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#4 - Cultural programs and exhibits. Developing Success Factors For Illinois public libraries Researching Communities to Prepare for the Future Created by: Mary Wilkins Jordan, [email protected] Agenda. 1. Introduction. 2. Goals for the session. 3. Case studies.

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4 cultural programs and exhibits

#4 - Cultural programs and exhibits

Developing Success Factors

For Illinois public libraries

Researching Communities to Prepare for the Future

Created by: Mary Wilkins Jordan, [email protected]


1. Introduction

2. Goals for the session

3. Case studies

4. Conclusion


In Developing Success Factors, we look at the attributes that people across Illinois said were most important to them for their library.

Cultural programs and exhibits may seem a less typical service, but was one of the top five responses in the Researching Communities to Prepare for the Future study.

Discussing these attributes within your library helps hone your own skills and keep yourself at peak efficiency.

goals for this session
Goals for this session



Language &

Ethnic identity

Kids and YA

What is going on in your community? Tie in with the: Museums

Park service

Famous citizens

Book clubs can be fun. Learning to paint can express some latent creativity!

What do kids want?

What do their parents want?

Focus on getting them into the library – tailor to THEIR interests.

Tech is a good hook!

This is great if you have a lot of new people in your community.

Think food, music, parties!

Bring in everyone to include them!

what are we talking about here
What are we talking about here?

Just saying the word “culture” brings up a whole host of potential ideas people have about the definition.

Here, we will be using it very inclusively: the idea is to provide things to bring people to your library. Those things may include:

  • Poetry slams or Shakespeare readings,
  • Pre-school finger painting or Art Historians discussing a new collection at the museum,
  • Discussions of cultures of new people in the community
  • Learning about people who lived there a hundred years ago
  • Display of local quilts
literature art music

This is a great opportunity to partner with other organizations in your community!

  • If you have local museums, art galleries or high school music programs, they could be your partners!
  • Working together to put on programs, at your library or their location, helps both of you – more people and more publicity!

Grant organizations LOVE it when you partner with others, it helps your fundraising.

book clubs not a novel idea
Book clubs – not a novel idea!

Of course, we are best known for our books – so featuring books and book-related programs is a natural for libraries!

Many libraries have book clubs meeting in the library, but consider going outside the traditional box to increase participation:

  • Meet in the evening and have refreshments
  • Meet at local businesses during lunch hours
  • Meet on weekends
  • “Meet” online – either chatting and/or setting up bulletin board discussion rooms
cultural programming
Cultural programming

Because this was such a highly-rated idea by the participants in our study, consider working more cultural programming into libraryschedules.

  • Bringing in visual artists to draw, paint, or sculpt while patrons watch and ask questions
  • Inviting in musicians for short concerts, with different styles of music
  • Setting up knitting/quilting groups
  • Organizing one-shot classes: participants get to actually create art, write music, chalk the sidewalks -whatever cultural and artistic opportunities you and your partners can think to bring people in the library!
language ethnic identity
Language & Ethnic identity

As communities across Illinois become more multi-cultural, celebrating language and ethnic differences is a great way to bring people into the library!

  • People of different ethnic backgrounds like to see their heritage respected and celebrated
  • Others can learn about all the different ethnic groups represented in Illinois
  • Ethic groups of all kinds tend to have clubs, newspapers or houses of worship in common; these can be great places to connect to bring in patrons to the library.
think you serve a homogonous community probably not
Think you serve a homogonous community? Probably not!

Learning some basic cultural and language skills will help make staff more effective in providing quality customer service to the community. What is your community’s makeup?

Data from 2000 Census in Illinois: total population approximately 12,600,620 people

  • Native American: 31,006, (mostly Chicago)
  • Black/African-American: 1,876,875
  • Hispanics/Latinos: 1,530,262
  • Asian: 423,603
  • Pacific Islanders: 4,610

In 2000, 1,529,058 persons in Illinois were foreign born (12.3% of the total population), including 389,928 Europeans, 359,812 Asians, 731,397 from Latin American countries, 26,158 Africans, and 2,553 from Oceanic countries

kids and young adults
Kids and Young Adults

Many libraries already target these populations with programming, such as summer reading programs.

As with other types of cultural programming, think of new ideas to bring these kids in, along with their parents!

  • Hosting poetry slam nights at the library
  • Setting up computer classes which help kids learn about cultural resources online
  • Organize digital camera picture-taking training
  • Bringing authors, artists, musicians in for visits
  • Gaming night, both electronic and board games
talk to parents and teachers
Talk to Parents and Teachers!

Find out what things parents would like to see their kids and YAs learn in the library.

What kinds of experiences would encourage them to bring their kids – and maybe stay themselves??

Talk to local schools; what kinds of things are they doing that you could partner with, or use to springboard your own programming?

Working with English, art or music teachers can help you build your displays, set up programs and exchanges, and connect with this population.

talk to kids and yas
Talk to kids and YAs!

This group has some very strong opinions on things they want, so do not forget to ask!

Assuming, or forcing things they “should” want can leave you with a lot of spare time on your hands as kids drift away from the library

Using technology is a great way to hook in these populations!

  • Writing their own book reviews, stories, or even entire books, to be published online
  • Filming dances they choreograph, or plays they produce
  • Recording podcasts to be downloaded and enjoyed by other kids, or even parents! 
next up case studies
Next up: Case Studies

A couple of case studies are presented next. These are common issues in the library world, but should inspire some discussion.

You can answer these individually, but there may be more value in sharing your ideas with a larger group – your department or with the library as a whole.

Even if a situation is presented that is not currently a problem in your library, it is helpful to think through a solution – maybe something different that you are trying now, or something which may help you in the future.

case study 1
Case Study #1

Your local high school English teacher contacts the library. He is trying to interest the kids in his classes in poetry and wants to encourage them to write and speak in public. He would like to host a poetry reading night at the library, giving kids who stand up to read poetry some extra credit.

What kinds of thing should you do to ensure success – both for the school and for the library?

What are other libraries doing?

What displays might you produce?

case study 2
Case Study #2

In a recent meeting, library staff discussed the large numbers of recent immigrants from Asia who have moved to your community. It was decided that the library should work with local cultural organizations to promote library service to this population.

How would you bring people in and encourage them use your materials?

Who should you contact?

How would you identify patron needs?


Bringing forward a more active role in providing cultural programs and exhibits in the library is a natural outgrowth of our traditional mission.

It is also a great way to build relationships and partnerships with other community organizations.

Finally, this is something patrons have said they want; meeting their needs and wants in the library is exactly our mission!

training opportunities
Training Opportunities

WebJunction Illinois has a variety of training courses within the Illinois Course Catalog (il.webjunction.org/catalog). The on-line courses are self-paced for individual use or to foster group discussion. Try these WebJunction Illinois courses:

  • Planning Storytimes for Children
  • Reaching Teenagers
  • Readers Advisory Services
further resources
Further Resources

Cultural programming for libraries : linking libraries, communities, and culture by Deborah A. Robertson

Humanities programming : a how-to-do-it manual by Rhea Joyce Rubin

Adult programs in the library by Brett W. Lear.