Thanks to funding from the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS), several public librarians from around the state recently attended a 4-week online course called "Creating Virtual Programs for Adults." The class was facilitated by nonprofit consortium Infopeople and was taught by Janie Hermann, the Public Programming Librarian at the Princeton (New Jersey) Public Library. Hermann is also the Chair of the American Library Association’s Programming Librarian Interest Group.
Rhode Island library staff who completed the course were Zach Berger of Cranston, Melissa Chiavaroli of Cumberland, Britta Obertello of South Kingstown, Kyera Shea of Rogers Free Library, and Lee Smith of Mount Pleasant.
The above participants joined library staff from all over the country in synchronous meetings during the first and third weeks of the course to discuss an overview of virtual programming and how to host and market online programs, respectively. During the second week, participants worked asynchronously to explore a variety of digital delivery platforms. The final week was devoted to learning how to evaluate the success of online library offerings.
To earn credit for course completion, participants attended the two synchronous class meetings, completed assigned activities, and interacted with fellow students in online discussion forums. Activities included brainstorming new program ideas, matching ideas with the best virtual platform, applying marketing strategies, developing a program planning worksheet, and designing program evaluations. Students also were assigned various videos to watch and articles to read.
Hermann, whose own library held 275 virtual adult programs from March through the end of August, brought a wealth of experience to her role as instructor. She stressed the importance of using data to tell stories about library programming and emphasized how crucial it is to measure both quantitative and qualitative elements when evaluating a program’s success.
The course was a valuable experience for the Rhode Island participants, all of whom are working on implementing what they’ve learned. The group shared highlights of their newly acquired knowledge during an OLIS Continuing Education (CE) Adult Services Roundtable session on November 12. A recording of the discussion can be viewed using this passcode: 4.r?LL75
Nicolette Baffoni, the OLIS Learning & Community Engagement Coordinator, served as liaison between the Rhode Island attendees and the Infopeople consortium and acknowledged that “this has been a disruptive and difficult time” for libraries to offer ongoing programming during a pandemic. The timing of the course offering was fortuitous. “The OLIS CE team has been looking for ways to offer more in-depth learning opportunities for librarians and library staff based on feedback we’ve gotten from the RI library community,” Baffoni said. “In the end, attendees of both the course and the follow-up session were able to get some new ideas, access high-quality resources, and hopefully build a bit of confidence in this new, now necessary, way of offering programs. I hope this is a model OLIS will be able to continue exploring, as it was a win all around.”