It’s not just the content of the program that counts. It’s why that content matters in your space.
A lot of what we create programmatically can happen at home. You can screen a film on Netflix. You can watch a YouTube video of an author discussing their book. You can do a craft project at your kitchen table.
So we have to make a case for why those things are better in our space.
History matters. I worked for a few years in a cultural center housed in a former synagogue. The space was an historic landmark, and its story and history were deeply compelling. Leveraging that history changed our programming. Not only could we offer our patrons great arts experienced, but we could also give them a connection to history, a connection to a story they were becoming a part of. It added an emotional pull to the things we did, and it helped. What’s the history of your space? What’s the story of your space? Connecting those things to the programming you create will deepen the connections for your patrons.
What else you got? In our library, there’s a whole world of things outside our programming room that patrons can engage in. We try to leverage that as much as we can to make attending our programming special. Like the talk? Here are some other books in our collection to check out. Enjoy the panel? Here’s a MakerSpace activity to complement it. Connect the different parts of your space to your programming. Give people more bang for their time “buck.”
If you aren’t the space, find the space. Maybe your space doesn’t create the right emotional and community connections for a program. Find another space that does. Bringing programming out into the community, to reach patrons where they live and where they are, can really work. We have started bringing some of our traditional library programming into the schools, because we found students didn’t really come to the library for talks or programs. Now, by bringing the programming into the spaces they inhabit, we’re reaching that demographic in a whole new way.