In May, the Children & Technology committee presented a We Are ALSC Chat (WAAC) on the topic of hybrid programming in libraries. Our committee was inspired to host this conversation because the evolving nature of library programming (primarily in public libraries) has been a recurring theme in our own committee meetings throughout this term. We were also excited to bring in other library professionals as guests who have expertise, and a variety of experiences on the subject. The conversation was robust, and just what we were hoping for! Below are a few takeaways.
Defining “Hybrid Programming”
To start this conversation, we wanted to name that the term “hybrid programming” itself does not have one definition. It might mean live streaming, providing at-home kits, offering post-attendance incentives, brainstorming activities that have both virtual and in-person opportunities, and more. The underlying key to success being hands-on engagement and interactivity regardless of the model!
We also wanted to share ideas for specific hybrid programs that have been successful in our own libraries. These were some of the great programs that were mentioned during the chat – as you can see, there is a wide range of possibility in what can be done:
- Virtual cooking demonstrations with take-home kits
- Craft kits of any variety
- Dungeons & Dragons games – a program that has benefitted from virtual, and expanded cross-branch opportunities
- A virtual comics chat where patrons who visit the library afterwards get a free comic book to take home
- Virtual safaris, with a take-home birdwatching guide component
- In-person/live streamed storytimes over Zoom, that are then recorded and posted to the library’s social media
- Author takeovers of a library’s social media – families submit questions for the author ahead of time, and the author records videos answering them
- Games that can be played both in-person, and virtually (such Jeopardy, Kahoot, scavenger hunts, and escape rooms)
Accessibility & Hybrid Programming
One major benefit of hybrid programming that we wanted to acknowledge is the increase in accessibility that it affords. For patrons, this ranges from parents, and caregivers being able to attend evening programs after their children have gone to sleep, the possibility for patrons to attend events without figuring out transportation, and being able to attend events (such as those listed above) that aren’t even being hosted in one’s local branch! From the librarian’s standpoint, offering hybrid programs means the ability to collaborate much more easily with other branches, and maximize offerings for programs like summer reading. This is especially advantageous for smaller libraries, which can now expand their reach beyond just the local community, and also benefit from resources being offered within their larger systems. Online programs can also be easily recorded – meaning it is much easier to build an archive of successful events that can be re-posted, re-used, or re-watched by patrons at any time. In an increasingly digital world, the “hybrid,” or interactive aspect of these programs is also necessary in helping patrons stay social & connected – rather than siloed in a one-way viewer format. At the same time, hybrid programming also provides opportunity for in-person engagement, which remains vital for families with limited digital access.
Overall, there was a consensus throughout this WAAC that libraries should strive to keep hybrid programs in existence, and argue for retaining some version of a hybrid event model despite potential pushback for a return to all in-person events. We hope people understand that the benefits of accessibility outweigh cutting hybrid programs completely.
Challenges such as smaller attendance sizes can be mitigated by hosting hybrid ‘series’ of programs so that patrons become familiar with the format, brainstorming creative ways of evaluating what a “successful” hybrid program means, and promoting hybrid programs for the right audiences, on the right platforms. All three of these challenges might mean re-imagining what successful programming has looked like in the past, but as leaders in emerging technologies (even before the pandemic forced librarians to shift gears), libraries are in the perfect position to tackle them. We also think there is potential for bringing successful aspects of hybrid programming into future in-person events. For example, using a video platform during an in-person program so that closed captioning is still available for attendees. The abundance of tech skills librarians learned during the past few years are absolutely transferable into any future, and it would be a shame for them to go to waste as things return to how they were in the past.
As an attendee stated during the conversation’s conclusion: “When it comes to public libraries, children’s librarians are the vanguard.” We fully agree!
About The Author
Manuela Aronofsky is one of the Children & Technology committee co-chairs. She is also the Middle School Technology Integrator and Digital Essentials teacher at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her MLIS from Pratt Institute in December 2019. More info at manuelaaronofsky.com.