While analyzing statistics recently, I discovered that in the past five fiscal years (2007 – 2011), the number of programs offered by Nebraska public libraries has increased by 24.4% and attendance has risen 22.2%. During the same period circulation increased a total of 5%, but actually declined very slightly the past two years.
When I saw these figures, I was reminded of a column by John Berry in the June 19, 2012 issue of Library Journal that carried the title, “The Programming Explosion.” Berry points out the tremendous increase in public library programs and the wide variety of subjects being addressed, using San Diego County Library as an example. This trend, he suggests, is transforming many public libraries into genuine community centers and attracting more people to become regular customers of their local library.
So, what does this have to do with planning? Well, I believe this trend indicates that library directors, staff, and trustees planning for the future should pay particular attention to the programming needs in their community. What is happening in the village, the city, or the county that suggests a programming topic? Will traditional library programs, such as story times and summer reading fill the bill, or is there a need to add courses on topics like digital literacy, language instruction, understanding E-government, or job-searching techniques?
This is just part of a larger discussion about the role of your public library in the future of your community that needs to be part of the planning process.