Reflection #2 – Participatory Programming

Sometimes, it might be best if the library just let go.

In the readings from last week and this week, there have been some amazing nuggets on programming that has not been librarian led. The library is merely serving as a platform and space for users to create and engage on their own. There were two examples from the readings that stuck out to me.

  1. The Idea Box at the Oak Park Library. The library transformed a space within the library and turned it into an interactive exhibit, inviting visitors to engage, create, and interact with whatever was in the space. The librarians may develop prompts, but it was left to the visitors to create the exhibit. 
  2. The Library Takeover project at Madison Public library encouraged community led program development. The community submitted proposals to the library for new program ideas. If a program was selected, the team was provided a micro grant to cover the production, marketing, and resources needed to create the programming (Smith, 2017). The teams were given a bootcamp training on programming and project management and then the program was left up to the community to create. Allowing the community to have full control over the programming offered at the library invites community participation. 

These examples take me back to a quote from the Module 4 lecture from a PLA 2016 session from a Dokk1 Librarian (Stephens, 2019). 

“We designed our libraries for people, not books.”

When the library invites the public to participate in programming and creation, they are inviting transparency and community engagement and the library becomes a reflection of the community it serves. 


Smith, C. (2017). Madison’s library takeover. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/madisons-library-takeover/

Stephens, M. (2019). The hyperlinked library: Participatory service. [Video lecture].Retrieved from: https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b4e981-cd58-479a-96d3-aab3011b0f24

1 comment
  1. @britten – Absolutely! Those examples fall right in line with Marie Ostergard’s statement “people not books.” I would also argue both avenues allow for a high degree of creativity from the library staff – to create the interactive art installations and administer the Takeover program.

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