Over the past year, Central Library librarians have been programming like crazy! Never in the history of the branch has there been so much activity for adults, and, judging by the attendance figures, the programs seem to be meeting a community need.
We started by offering basic computer literacy classes several years ago, and with the addition of technology staff, these were expanded to include classes in finding online information about subjects like business resources, genealogy, paranormal, gardening, eBay, travel, and more. We augmented these classes by providing insruction in Excel, Twitter, and selected library database subscriptions (ReferenceUSA, Morningstar, Ancestry Library Edition.)
Then we received a bequest that provided funds for art & craft programming. We mounted a very successful series that included calligraphy, mosaics, knitting and crocheting. In fact, it was so successful, we are repeating it this year with a broader array of crafts.
We’ve expanded a successful annual genealogy series beyond the basics to include instruction in use of the Ancestry Library Edition and New England Ancestors databases, Sanborn Fire Maps, and other specialized resources. And we’ve been working with the Deparment of Consumer Affairs to host a year-long series of consumer education programs. These programs are not entertainment, but seem to fill a need in our community for both learning new skills and updating their education.
The point of this catalog of adult programming is to highlight the library as an avenue for continuing-ed in the community. I think these programs would be popular even if we were not in an economic crunch right now. Other branches doing adult programming are seeing similar results. It’s so easy to think of the library as a place for kids – storytime, homework, summer reading. It’s obvious that now is the right time to advertise that it’s also a place for adults.
Some librarians feel they were hired for their skills as researchers, for their knowledge of how to find information in print and online, for their ability to extract the “real” question from patrons and find just the right answer. In today’s information environment, as others have so often said, “reference” is declining as people get more comfortable with using Internet to find answers. Some articles discuss “good enough” vs “best available” answers.
This raises the hairs on the backs of our necks – after all, we’ve been trained to keep looking until we’re satisfied there is no better answer available. We’ve been trained in selection of materials that will answer every conceivable question that could be asked. Instead, as funds dry up and selection takes up less of our time, as more publishers provide online-only or downloadable editions of their materials, we’ve become more like coaches and teachers. We no longer find and hand over information; because of logins and passwords, we need to teach our public how to use all the new electronic resources themselves, including the social networks: Twitter, Facebook, text reference. I feel like I’ve been thrust into a new career that none of my pre-Dialog education has prepared me for.
So – those adult programs are a forum where we have the opportunity to highlight our current offerings: e-resources, remote access, new ways to interact with librarians.