Adult Engagement Calendars: March/April 2016
About five years ago my focus was on kids and teen library programming and services, and it was during this time that I began to truly appreciate the complexities surrounding, and importance of, library services to their communities. Beyond reading books, I learned that storytime is designed with foundations of literacy, including exploration and discovery in play, music and singing, and social skill-building opportunities. It now makes sense when I hear that some libraries call their program Kindergarten Readiness. Teen librarians introduced me to the 40 Developmental Assets for the healthy development of adolescents’ age 12 to 18. These are the underpinnings of many of the connections with and library services and programs for teens — trusting teens and engaging them with their advisory boards, empowering teens to plan and run programs; creating comfortable environments, and safe spaces for exploration and learning in challenging times of transition.
Pew Research found that 66% of library programming is for kids and teens, and 34% serves adults. Yet, 2010 Census data reports 39.4% of the U.S. population is age 45+ and the fastest growing demographic is age 85+. Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, was a featured Auditorium Speaker at ALA Midwinter 2016, talking about disrupting aging and rethinking life phases. She referred to retirement as the “age of possibilities” and post-50’s as the “time to find real meaning and purpose.” Momentum is building to normalize aging — the many decades, numerous life phases, challenges and transitions of our adult years. There is evidence in libraries services with a wide range of adult and senior outreach programs emerging.
Additional evidence of this emphasis in libraries came via the Demco-sponsored October 2015 webinar, Engaging Adults Through Programming. We polled the 400+ attendees about how they would categorize the current state of their adult program offering to find that over 30% are trying new things, and just over 20% were thinking of revamping their adult programming altogether. When attendees were asked “what would you like to learn from this webinar,” responses were:
- How adult programs can make a meaningful and long lasting impact on the community
- Ideas for adult programming
- How to get more adults interested in a program at the library
- Offering programs the community wants and actually uses
- How to connect with the adults in my community
- How to engage my adults in to using the library more
- Innovative ideas to serve more patrons in our community
- New ways to attract patrons in the 30-40-year-old demographic
- How to get more of our citizens into the library and to become regular “checking out” patrons
- How to successfully establish partnerships that are equally beneficial to both agencies
- How to more effectively choose and advertise programs for adults
- Engaging with patrons on selection of topics and times, and gathering feedback to improve
- How to create and market adult programs which will have the biggest impact/draw on our community
- To find a way to service a larger area of our community and what might interest them
- Event ideas that work for adults
These findings prompted us to take action. For many years we have supported children’s programming needs through Upstart and the popular LibrarySparks’ Children’s Activity Guides. Encouraged by librarians who gave the idea a thumb’s up, we decided to build upon our children’s experience and create monthly calendars focusing on adults. They feature event ideas, authors to highlight and topics of interest to adults with embedded links to additional information and resources.
Take a look at the new March and April 2016 calendars and let us know what you think. We welcome suggestions for how we can make the idea even more useful for you. Your feedback and comments will inform future calendar releases.