The Benefits of Public Programming for Participating Libraries and Audiences

Why Should Our Library Do Programming?

Libraries are many things to their communities. They offer the practical information people need to improve their quality of life and to increase individual options in a complex society—information about health, education, business, child care, computers, the environment, looking for a job... and much more.

Libraries also give their communities something less tangible, yet just as essential to a satisfying and productive life—nourishment for the spirit. Programs in the humanities and the arts that encourage people to think and talk about ethics and values, history, art, poetry, and other cultures are integral to the library’s mission.

Such programs help to illuminate the experiences, beliefs and values that unite us as human beings. They stimulate us to make connections where we noticed none before—between our ancestors and ourselves, between one culture and another, between the community and the individual.

How Does Public Programming Benefit the Community?

Here are a few testimonials that show what public programs mean to libraries and their communities ...

“Libraries are an incredible resource for the community. Bringing real artists, real authors, real people into the library is so important. With all of today’s technology, we forget that people are still writing books, people are still painting, making music, approaching life directly—not through a computer screen. Everyone benefits from programs—the community responses are so very positive, scholars and artists recognize that they are reaching new audiences, and the libraries are drawing more people, in many cases parts of the community we don’t normally see.”

—Linda Holtslander, Loudoun County (Va.) Public Library

“Most writers have a relationship with the page and long for the oral dimension lost in our culture. The act of reading can be nurtured, developed, heightened. That’s what a good library can do, and that’s what bringing a writer in to the library can contribute. It’s good for the reader to see ... that the book and the writer are not the same.”

—Stuart Dybek, author

“I realize how significant this project has been to me personally and how many people it has touched ... Young and old have passed through the exhibit, reading, talking, humming, dancing, and sharing.”

“One very important aspect of our celebration of his life is that all ages, races, and religions enjoyed it together."

“The exhibit raised consciousness in many people about the importance of our jazz heritage, and we are confident that the learning process will continue and that our audiences will seek more opportunities to enjoy the music of Duke Ellington.”

—Selected comments on ALA’s Duke Ellington traveling exhibition

“For the library, for the community and for me personally, the chance to participate in this tour has been rewarding and satisfying in unexpected ways. Although the exhibit was not huge in spatial terms and the programming was modest, the overall effort was intensive and broad, giving the library a different kind of visibility in the area and demonstrating the power of cooperation and the value of respect in a community that, perhaps like many American communities, is increasingly divided and mistrustful. Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in this experience. It has been one of the most satisfying of my twenty years as a librarian.”

—Exhibition site for ALA’s traveling exhibition
“A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution”

What Can the ALA Public Programs Office For for Us?

Apply for a grant project opportunity or register for a workshop. Your library will receive training and technical assistance, programming and promotional materials, and direct access to project staff.

Subscribe to our electronic discussion list. You’ll be part of a network of library programmers, scholars, writers, artists, foundations, and other national, regional, and local organizations that recognize libraries as community cultural and educational centers for people of all ages, all economic levels, and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Order products developed by these projects. Take advantage of the best practices, models, and ready-made materials.