My library is extremely busy during the summer. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can keep our patrons this engaged with the library all year long. In a way, summer is easy. Although our teens have vacations and other summer activities, they also have a lot more down time than during the school year. They love air conditioning (don’t we all!) and having a free place to hang out. Programs in the summer fill up fast, and they are a popular way for teens to spend their time.

However, during the school year, many teens are overscheduled and overbooked. Even if a program looks interesting to a teen, many don’t have the time to carve an hour out of their day to come to a program. How can we keep teens excited about coming to the library, even if they don’t have time to pencil us in to their busy schedules? One idea I’d like to try out more is passive programming.

According to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), passive programming, “promotes the library and its materials and services without providing a formal program at a specific time or date.” Passive programs are informal and allow for teens to complete the program at their own pace and on their own schedule.

In January my library system had a “Valentines for Veterans” table at each of our branches. Patrons could create Valentine’s Day cards—there was paper, glue sticks, cut out shapes appropriate for Valentine’s Day, markers, stickers, and more. It was wildly successful. People of all ages enjoyed getting to take time to make a card for a veteran—some people spent 2 minutes, some people spent 20, but we had an overwhelmingly positive response.

Although this program wasn’t geared specifically at teens, the teens at my branch enjoyed it immensely. It gave them a break to do something fun and it didn’t take a lot of time. I like the idea of having more passive programs, in addition to normal programming, throughout the year to engage more teen patrons. The TSLAC suggests many other great passive programs you can do: writing a story using prompts, book swap shelf, scavenger hunts, and video reviews.

Have you tried passive programming at your library? What passive program ideas can you share?

5 Thoughts on “When It’s Good to be Passive

  1. Christina Hicks on June 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm said:

    The past 2 years I’ve had a March Madness passive program for my teens. I print out a large bracket and stat sheets and let them vote for their favorite (last year we chose Best YA book, this year it was Heroes vs. Villains). It’s a lot of fun!

  2. Megan Frazer Blakemore on June 22, 2011 at 11:16 am said:

    We do them in my school library. About once a month we have Craftastic Fridays. We put out supplies on a table and let the students work all day. The most successful have been duct tape day and friendship bracelets, It’s been successful and a lot of fun.

  3. Heather on June 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm said:

    At the public library I work at we have “drop in” programs. Each week of the summer we have a different drop in program. This week is an “Imagine them Young!” activity where teens get to match celebrities with their baby pictures. We made a posterboard of celebrity baby pictures and laminated it and they can fill out a worksheet and for every five they get correct they get prize. Its easy and out all day so teens aren’t tied down to a specific time they have to participate. We also have had a Greek mythology/Percy Jackson quiz, book spine poetry and next week is origami. We also have a teen craft cart that I put out sometimes with all sorts of materials and craft supplies for them to work on all day. We also have board games out all day and the teens do their own thing when they want. I have found the drop in programs to be more successful at times than the more structured programs I have at specific times.

  4. Jacqui Milliern on June 24, 2011 at 8:13 am said:

    Like Megan, we put out a weekly craft at my library. We call it “Creativity Corner”. The best part is that we sneakily incorporate writing skills into every craft! Most weeks we offer 2 levels of difficulty (one for elementary children and one for teens) for each craft and participants can hang their craft in the library for a week.

  5. Jessica on June 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm said:

    There are two programs we are offering at my library this summer. One is a weekly craft called “Teen Take Out.” We put together a teen craft in Chinese take out boxes. We are also participating in geocaching, which is basically an online scavenger hunt using GPS. This event is for all ages. You can check it out @

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