Don't Forget the Databases

We are big believers here in using a variety of program types to fill out our dance card. By combining active, DIY and stealth/passive programs, we create time in our schedule to

  1. serve all ages 
  2. incorporate more outreach to schools and daycares
  3. do stronger collection development
  4. blue sky and write successful grants to support new initiatives
  5. provide time for CE time for staff (PLNs, webinars, in-person attendance and networking)

So just what are these program types?

Active programs can be simply characterized as programs a staff or volunteer present or lead: storytimes, afterschool workshops, parties based on book characters or popular subjects, STEAM

DIY programs can be thought of as times or spaces devoted to kids in the library that allow them independently to manipulate materials. Think of scavenger hunts, art and craft materials set out for kids to make things, Story Action Pods, imaginative play stations for any age.

Stealth programs are those that, once prepared by staff, are totally powered by the kids and families. They provide the reading or return visits to the library. SLP is a great example we all do. 1000 Books Before Kindergarten is another great example.

We keep track of how participation/attendance is in all the programs. How many kids used the story action pod (based on number of sheets of paper used); how many bags of legos were give out at check-out for Lego Tower Build; how many children attended storytime; how many return visits were made for 1000 Books Before Kindergarten this month? These stats help us stay informed of the usefulness of each effort.

We keep a fairly simple database of our programs and numbers to help us track participation. At some libraries, an excel spread sheet works; others use a paper copy. By keeping statistics on our programs – and referring to and studying them for patterns and trends - we make informed decisions on what programs should be continued, when to end programs and the types of programs that fit best within our budget, staff time and community needs. This analysis and evaluation becomes second nature and gives us the support we need to expand, delete or add programs based on hard facts rather than supposition.

These statistics not only inform us, our director and our board, but we also report out these numbers to the state library for the state annual report. Sadly, for a long time, although we did this mix of programs, only our active program statistics and SLP participation were reported to the state for the annual report. Winter reading program? Too bad.  Lego Build effort - no way. Cookie Club? You dreamer! 1000 Books Before Kindergarten? Nope.

That was a problem. In our state youth librarians started working hard to change that dynamic. Our state library folks could see the efforts and time that went into DIY, reading programs beyond summer and passive programs that brought children and families into the library. They became champions of change in the reporting of youth program statistics. To get a peek at the results of that work in Wisconsin, check out this PDF of the new reporting system and definitions for programs.

Now ALL.THE.THINGS.COUNT. It makes it easier as a manager to justify our hard work. And it makes me glad we have our database of program stats for all types of programs that shows what happens when we reach outside the box of traditional programming and bring it to our community!

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