Innovative Public Library Programs
The following are examples of some of the innovative programs being offered by public libraries. These are listed by category and then by state. (See the Wilton Library's list of innovative public library programs and services for other examples.)
- Nevada: 1000 Books Before Kindergarten seeks "to promote reading to newborns, infants, and toddlers" and "to encourage parent and child bonding through reading." Libraries in all 50 states are participating.
- North Carolina: The Appalachian Regional Library's Alphabet Ready by 5 program focuses on preschoolers who are working on their letters and sounds. The "program is designed around a single letter of the alphabet and focuses on pre-reading and early literacy skills while keeping kids entertained!"
- North Carolina: The Appalachian Regional Library's Story Walks, Story Books, Story Readers program makes reading more accessible and fun for children aged four to eight by creating Story Walks in parks, playgrounds, and walking locations throughout their service region.”
- North Carolina: The New Hanover County Public Library created Story Place: a Storytelling Maker Space in its Main Library Children’s Department and equipped the space with cutting edge technology and manipulatives for parents to explore with their children while creating stories. Story Place promotes family interaction through storytelling and reading at several different stations.
- Texas: The Dallas Public Library's Every Child Ready to Read @ Dallas program offers classes to help parents and caregivers teach their children six essential pre-reading skills needed to succeed in school: narrative skills, print motivation, vocabulary, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and print awareness.
- Texas: The Frisco Public Library's STEM Backpacks program provides K-5 students with backpacks on five STEM themes. Each backpack includes books, a DVD, interactive learning objects, and a quiz.Urban Libraries Council, 2015 Entry.
- District of Columbia: The District of Columbia Public Library’s Community Resource Lab's “goal is to make it easier for people to access city-wide services that help them lead healthy and productive lives.” Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- Florida: Miami Dade Public Library's 101: Coworking at the Public Library program will create a dynamic coworking space open to the community for entrepreneurship, collaboration, learning and creation. Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- Florida: The Palm Beach County Library System's Embedded Librarian program "paired nine librarians with eight county departments and divisions to provide professional research assistance." The librarians provided over 70 hours of research and related work in the first month alone. Urban Libraries Council, 2015 Top Innovator.
- Kansas: Librarians Facilitate Community Change, a program of the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, provided Effective Facilitator/Masterful Meetings training for librarians in order to position the library "as a convener for community conversations and librarians as trusted facilitators." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- Massachusetts: The Springfield City Library's Imagine: A Peace-Full City project offered "residents a number of opportunities to come together and discuss ways that Springfield can be a safer, more peaceful place to live and raise a family. Cooperative craft-making, a creative open mic opportunity for teens and young adults, informative workshops focusing on public safety, fun family activities, and informal brown-bag lunches offering perspectives on solutions for safer neighborhoods and peace-making will give participants ways to make their homes, schools, and workplaces better." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Honorable Mention.
- North Carolina: The Forsyth County Public Library's Library Service to People Experiencing Homelessness program brings the services offered by area organizations directly to the homeless where they gather in the library. The library offered computer classes to the homeless as well as one-on-one technology help sessions, a “Drop-In Job Seekers Lab,” and recreational programs, including a Books for Dudes Book Club, a Sunday movie series, and a chess club.
- North Carolina: The Gaston County Public Library's Outreach to Hispanic Residents program allowed the library to add materials in Spanish, merchandise its resources, provide programs to attract Hispanic individuals, use outreach opportunities to issue cards and talk about resources, create a monthly bilingual storytime, and update the library's directional signs.
Health and Wellness
- The Houston Public Library’s Healthy L.I.F.E (Literacy Initiative For Everyone) program "is an innovative health based library literacy initiative designed to educate low-income youth and their families about the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity, and to help improve their obesity/nutritional status through local, state and national partnerships." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- North Carolina: The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's Job Help for the Homeless brings the knowledge, skills, abilities, and resources of the library's Job Help Center to the Urban Ministry Center of Charlotte, where about 600 homeless or disadvantaged individuals receive services daily.
- Tennessee: Memphis Public Library's JOBLINC is a "mobile career center with resources to help jobseekers prepare resumes, hone interviewing skills, conduct employment searches, and apply online at one of ten laptops onboard. The service also matches employers with potential employees. Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- Washington: Seattle Public Library's Your Next Skill program will make use of librarians as personal learning advisors. The library will have “a web interface where patrons will enter a few questions about their desired learning interest; a staff interface where staff can claim questions, work on draft responses, have access to reporting functions and a database of resources,” and end up with a learning plan (which could include recommended materials, classes, and instructors) displayed online for the patron. Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- New York: The Brooklyn Public Library’s BklynShare program allows people to come to the library to check out a skill and learn from experts with the knowledge or experience they’re interested in. The program “Enables people to learn new skills through a service that connects knowledge seekers with experts in their own neighborhood.” Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- Colorado: The Pikes Peak Library District's Waldo Canyon Fire Digital Collection is an archival collection and online resource that serves "as a comprehensive repository of primary-source research materials related to the destructive Waldo Canyon Fire, which burned 347 homes in Colorado Springs during the summer of 2012." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Runner-Up.
- New York: The Metropolitan New York Library Council's Culture In Transit takes scanners, cameras, and expertise out into the community to digitize and share the communities' local history. Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- New York: The Brooklyn Public Library’s Our Streets, Our Stories oral history project aims to create a neighborhood-specific archive of interviews collected from Brooklyn residents. While the majority of interviews are conducted at library branches, they also visit senior centers and local community organizations.
- West Virginia: Marshall University’s This Place Matters project will “use mobile technology to reach members of the public where they stand, creating entries in Clio and Marshall Digital Scholar that share the stories of African Americans in central Appalachia." While the Marshall program takes place in an academic library, it could easily be adapted by public libraries to highlight local history. Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- California: The Santa Clara County Library's Episodic Fiction project involved the library partnering with startup JukePop to provide its users with access to 800 free self-published serial fiction titles in an easy-to-use eBook format. Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- North Carolina: The Macon County Public Library Read Local Book Fair supports local authors by providing library users with the opportunity to meet and chat with authors, hear readings, and purchase books either directly from authors or from the local independent bookstore. The first event featured 27 local authors.
- Ohio: The Dayton Metro Library's Local Authors Collection and Events has added over 250 items written by local authors to its collection and has held events to celebrate local authors. Urban Libraries Council, 2015 Top Innovator.
- Illinois: The Chicago Public Library is organizing face-to-face study groups in local libraries to help first-time online learners successfully take online courses. Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- Louisiana: The Terrebonne Parish Library's Future Leaders of America’s Gulf (FLAG) program is a library-based multimedia program that facilities teen participation in investigating the environmental, economic, and community issues that affect Terrebonne Parish and the Gulf Coast. Upstart Innovation Award, 2014.
- Michigan: The Grand Rapids Public Library's DigiBridge program is a partnership between the public library and the public schools to connect students and educators to the library's online resources and technology. The goal is to bridge the technology gap that students face by providing them with eReaders, a technology camp, database training, and digital library cards. Upstart Innovation Award, 2015; Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- Colorado: Aurora Public Library's Library in a Big Box program opened a public computer center inside a Kmart store in a highly diverse and economically challenged area of the city. Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- Illinois: Chicago’s Make It @ Your Library “will share DIY, tech, and maker tools - like the kid-friendly circuit building littleBits, 3D printers, open-source electronic programming Arduino kits, easily programmable Finch Robots, and Dremel hand-held tools - with libraries through existing book sharing and delivery systems.” Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- New Hampshire: The Portsmouth Public Library held a DIY Google Cardboard workshop to introduce users to Google Cardboard, a virtual reality platform developed by Google for use with a head mount for a mobile phone. See this LITA blog entry for more information about Google Cardboard.
- Tennessee: Library Box can be used to provide content in areas without Internet connectivity. For example, “Librarians who served Native American populations on reservations where there is literally no Internet access—no connectivity at all. Having this digital distribution box means that they can take it there, and that people can then—if they have an e-reader or a cellphone with Wi-Fi capability—they can pull materials off of it.” (More information at The Digital Shift). Knight Foundation Award, 2015.
- North Carolina: The Catawba County Library's Robots in the Library program for students age 10 and up provided a free robotics program, with students attending team meetings where they worked together to assemble a robot and program it to complete an assigned set of tasks.
- North Carolina: The Rutherford County Public Library offers a makerspace for adults and teens. Further information about makerspaces in general can be found at "A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources."
- Texas: The San Antonio Public Library's Digital Library Community Project placed digital bookshelves at several community centers as well as three digital touchscreen kiosks at the San Antonio International Airport. These provided direct access to the library's digital collection of eBooks, eAudioBooks, music, and magazines for download. Urban Libraries Council, 2015 Honorable Mention.
- Washington: The Seattle Public Library is lending hotspots to individuals so that they can connect to the Internet outside the library. For further details, see the American Libraries article about lending hotspots. Other libraries that check out hotspots include the New York Public Library and the Chicago Public Library.
- California: The Palo Alto City Library’s makex, a teen mobile makerspace project, is a “teen-designed “starter” mobile makerspace able to move to libraries and community centers throughout Palo Alto.” Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Runner-Up.
- North Carolina: The Durham County Library's First Library in Space program expanded on the library's role as a makerspace and STEM resource by having teens build a rocket capsule and launch it into near space. The community tracked the flight online with onboard GPS, and teens wrote the original music for the documentary video. Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- North Carolina: The Durham County Library's Teen Tech Learning Lab provides teens with extended school day programs and full-day programs on Saturdays devoted to reinforcing STEAM topics.
Virginia: The Fairfax County Public Library's Changing Lives through Literature program is an alternative sentencing program that assigns groups of 10 to 15 teen offenders to read and discuss novels, short stories, and poems that illustrate themes of friendship, values, choices, and consequences.
- Canada: Edmonton Public Library’s “Great Stuff Crew” help library users sift through the large amount of items provided by the library. Among other things, the crew serve as "content promoters – for fiction, non-fiction, film, music, storytime reads, games, and more." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Runner-Up.
- Colorado: The Denver Public Library's DPL Connect is a pedal-powered mobile library and wi-fi hotspot. Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Top Innovator.
- Kansas: Activate Wichita is an online town hall created by the Wichita Public Library "to increase engagement on library programs and services as well as broader community issues." Urban Libraries Council, 2014 Runner-Up.