Library Programming Services

Library programming may be defined as “. . . a specific recreational, educational, or cultural group event or activity sponsored by the library.  Programs may be ongoing, a series, or a one-time event.”  In addition, programming may be defined as “a process by which the informational, educational, and recreational needs of patrons are met by bringing patrons into contact with the human resources best able meet those needs.” (Lear’s Adult Programs in the Library)


Programming is a central function of the public library. No longer confined to the space inside library walls, library programming takes many shapes and forms, from outreach programs to festivals and roving librarianship services.


 Benefits of Library Programming

Programming is so essential to library services that the American Library Association (ALA) has a Public Programs Office (PPO) to promote programming.  According to ALA, library programming:

  • improves the quality of life;
  • nourishes the spirit;
  • and unites us as human beings.


Library programming is beneficial both to the library system and the communities its serves.  Programming:

  • brings a wide variety of customers into the library and allows people from all socioeconomic levels the opportunity to participate in quality programs
  • increases circulation of the library’s collection and allows staff to become better acquainted with members of the community
  • provides access to information that may not otherwise be available
  • provides access to technology, tools, and physical objects that may not be available to all segments of the population
  • supports lifelong learning
  • demonstrates to funding entities the vital role the library system plays in the community it serves
  • allows librarians to become a part of the community by engaging in outreach events
Library System Director’s Role

The library system director’s role in library programming is to assist staff in planning a wide variety of programs based on community demographics and a community assessment. Library directors should also plan:

  • to work with staff to create an annual programming plan that includes program requirements and staff assignments
  • to budget funds for the library system’s annual programming plan
  • to assist staff in selecting appropriate resources for planning and implementing programs and that will complement the library system’s programs
  • to allow staff to perform outreach missions in the community, both for needs assessment purposes and for offsite programming
  • to allow staff to attend training to further their knowledge of library programming


Types of Programs

 Library programming takes many shapes and forms inside the library as well as out in the community. MLC provides training for programming librarians and has programming resources available through the Continuing Education page on the website:


MLC consultants and staff will also help conduct staff trainings in your library as time permits. You can schedule one of these trainings by contacting your consultant or by completing a staff training request form here: Request Form for Staff Development Training.


ALA’s public programming office (PPO) has created several websites, resources, and user groups for programming librarians. ALA also publishes websites devoted to librarians involved in programming for children and teens. Those resources are listed in the following sections.


Below, you will see headings for groups that you should consider in your programming plan for the library. Under each heading, you will find a list of vetted resources that will be helpful to your programming librarians.



General Children’s Programming Information:

MLC offers several resources for youth services librarians. Each year, the Continuing Education program offers both general youth services workshops and webinars, as well as workshops targeted towards librarians preparing for summer reading programs for a range of age groups. MLC also hosts a youth services listserv that youth services librarians can join.


MLC has recognized the need to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming into traditional library programming. MSU’s Extension Services ( is an excellent source for STEM information and instruction, and we have included additional STEM resources here to assist you in STEM activities at your library.


Programming for Early Childhood:

 Books for Babies:

Born to Read (registration required)

Every Child Ready to Read:

S.T.E.M. for Pre-Schoolers:

Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant program:


Programming for Children:

 Association for Library Service to Children

Core Competencies for Librarians Working with Youth:

“How to Put the Library in STEM”:

Design Squad (STEM resources):

Mississippi State University Extension Services:

Robotics (MSU Extension Services):

Squishy Circuits:

Sylvia’s Mini Maker Show:

MSU Extension Services Curriculum for students 5-7 years old:

MSU Extension Services Curriculum Lego 4H curriculum and projects:


Programming for Teens/Young Adults:

Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):

YALSA Products and Publications:

Make: We Are All Makers:


Programming for Families:

Family Place Libraries:

Every Child Ready to Read:

Mississippi Humanities Council Family Literacy Project:


 Programming for Adults:

Mississippi Humanities Council Grants:

Mississippi Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau:

Mississippi Arts Commission Mississippi Artist Roster:

Mississippi Department of Archives & History Speakers’ Bureau:

Mississippi State University Extension Services:

Programming Librarian:


Programming for Senior Citizens:

Guidelines for Library and Information Services for Older Adults:


Programming for Diverse Populations:

ALA Associations:

American Indian Library Association:

Asian/Pacific Americans Library Association:

Black Caucus of the American Library Association:

Chinese-American Library Association:

National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos & the Spanish Speaking:

Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users:

Diversity in Action:


Programming for People with Disabilities:

Resources and Training from ALSC: programs-for-individuals-with-disabilities/

Print Resources

Jones, Ella W. Start to Finish YA Programs: Hip-hop Symposiums, Summer Reading Programs, Virtual Tours, Poetry Slams, Teen Advisory Boards, Term Paper Clinics, and More! New York: Neal Schuman, 2009.

Lear, Brett W.  Adult Programs in the Library.  2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 2013.

Nichols, Joel A. iPads in the Library: Using Tablet Technology to Enhance Programs for All Ages. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2013.


Siwak, Karen J. Library Programs for Teens: Mystery Theatre. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010. Print. VOYA Guides 3.

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