How to Write a Programming Plan for Your Department

So, when I started at my awesome library, I came on board at a time when the department was a little bit in flux. The previous department head had left a few months before, and as you all probably know, governments don’t exactly work at the speed of light. So, the department had gone a hot second without strong leadership from a department head. Additionally, they library was attempting to transition from having one librarian in charge of a department of paraprofessionals, to having two librarians co-head the department. I was to be one of these librarians, and my awesome counterpart (who does the littlie kids) would be my co-leader.

Additionally, the library had a lot of legacy programs – some that were perfect for where we wanted to go, and some that had reached the end of their useful lives. So, what’s a girl to do? Well, this girl decided that what we needed as a department was a plan. I worked with my counterpart, and what we ended up with is a yearly plan that covers both our long-term goals and how we’ll accomplish them in the short term.

I’d never written a document like this before, and I didn’t really have any sort of template to work from, so I just winged it (wung it? No, that definitely can’t be right. Let’s stick with winged it, okay?) Having spent a couple of hours working on it, I’d definitely recommend it! It’s a great way to make sure you’re being deliberate in thinking about what your goals are overall, and I’ve found that when I’m thinking about adding a program or service, it’s nice to have something to go back to. That way I don’t get caught up too much in “OMG THAT’S THE COOLEST PINTEREST IDEA EVER IMMA DO IT RIGHT AWAY WHO CARES IF IT FITS WITH MY LIBRARY!!!!”

The first step in writing my plan was to figure out what it would cover. If you’re at a small library, like mine, your plan might cover all ages from birth to 18. If you’re in a branch library that’s part of a bigger system, or your library divides up ages differently, your plan might only cover early literacy, or school aged kids, or programming and not reader’s advisory, or you’re website only and nothing else. The plan we ended up creating covered all youth services programming from 0-18.

Next up, I divided the plan into three parts: early childhood services (birth-5), school aged services (5-12), and teen services (13-18). Although I realize the developmental needs of nearly teens are drastically different than those of preschoolers, it just made sense for us to divide up kids in to only three groups. I’m hoping that we’ll eventually grow our services enough to have a separate programming menu for tweens/near teenagers/older kids/whatever you want to call them.

Then, it was time to start writing.  Well, copy-pasting, as the very first line of programming plan is the library’s pre-existing mission statement. Hopefully, every single thing that we do as librarians is somehow working toward meeting that mission in some way. Then, in each section of the plan, I extrapolated some long-term goals from that mission statement, and added in some specifics. For example, our library mission statement is “To provide the community with equal access to physical and virtual environments that support and encourage lifelong learning and enrichment.” One of our early childhood long term goals is “ensure that kids and caregivers in at-risk and underserved groups have access to and feel comfortable using the library’s physical and virtual resources.” All I really did was adapt the mission statement to be specific to the age group at hand! Many of our other long-term goals involve incorporating best practices into our programming, such as specifically aligning all our programming with Every Child Ready to Read 2.

After we had hammered out long term goals for each age group, we created goals for 2015. We made a real effort to make sure our short term goals were SMART goals – that is, that they were specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Whereas our long-term goals were more about how our ideal department would look and operate, our 2015 goals were about what we could do NOW. This is the section I find myself referring to the most. I am embarrassed how often I say to myself, “okay, this is a cool thing, but which of our yearly goals is it working toward?” I know if something is both really interesting/great/cool and not part of our yearly goals, I can always add it to our goals for next year. We’re still responsive to change; we’re just also being deliberate about what we’re working toward.

The third sub-section for each age grouping was our proposed programming changes. As I mentioned earlier, we’re transitioning out some programs and looking to add some, so it made sense to put in a section that laid out exactly what changes we were planning on making. If your library isn’t looking to add/remove a lot of programs this year, I think you could skip this section.

The final sub-section was just our programming plan – a list of all the regular (that is repeating on a weekly or monthly basis) programming we’re doing for each group. Laying out our programming like this allowed us to make sure we we’re over-committing ourselves on any particular day.

I also created a sample month calendar that showed all our regular programming. Again, I was just looking for a way to make sure our programming was balanced, both in terms of day/week commitment and in terms of staff workloads.

Welp, that was a wordy post. Even though it sounds like a lot of work, it’s really not! You’re probably already doing a lot of thinking about what programs and services to offer, and writing it all down in a structured format is surprisingly helpful! You’re also probably well acquainted with how youth services librarians are often required to be advocates for youth services, both internally to administration and externally to government, outside funders, and other groups. Having a plan on paper is a great way to show that we’re working in a deliberate manner, and that supporting us is an idea that makes sense.

If you’d like to see what our actual programming plan looks like, shoot me an email. I’m always happy to chat about planning. Because cool kids love lists, right? RIGHT!

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3 thoughts on “How to Write a Programming Plan for Your Department

  1. This sounds like an excellent idea. Exactly what our little library should try. I would love to see a copy of your programming outline.

    Thanks!

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