Staying Relevant & Meeting Patrons Where They Are

One of my favorite types of library story to collect is meeting-people-where-they-are programming and outreach efforts. Whether it’s a computer skills practice session targeted at seniors or an academic library scavenger hunt/mystery house to pull in the undergrads, I really love reading about libraries that use creative programming and outreach efforts to reach patrons. Here are some of my favorites from the past few years:

GIFs by the Smithsonian

(Source: Smithsonian Libraries/
(Source: Smithsonian Libraries/

The Smithsonian Libraries have a Tumblr and it is wonderful. You can read all about their creative use of whimsical GIFs over at the Washington Post; I actually first saw these GIFs reblogged on Tumblr in their natural habitat. I think GIFs (and, more broadly speaking, Tumblr) offer cultural heritage institutions a great way to make history more accessible. These institutions have fantastic collections and social media (plus, generally speaking, the internet) offer them a great way to share that content with the world in a less academic, more accessible way. Also, GIF creation isn’t very difficult; smaller cultural heritage institutions could just as easily be creating value-added content like this!

Using Buzzfeed in Information Literacy Sessions

This blog post about information literacy for undergrads is one of my favorite things and something I’m dying to implement. The librarian, Joe Hardenbrook, divided students into groups and had them try to locate the actual research referenced in three pop psychology links: one from Huffington Post, one from Buzzfeed, and one from a viral Facebook post. He used this exercise as a way to engage students on the topics of evaluating web content, accessing library resources, and how journal articles are structured. This method is beyond fantastic! It translates something that students see on a regular basis (news articles and buzz pieces from various sources) to a relevant library topic (finding and evaluating sources).

Privacy Programming for Teens

My most recent find: a teen program about digital privacy that incorporates code-breaking, cryptography, and espionage!

“Dubbed “Cloak & Dagger,” the program started with a “briefing session” where we discussed how to maintain digital security and craft hard-to-crack passwords, and moved on to a training session on cryptography. Then the teens divided into teams and got started on the scavenger hunt, which included a “laser maze” challenge involving navigating a hallway strung with red yarn. This portion lasted about an hour and a half, and the program ended with pizza and a screening of Skyfall.”

Even if you aren’t a teen services librarian, do yourself a favor and go read the entire post, as it is wonderful. The program got 25 participants with 100% attendance and the students were the most excited about the non-movie portion of the event!

All of these examples show that with some creativity you can engage patrons on all kinds of topics. And all of these experiences sound like they were meaningful and memorable for patrons. Definitely some exemplary efforts!


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