Alessio Workshop: Building Great Adult Programs


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  • Adults are core patrons for any public library, and book programs are among the most popular library programs. In this workshop, Amy Alessio will show you how to improve the book programs you already have for adults or build new ones from scratch. She’ll cover programs for both high and low-tech users and a variety of themes and library settings.
    Topics include:
    Understanding popular current book and programming trends.
    Adjusting ideas to different library settings and online platforms.
    Theme ideas for book events with accompanying booklists.
    Steps for putting together presentations and programs quickly.

    We will always be the experts on book programming and be a hub for community engagement but lots of people think that is all we are good for.

    They want to get their titles instantly downloaded or delivered in two days vs. free after waiting.

    A word about my teaching style: My programs are examples – happy to send you handouts for individual programs I’ve done, including 6 themed booklists. If you need ideas on things other than reading or book programs, I am going to talk about offshoot programs, so there should be something for everyone.
  • Where no one jumps in that pond.
    Is that possible? No, actually it’s not possible to make everyone completely happy at any program.

    One thing I’ve learned from Teen programs – if 5 teens are getting a lot out of a writing club, want to write and read more and engage with each other to critique, that is more successful than a packed room where not everyone can see and hear what is going on, and many leave dissatisfied.

    A great program – engages most of the audience whether it is live or virtual
    Inspires people in a direction – either to get more material and learn about a subject, to share their excitement, or for staff to offer more

    A great program for teens for me is sometimes one where I get a decent turnout, the patrons enjoy themselves, some stay to talk to me afterwards.

    A great program is like many of the ones you are already having. If you are here you are:
    Looking to change or fix something
    Increase your numbers. (Many administrations need numbers to show success)
    Looking for new ideas
    If you are making the effort to do this you are already doing a lot right!
  • Sometimes someone dominates a book group and makes others uncomfortable.

    Can you control any of those? Likely not
    New ideas and a willingness to accept that some new things will fail is half way there to successful events.

    Accept that adults always have many challenges to come to the library – time & transportation! How many of us have time to attend home local library events for fun, or to read books for a discussion group? My guess is that even attending this workshop was challenge for some – so thank you and let’s begin!
  • Outlander party for upcoming new series

    If you missed the boat on something coming out or it just isn’t practical with the size of your facility – ride the wave of the theme.
  • Paper Towns has mystery theme – get ready!

    It is okay to have things later – sometimes adults find out later, or learn from their kids
  • 90 second newbery
    Not everyone likes to be filmed – ask book discussion groups to record sentence about what they are reading and what they think. Here’s what our book discussion group says.
    Video booktalk
    Video guess the book game? Give them parameters or a theme
  • Dizzying list of topics
    Buzzfeed – list of 5 programs, 5 book titles

    Digital Engagement for Adults
    Easy to connect
    Consistent but not constant
  • Over 100 folks participated
    Each took an hour put up questions every 10 minutes
    Themed as our books were both YA
    Guest authors for longer ones
    Release day – we did it after
    Should attend some
    Again, more mystery and romance but would work well for cookbooks, nonfiction self help

    **Direct Engagement
  • Make booktalks part of this or samples of audios for a showcase.

    Pair books with food
  • Sample of program I give called Novel Treats – resources, pairings of food, served chocolate fondue with things to dip. Inexpensive, decent crowd. Handout of book titles and some sample recipes included with this program so you can copy it.

    Website to go with Book Club Cook Book – other groups wrote in and have recipes

    RGC – every year, with votes on favorites from previous year – contests and prizes

    Reading Group Choices (several years) from
    Reading Groups Cook Up Themed Meals for Book Clubs by Beth D’Addodano
    A Feast for Fiction: Donna Hay’s Book-Club Meeting Menu by Kara Zuaro
    Reading Group Guides

    Library book clubs – Romance and mystery
    Skype with author, esp. if smaller and/or local
  • Many libraries have resources for Book Clubs - consider including tips on bookmarks, on a slide at presentations, in kits

    Go over food – irony = chocolate pie at The Help, berries for The Hunger Games

    Hardest part? Reading titles we don’t like – just like when we were teens in high school
    Not wanting to host, one up manship of treats, homes
    Sense of obligation – what if you don’t have time to read?
    Can’t all get the book

    Teens do not like these – too much like school

    What’s good? Love of reading, trying new things

    New locations – virtual discussions
    Listen to a book or short story, get the movie

    **What’s Old is New Again – titles will always be new to someone. A few years later you may see a book entirely differently. Do another like it and compare. Gone Girl did already? Try Sharp Objects.
  • From eras to books about groups of women

    Bunco Babes

    From SHSL Socials and Soirees: Name Your Game Dessert Party : Bunco Bon Bons

    White or yellow cake in 9x13 with 7-minute frosting and chocolate chips for decorations.

    Southern romances about wild Bunco nights by Maria Geraci

    Whack N Roll Bunco Babes mysteries by Oust
    Weber’s African American southern women book club – romance, friendship and more!
  • Nonfiction as well as fiction – like Cannoli recipe for The Godfather, or BBQ for Lonesome Dove. Popular new, regional nonfiction and more

    Chicago or 50’s era
    From In the castlep. 42 “A typical dinner was chicken or pork chops, potatoes, sometimes soup, a vegetable. And jello. In the years we were together she served me jello perhaps two thousand times, and it was always lemon; prehaps she found the color soothing, or had heard lemon jello had magical properties.”
    “To this day if I’m served pork chops I expect to be followed by lemon jello, and I can’t think of any of these things, can’t taste them, without thinking of my grandmother.”

    Story of Grandma A’s gravy

    Home Cooking
    Theme Parties/Cocktail Parties
    Teen Cooking
    Convenience vs. Creative
    We’ll see some of these in the Castle, but not the fancy parties so much.
  • No joke when a program we’ve worked hard to plan bombs. Many times it’s circumstances beyond our control – playoff games, terrible winter, key people in a group are unable to keep coming, challenging patrons keep coming! or internal situations like:
    Meeting room issues
    Killer themes – sometimes half the work is dealing with a community read we don’t like or a theme that’s been assigned either from the local or state level
    Lewis & Clark – tough for teens

    If something just isn’t working it may be time to break and restart. Here are some shortcuts. Resourceful librarians rarely have to start new programs from scratch
  • Mix up a Couple recurring clubs with changing themed events randomly to test pattern

    Give it a chance – didn’t work here, doesn’t apply to my library = but maybe it could. Change date, time, format to combination of live and online

    Incentives to fill out surveys

    **Penny and me – talented staff

    **any programs that help clean out the closets are winners

    Let patrons choose prize from leftovers
    Like treasure chest at dentist

    What’s old is new again.
  • No subject is forbidden
    Barry White music
    Raffled candles, chocolates, copies of books
    Chocolates at walgreens – voted on favorites. Hershey’s is almost always favorite. Have some unusual. Broke up pieces.

    Researched subjects I didn’t learn about in library school.
    **Booklist available with this couple more sample slides

    List of chocolates
    We are going to steam it up in here by talking about some sensual reads. There are degrees of this and types as with any kind of romance. There is a book for everyone’s comfort level, and new authors and books being published daily.
    Erotica , BDSM, doms, multiples, even recipes can be found in these books. We’ll do the full spectrum to help you choose which authors you would most enjoy. I learned lots of new terms and techniques doing this presentation. I’m going to introduce you to at least 50 authors and books to enjoy.

    In many cases we do not have the entire series, or the first few were only in e-books. Sample the authors – many are available for download from our Media Mall, too. Ask for help. Don’t ever be embarrassed. Not only can I not remember what people have been asking me for, but often we answered it for other people and have more suggestions and lists. We really don’t care what you are reading!

    List online of readalikes for 50 Shades
    Goodreads – erotica
    Erotic = keyword
    My media mall
  • Madame Bovary
    Peyton Place
  • But not this one? Many humorous passages on tying, rubbing. Each section with its own sensual themes.

    Surprise readers with nonfiction in fiction theme talks

  • Poll staff on themes – have brainstorming board in back room with post-its: your own makerspace!
    We have the luxury of a big back list. Use it. The new ones may be out or have lists – frustrating to those who come to hear about those titles!
    Reusing parts of previous - trigger memory and tie together. We get bored too – use things from 3-4 years ago and freshen up.

    Use older titles – on the shelf
    Existing lists, like readalikes for bestsellers quarterly or monthly online – 5 bestsellers with readalikes
    Theme music, prizes, snacks – all of my theme programs
    Book trailers to show
    **We need new library photos all the time – use some of the old ones, take plenty at each event
    Short lists – 3 new erotica, 5 favorite personal finance authors
  • Retro Recipe Exchange
    Always include some funny examples either things that should have been weeded or from other libraries

    Bad Girls and Bad Boys – very popular
  • These two look tired, but I hope you got some new ideas for your place.
  • Alessio Workshop: Building Great Adult Programs

    1. 1. Amy Alessio
    2. 2. Where patrons and staff are both happy…
    3. 3. What kills great programs?  Change in funding  Competition in community  Change of staff with no replacement, or added on to already busy staff  Key participants change  Change in administration  Perception of same old thing
    4. 4. Book and Programming Trends Multimedia Digital engagement Popular subjects Not just for summer or at the library Multigenerational Low cost, short prep time
    5. 5. Multimedia: Motivated by Movies (or TV) Ideas Issues  Themed Book/Popular movie party  Watch movie, then trivia (kids or YA movies/books)  Discuss movie, make books available  Take adults to movie or meet, trivia quiz online  Not enough copies  Getting license for movie  People would rather watch movie than have book discussion  Timing is hard with programming planning deadlines
    6. 6. John Green Party Example  Purchased used copies, pbks for prizes  New adults: met at theater  Teens: John Green party with trivia, book prizes, sparkling grape juice, celebration  Bookmark for adults on TFIOS read-alikes (like Sparks) and John Green links  Display with Kleenex  Book discussion before movie  Online trivia for all or poll on who is going to see it and what age range
    7. 7. Multimedia: Book Trailers & Video Booktalks  Classes on short movie editing  Submit book trailers or short booktalks on themes  Feature trailers on social media  Guess the book from the trailer game  -second-newbery
    8. 8. • Scrolling What’s New? • Email newsletters by topic (staff run) • Twitter • Original Goodreads shelves • Pinterest genres ESLnewsletter Picture Books Fantasy Popular Culture Fiction A to Z Preschool For Your Entertainment Preschool Directors Forthcoming Fiction Readers' Events Green Pages Romance Hanover Park Branch Bulletin Science Fiction Historical Fiction Second Floor Reads History and Current Events Spirituality and Religion Hoffman Happenings Student Reads Home, Garden, and DIY Surfing the Web Homework Connection Teen Book Lists Horror Teen Program Guide Inspirational Fiction Teen Scene Kids' Books Thrillers and Suspense Kids' Nonfiction Tween Reads Library News & Programs Videogames Mind and Body Fitness What’s New in Large-type Movies YS_Booklists Music
    9. 9. Facebook Party  Free to set up  Easy to run  Mail or email prizes  Reading kickoff  Guests host
    10. 10. From Bellingham, MA: Our staff reads a wide variety of books. The genre that each staff person tends to read is listed below. Please click on the link to the staff person’s name to go to their Pinterest Board on the Library Pinterest Page! and-suggestions/staff-picks/
    11. 11. Digital Engagement: Book Discussions on Social Media?  Book suggestions on Facebook at a set time by inquiry  Twitter book stumper questions  Summer reading reviews: tweet with library hashtag  Email subscriptions such as Dear Reader  Quick comments
    12. 12.  Polls  Surveys  Website summer reading  Book Club kits
    13. 13. Beyond Summer Read a Latte all year round Reading challenges – no registration! Winter reading? Allow programs to count Turn programs into further contests Send photos wearing library shirt How many items in library tote?
    14. 14. Beyond the Library  Cafes  Restaurants  Movie theaters  Empty mall spaces  Park districts – stretch your mind  Outside
    15. 15. Multigenerational: Storytelling about books  When older adults read favorites  Why everyone liked Harry Potter  Mark favorite read alouds by parents  Family reading programs
    16. 16. Low Cost and Short Prep: Audio Showcase  Introduce and play clips from 7-9 titles in an hour  People vote on best readers  Review downloading audio  Raffle inexpensive MP3 player
    17. 17. Low Cost: Regular Patrons are your Street Team •Mention programs on social media for drawing, count as reading titles •Photo on social media of self at library programs for entries •Selfies of strangest place reading (G rated…) •Reading library brochure where? •Download and review for drawing
    18. 18. Low Cost: Prizes  Book themed prizes: things to mark our places, light our pages, carry our piles, hold our beverage or keep it hot while reading, something to write new titles on, clear fines  Big prizes to raffle: gift certificates to book stores, coffee shops (places to read), players for audio  Donated coupons: easy to handle
    19. 19. Low Cost and Short Prep: Book or Media Exchanges and Meet and Greet • Discuss favorites and trade (also works for staff break time) • Drop in • Host program and clean out book sale room at the same time • Possible charity fund raiser
    20. 20. Book Tastings and Fairs  Great for book clubs as well as patrons  Run book trailers or audios for showcase  Feature state or local authors in person or their work
    21. 21.  Reading Group Choices (several years) from  Reading Groups Cook Up Themed Meals …by Beth D’Addodano 25/news/36529229_1_book-club-book-groups-food-items  A Feast for Fiction: Donna Hay’s Book-Club Meeting Menu by Kara Zuaro rtiesevents/bookclub  Reading Group Guides BOOK CLUB RESOURCES: NOVEL TREATS Book Club Cook Book Sites
    22. 22.  Themes, Appetizing Reads  Finger Foods  Eating Out Before/After  Recipe Exchange  Books with Recipes  Healthy Choices  Beverages  Ironic Choices  Book Club in a Bag  By genre or author instead of title  Favorite recent read, audio  Favorite Childhood Read, Classic  E-reader title  Nonfiction – even cookbooks  Virtual Book Clubs/Recipe Exchange IDEAS FOR MEETINGS Food Books
    23. 23. SELECTIONS ABOUT CLUBS  Bunco Babes titles – Geraci  Bunco Babes mysteries – Oust  Something on the Side– Weber
    24. 24. BAD FOOD IS GOOD MEMORIES “A typical dinner was chicken or pork chops, potatoes, sometimes soup, a vegetable. And jello. In the years we were together she served me jello perhaps two thousand times, and it was always lemon; perhaps she found the color soothing, or had heard lemon jello had magical properties.”
    25. 25. Ideas for Re-Using Restarting and Resusictating • Give it a chance • Tweak it • Make one program work over and over • Librarian exchange or different staff • Recycle programs and prizes
    26. 26. Popular Theme: 50 Shades of Racy Reading •Mood music •Raffled candles, chocolate, books •Tasted bits of chocolates from drug stores, voted •Served bubbling grape juice •Varied subjects •Variation: Put list online with atmosphere suggestions
    27. 27. Remember These?
    28. 28. 50 Shades Readalikes
    29. 29. Recycle the Theme • Guess the Decade online game • Sweet Reads New Adults: Pair junk food with wine during presentation Not Classics but Banned Book Bonanza Delicious Reads with same chocolate tasting Retro Books and Candies by Decade
    34. 34. SWEET READS SAMPLES: FUN AND EASY CUPCAKE & COOKIE DECORATING TECHNIQUES  Snowballs  Tie-Dye  Stencils  Frosting Flowers
    35. 35. ‘Tis the Season to be Reading Yule Love These too! Any popular program can have a seasonal or regional variation (include cookbook, history and craft titles on themes as well) Example: Scary Vintage Reads and Treats
    36. 36. Christmas Carol and Variations
    37. 37. Each Successful Program Leads to More Ideas
    38. 38. Long Running Themes
    41. 41. Putting Together Presentations & Programs Quickly Use older media titles Existing lists Theme music, prizes, snacks Show trailers or movies, library photos Short lists
    42. 42. Add Humor Strangest books in library or steamy covers as themes Holidays gone wrong Offshoots – 50 shades cookbook Nonfiction or fiction to mix up themes
    43. 43. Amy Alessio