Programming has become an essential part of library service. According to the Public Libraries in the United States Survey programming attendance has been on the increase nationwide.

As a library programmer you may specialize in a specific age group or do it all! Either way the planning, preparing, producing and evaluation of programs will have the same nuts and bolts.

The importance of year-round programming for all ages

  • Your community benefits from library programming by:
  • The library benefits from offering programs by:
    • Attracting new customers to the library
    • Increasing circulation of library materials
    • Introducing community members to your resources
    • Establishing the library as a vital part of community life
    • Creating positive publicity for the library
    • Promoting community involvement in the mission of the library
    • Establishing partnerships & collaborations with community partners.

Best practices for program planning and scheduling



  • Programming Librarian [ALA] – A place to share and browse programs, learn from fellow programming librarians and explore learning and grant opportunities.
  • ALA Programs Office  – The ALA Public Programs Office promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service.
  • Project Outcome [PLA]- Performance Outcome Measures for Public Libraries Initiative
  • Webjunction – Programming webinars/documents
  • NYS Summer Reading Program – Resources for librarians and educators to make your Summer Reading Program a success!
  • NYS Performers and Programs Database -This New York State Performers & Programs Database brings together descriptions and contact information about performers and program presenters in each region of New York State. Performers and program presenters enter, update, and maintain their own data.
  • The National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment [NILPPA] – A research project by the American Library Association – aims to develop a research agenda to understand the impacts of library public programs nationwide.
  • Programming Librarian Interest Group (PLIG) – The Programming Librarian Interest Group will help librarians advocate for programming at their own institutions, share program ideas and successful strategies, and provide a space for professional development by librarians who do programming officially and unofficially as part of their job duties.
  • MHLS Programming discussion list – A communication forum for MHLS libraries on all aspects of library programming for patrons from birth to adult, including programming for families, communities, summer reading, early literacy, family literacy, digital literacy, outreach to the community through programming , piggyback presenter opportunities and training opportunities relevant to the audience.

Identifying Program Types

We frequently define our programs by age group yet planners can gain a fresh perspective by looking at different styles of programs.

Instructional / Skill building -We often define this as a class. An environment where participants are directed by an instructor while sitting at computers or stations and come out of the experience with a finished product or new skill. Tutoring, homework help, job assistance, and writing centers would fit in to this category.

Interactive – These activities have a distinct leader but are only successful with the participation of the group. The majority of library programs fall in to this category: book discussions, storytime, movement and music, play groups, exercise groups, science club, reading dogs, reading buddies, writing groups, brain games…the list goes on and on.

Lecture / Performance -This type of program may have participant interaction but it is primarily driven by a presenter or panel offering entertainment or information. Most performers and lecture series would fit in to this category.

Passive -Passive programs are set up ahead of time and require little to no staff attention. Examples: Lego club, gaming, knitting – or similar skill sharing activities, board games, movies, exhibitions, etc.

Makerspace -Makerspaces could be characterized as Passive programs but this may be considered its own category. This self-directed learning model brings innovative and motivated users together to create, invent, build and explore.

Audience Structure

The programs your library offers are highly dependent upon the needs and interests of the people you serve. Who is your audience?


Before planning programs ask yourself, “Does age really matter?”

For instance, a computer class might be better attended if it targeted a particular skill level instead of publicizing it as an adult program. Whereas a Lapsit program should be advertised to attract a certain age group.



Intergenerational programming offers interest based activities to the community at large.

Did you know creating classes and workshops around interests often proves more successful than targeting specific age groups?   Intergenerational programs connect like-minded individuals and help form new relationships in your community.



  • Generations United
  • Public Performance Movie Site Licenses [Movie Licensing USA*] – To show movies at the library you need a public performance license. With an annual public performance site license you can show an unlimited amount of films for any aspect of programming inside the library. Outside groups in the community can also show movies in the library with this site-based license.

*If you do not currently have a license, Movie Licensing USA covers 95% of the major motion picture studios. You can join the Mid-Hudson Library System [MHLS] group buy at any time by contacting Merribeth Advocate, MHLS Assistant Director. Prices are based on number of active card holders.



Family programs encompass adults (parents and caregivers) as well as the youth they care for. This is a more specific type of an intergenerational audience.



Summer Reading- Not just for kids!

School is out and your library fills up with families looking for fun, inexpensive activities to keep everyone entertained and engaged. Although we usually equate summer reading with kids, many libraries offer summer programs for adults, families and youth as well as community challenges. Summer is a great time to let your community know what your library has to offer.

  • Collaborative Summer Library Reading Program – CSLP produces the summer reading manual provided to every member library by NYS. Create an account, it’s free, and explore all the additional resources this website has to offer.
  • Summer Reading at New York Libraries [DLD] – Access to information, resources, research, downloadable materials and online registration tools brought to you by the Division of Library Development.
  • Statewide Summer Reading Program – The official Statewide Summer Reading Program site for kids, teens, parents, planners and schools.
  • National Summer Learning Association – The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) is a national, non-profit organization focused on the powerful impact of one achievable goal: investing in summer learning to help close the achievement gap.
  • Summer Reading Program Final Report – Every member library is required to fill out the Summer Reading Program Final Report. This information is sent to the Division of Library Development and assists your library with needed statistics for the Member Library Annual Report.

Age Groups

The following program ideas are divided into specific age groups. However many program models can be adapted to different or multiple age groups and scaled down or up for smaller or larger audiences.  — Think interest and skill levels rather than age.


Youth Services programming covers birth to age 18.

Babies & Toddlers Ages Birth -5

Traditionally, early literacy programs at libraries have focused on children. Storytimes and other programs might model strategies that parents can use to develop early literacy skills, but parent education is not typically the primary intent.

The Public Library Association (PLA) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) concluded that public libraries could have an even greater impact on early literacy through an approach that focused on educating parents and caregivers. If the primary adults in a child’s life can learn more about the importance of early literacy and how to nurture pre-reading skills at home, the effect of library efforts can be multiplied many times.
~Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library

Public libraries continue to position themselves to support families, child care providers, and communities to help every child enter school ready to learn to read.
~Saroj Ghoting



Kids Ages 6 -11

This age group often referred to as school-age are just starting to develop independence and explore their own interests. Activities that expose them to new ideas and concepts can build lifelong interests. Treat them as explorers always looking for a new discovery.



Teens Ages 12 -18

Teens are not simply “older children” – they have reached a developmental stage that requires a different strategic approach in order to effectively understand, connect with and serve them.
~The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)




Adult Services programming covers ages 19 and up.

Adults Ages 19-50

Gone are the days when adult programs are solely about book groups, job help, digital literacy, investments and genealogy. Adult programs in libraries have experienced a renaissance of crafting, coloring and making.



Older Adults Ages 50+

Some library leaders are questioning the language used to label older adults, i.e., “seniors,” some are questioning the current emphasis on outreach as opposed to participatory, in-library programming, some are consulting older adults in their service areas to learn from and work with them more effectively, and some are experimenting with new partnerships and programs in lifelong learning, financial planning, re-careering and creative aging.

These changes, collectively, constitute the emergence of a movement within the library community – a movement that envisions the public library as a hub for positive aging.
~The Creative Aging Toolkit for Public Libraries



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