Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Passive Programming: guest post by Ariel Cummins

Behold, a Boredom Buster!
I bugged Ariel in TX until she wrote a guest post for my blog. And-- including the Dr. Strangelove reference in the title-- she didn't disappoint! Here's what happened when she tried my Boy+BOT story action pod at her library. What a great work-around to having a dedicated space for a stealth activity!

Ariel Cummins started her career as a teen librarian, but quickly decided there was far too much drooling with teens and switched to the under 13 set. She writes about her (sometimes bumbling) exploration of what it means to be a children's librarian at http://hushlander.wordpress.com/ and frequently Tweets about authors, librarianship, and ridiculous things at https://twitter.com/hushlander. She works at San Antonio Public Library, and will probably never leave Central Texas because: breakfast tacos.

When I transitioned from teen programming to children’s programming, I also transitioned from a very busy neighborhood branch to a huge Central Library located in a downtown area. While the collection at our Central Library is huge, it was really, really hard to get people to actually attend programs on a regular basis. It was more of a “tourists drop in on vacation” or “residents come once a year to get books for reports” kind of place, rather than a “part of families’ weekly routines” kind of place. We tried programming in the mornings, in the evenings, on the weekends, and on weekdays, with varying success.

So how could we serve the patrons who were trickling in at a steady rate all day but couldn’t be pinned down to any particular time, especially during the busy summer months? Passive programming to the rescue! I loved Bryce’s Story Pods, but we didn’t really have a spare table to permanently install a work area. What we did have was a large, strange feature we called “the castle”.

Using a tiny bit of ingenuity, and a LOT of duct tape, I managed to smash together two banker’s boxes into a sort of pouch. I hit up Bryce’s website to get her easy activities, modified ‘em a bit, and threw them in the box with Boy + Bot.

…and then I left! I got a promotion to another location, and left my carefully crafted box in the hands of my co-workers. They managed to hang the boxes, and decorate the castle as a sandbox to boot. It managed to blend right in to summer decorations, and, along with a scavenger hunt and some word searches, became a Boredom Buster! 

Throughout the summer, I would get pictures in my inbox like this:

Listen, I had my doubts, too! We could never fit a passive program in with our space! Our kids will just run off with all the supplies and never actually do what we want them to do! It’s too much work!

But I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. My former co-workers tell me that not only did the boredom busters result in some adorable robot drawings; they gave our most antsy patrons something to do when they just didn’t feel like looking for books. (Shh, don’t tell them that they were actually reading!)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you! Our library was recently remodeled, and your post made me realize that this fit in perfectly with one of our kid's tables. We already had markers/crayons/scissors available in a box for patrons, and I added this passivle programming. It was great for a Thanksgiving week when we don't have our usual storytimes but lots of kids came in at that time anyway.