Passive Programming is Not Passé

Are you looking for a few passive programming ideas to help add some life to your library?  Perhaps there’s less time for regular programming, or you just want something new in your display spaces.  Maybe you want to make your teen area more inviting and get teen input for future programming or display ideas.  I’ll describe a few popular passive programming ideas that have garnered significant interest at many different libraries.


What Should I Read?


This passive program can really be as simple or as difficult as you want to make it.  The point is to help encourage readers to read outside of their comfort zone by picking a slip of paper out of the vase at random.  Then they must read a book in the genre that corresponds to the color of the paper they selected.  Now, that’s a perfectly simple passive program to set up – make the display with genres, cut up some paper, and voila!  However, going one step further and actually adding titles to each of the slips of paper can really increase participation and make for interesting discussions when a teen comes up to you and says, “Do I really have to read this?”

The answer?  “Yes.  Yes you do.  Those are the rules.”  Obviously they don’t have to, but they know that, and a little encouragement to try something new never hurts.


Shredded Book Trivia


GASP!  Sure, that may not be our first reaction – we have to recycle or get rid of weeded and damaged books regularly – but it will be for some of the patrons.  I make sure to have a sign explaining that these items have seen better days and would likely not sell in our Friends of the Library book sale due to being in poor condition.

The point of this passive program is to get patrons to really look at the shredded pieces of the book and try to figure out the exact title.  I would strategically place pieces of the shredded book towards the top and sides of the jar that would definitely give someone searching carefully enough hints to guess the title.  I never required the author’s name as well, just the title of the book – and the series name wasn’t enough!  I had patrons check out entire book series to try and figure out which Harry Potter book got shredded (“The Prisoner of Azkaban”), and Stephen King’s “Cujo” received a whopping 40+ entries.  That may have had to do with the fact that the title was pretty easy to guess, though.  How many other books have you heard of with a big dog named Cujo?

Patrons just write down their name, phone number, and their guess on a slip of paper that they put in the entry box, and at the end of the month we would separate all of the entries that got it right from those that got it wrong.  Then we would pull 3 names out of those that got it right, and those individuals would receive a brand new free book from our large collection of prize books.


Teen Whiteboard


You’d never believe how cheap a stick-on whiteboard is.  Seriously, go search on Amazon right now, because that’s all this is!  Well, that and a few markers, an eraser, and some yarn to attach the marker to the bookcase.  But, for the amount of participation I’ve gotten from my teens on questions from “If you could be a Pokemon, what would you be?” to “What are you most excited for this summer?”, I’ll count those dollars well spent.  Even “Write a Two Sentence Horror Story” worked wonders!

You can get a whiteboard for nearly any size space you have available.  I’ve never had any issues with teens drawing anything inappropriate, and only one answer that would be considered questionable, but I’d recommend checking it at least daily to make sure that everything’s alright.  If you have a particularly active teen population, you may need to refresh the question biweekly or weekly to ensure that people continue to participate regularly.




While I’ve heard some rumbling that adult and teen coloring sheets are no longer ‘is’, but ‘was’, ours are still quite the rage.  Teens regularly sit down to color before and after programs, and some families would come in and color together.  There are a large number of coloring sheets available out there, and if you’re savvy with Photoshop or Pixlr, you can always turn photos into coloring sheets yourself as well!

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