children are exercising their reading and writing skills as they fill out the answer sheet.

Passive Program in the children’s area of the Dayton Metro Wilmington Stroop Public Library

On our tween table, I have created a program called “Design Your Own Animal.” On the front of the sheet they have to answer a series of questions about their made-up animal’s features and habits. On the back of the sheet they get to draw a picture of their animal with colored pencils. They can then show their creation to a library worker to select a small prize. So far the submitted pictures have included everything from a one celled organism to a vegetable loving mermaid to a 20,000 pound one eyed people eating monster. This exercise once again reinforces their reading and writing skills while also giving children a chance to let their imaginations run wild.

Until there is a vaccine available for children I plan on continuing to focus a lot of my efforts on my passive programming. What are some passive programs your library is doing right now or have done in the past that have been big hits? Leave the details in the comments section so that we can all benefit from each other’s innovative ideas.

This blog post relates to ALSC Core Competencies of: I. Commitment to Client Group and III. Programming Skills.

headshot of Melissa Sokol

Melissa Sokol is a Children’s Services Librarian for Dayton Metro Library in Kettering Ohio, she is writing this blog post on behalf of the Public Awareness and Advocacy Committee.


  1. Sharon

    We have done (and will do again) a sidewalk chalk obstacle course. One of my talented coworkers drew out a space obstacle course a couple of years ago with things like a square that says spin like a planet or hop over asteroids or talk like an alien. We used a curving sidewalk along the side of the library and families could hop, squawk and twirl their way through it. It can be as simple as a square that says “hop” or as elaborate as our space one. It’s a passive activity for us but very active fun for the kids.

  2. Kary H.

    We posted an I Spy alphabet/dinosaur large format poster in our windows (facing the outside) at the same time that we had drawn an alphabet chalk hopscotch game on the sidewalk. If patrons took a picture of their child with the I Spy poster, we sent them a personalized picture of their child surrounded by lots of friendly dinosaurs!
    We also have two weekly trivia contests in the department and a voting station where young patrons can vote for the animal they think we should adopt from a nearby zoo.

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