Can a Program Fail? And, if so, What’s Next?

There are many different ways a program can ‘fail’. Maybe it’s a monthly program and attendance has slowly drifted off. Maybe it’s a one shot that was asked for (by a teen or the Advisory Board) but then no one or only one or two kids show up. Maybe it’s the “hot” program that every other teen librarian swears draws in crowds and you get no one or the few you get think it’s boring.

What do you do?

There are equally as many possible solutions as there are ways for a program to fail.

Sometime, you’ll know why. The kids at the “hot” program tell you it’s dumb. Or leave early. Or roll their eyes. That anime program that’s gone great for years but now has almost no attendance, well, now the local school(s) have anime programs of their own and are easier to access (this one actually happened at my last job). Maybe you find out afterwards that the school had something going on – a concert or big sports game or something similar.

But as often as not, you don’t have a concrete reason why. So do you try the program again or not?

If you know why, then you probably have the tools you need to evaluate whether to have the program again. Maybe a simple change of date works. Or maybe it’s just not something your teens are in to. But if you don’t, how do we figure out whether to try it again on a different date?

One of the things I often try, especially if the program has been requested a few times, is see how it goes during the summer. Like many (but not all) libraries, I get some of my highest program attendance during the summer program. If a program bombs then, chances are I won’t try it again, at least not immediately. I might give it a year or two, see if it’s requested again and then try. Schedules change, younger kids age in and all sorts of similar things can affect attendance. I might try it again if I’m still getting requests, but test it at a different time or different day of the week. For my kids, Mondays and Tuesdays are not good days, no matter how often they ask for programs those days. Even perennially popular programs bombed this fall when I tried early in the week programs.

I’m also working on my advertising, as we all are. I’m looking into mini-flyers in the form of bookmarks or business card sized things that I can put around at the schools and give batches to my Advisory Board kids to have them hand out to friends.

What kind of things do you look at when a program flops? How do you reevaluate? Share here or on facebook!

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