- My favorite passive program I ever ran (and am getting to do again next month) is March Character Madness, a basketball tournament inspired program where kids can vote for their favorite book characters who would advance every week to the next round. While it was a bit of work up front (cutting out characters, creating a large tournament board, etc) it was so worth it! It ran for 4 weeks (most of our passives are weekly, so this was great since we didn't have to think up new things during the entire month of March). My favorite part was the discussion it caused between us and the patrons and even between parents and children. We had one boy come back religiously every week to make sure Harry Potter was still advancing (Harry was our big winner overall) and so many parents took the time to vote too for their favorites since we included classics like Nancy Drew and Cat in the Hat. Can't wait to get started on it next week!
-In our 16 library system, we have 14 libraries offering 1000 Books before Kindergarten. 13 of those 14 are offering it in its traditional manner of filling out reading logs and returning them for small prizes at certain increments. One of our libraries is having families take a pledge to read 1000 books before kindergarten. We launched our 1000 books program last January and to date we have 2750 children enrolled, 342 at the mid-point and 83 have finished. Our libraries have really embraced this stealth program that is low-cost and requires a very limited amount of staff time. And in some cases, the libraries have asked their Friends groups to sponsor prizes or the tote bags with our 1000 books logo. Friends of the Library groups just eat this stuff up.
I was part of the process to get this program county wide and my biggest regret is not encouraging or requiring all of the libraries to offer the program the same way. For instance, we have one library that hands out prizes every 25 books read. We have another that has levels every 200 books and another that gives a prize at 500 and then 1000. This has made it very difficult to collect stats across the county and also to develop a mobile app with achievement levels! We decided to go with unlocking an achievement every 25 books since it is the lowest common denominator.
- Penguin packs-we have backpacks that we filled with 5 winter themed books and 2 activities (coloring sheets, mazes, paper craft idea, etc.). We created 20 packs, which all went out throughout the month, and the response was very positive to this program. The advantage of the Penguin pack (or book bundles) is that they are quick and easy for parents to pick up and take home. Disadvantage, they take a little staff time and planning--but in the long run, I love this idea for so many reasons. Parents are taking a variety of books home and sharing them with their children, therefore, building a love of reading and developing those early literacy skills.
In the summer we usually have one or two stations set up at all times in the library for kids to have fun at, such as a Lego station with various of ideas of what to build and then have the opportunity to have their creation displayed for the week. We have also done the loom magic for kids--they love to create the bracelets and see what else they can do with some of the books we have available for inspiration. The advantages of setting up stations is that you can have this set up before you open and take it down the next day. Disadvantage, coming up with fresh ideas that will interest the kids. Believe me, you find out quickly what is not an interest :)
- We have a handful of those rainbow band looms for making all sorts of different crafts, and several thousand bands in different colors and patterns. We have them out on Saturday afternoons and they're a huge hit. We used to have some pretty serious behavior issues with our older youth and teens on weekends, but almost all those problems in our space have stopped since getting these for crafting. They aren't the cheapest thing to keep stocked (about $7/1000 bands) but they are the most popular DIY program we have. There are some kids who come in on other days to ask for them!
Over the summer, we bought a bunch of board games to circulate. Those are also a really popular DIY program. Kids can pick any game from the shelf and play at an empty table for as long as they want. We haven't had much loss from in-library play, and for the most part, they clean up after themselves. It's a great rainy day activity!
- For the past year or so, I've had a passive program on Mondays called "preschool craft." (Very imaginative name, right...?) I put out the materials for the first four hours that we are open (10am to 2pm) and then take things down before the afterschool kids get there. It's been relatively successful - I don't get huge numbers, but I do get consistent numbers. I've also had an active program once a month for the afterschool crowd where we make a craft. The attendance here has varied wildly from two to twenty and is entirely unpredictable (even with registrations).
This semester, I ditched the afterschool craft and instead instituted Maker Mondays (I told you naming wasn't my forte - I totally stole the name from somewhere else). I put out the craft materials all day so that anyone can make our craft all day long. This has worked much better for me. I don't have to put a lot of work into a program that may or may not get anyone and those who do want to make things have even more opportunities than they did before.
I have struggled a bit with projects that will span the age groups, but if push comes to shove, I can put out two projects. So far, I've managed to find things that are customizable based on ability. The older kid projects look far more carefully made and the preschool ones tend to focus more on process than product. Which is, I feel, as it should be.