The Book Hook: Must All Library Programs Be Tied to a Book?

The way I see it, there are largely two main schools of thought when it comes to library programming for children: let’s call the first group the “Book Hookers.”  (Hehe.  Er, on second thought, perhaps I’ll call them Group A).  So, Group A is of the belief that all programs should ultimately lead to a book.  Thus, if you make a butterfly magnet-thingy during craft time, you should read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”  If you are hosting a gaming program, you should have books or magazines related to gaming strewn about the room. 

The second camp, for the sake of decency let them be Group B, believes that the library is not simply a storehouse of books and that there are many kinds of literacy.  Programs do not necessarily need to relate directly, or even indirectly, to a physical book.     

When it comes to Adult Programming, this doesn’t seem to be an issue.  Many branches host adult programs that have no relation to books.  This week, my own branch had a professional ballet dance troop perform.  The program was very well attended, the audience enjoyed the performers, and many of them wound up browsing the collection and checking materials before or after the program.

With children’s programming, however, one gets the feeling that it is some sort of taboo to have a bookless event.  Doing the Chicken Dance?  Why not read Charlie Chick?   

As for my own programs, most of them are book-related to begin with: storytimes, toddler times, even my craft program is “Stories & Crafts.”  When I used to host a film program at my old branch, I would sometimes pick thematically-related picture books and display them in the back of the room.  Sometimes they would get checked out, sometimes not.  I love books and uniting children with them.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I didn’t.  That said, there are certain programs that I feel easily stand on their own.  Gaming, for instance.  Or a social networking workshop.  Or an American Sign Language class.

In a way, I suppose this question is more philiosophical in nature and gets at the heart of what the library is, and where its future lies- rather than day-to-day programming issues.  As libraries evolve to meet the demands of a multimedia world, while still striving to bridge the literacy gap, how has our mission statement changed?  As children’s librarians, how to we address the varied (and ever expanding) forms of literacy?  How to we develop quality programs that are about making connections and inspiring the creative mind?  Programs that are as much about vocabulary-building and phonological awareness as they are about creating community ties and relationships? 

What are your thoughts on the “book hook”?  Necessary?  Antiquated? 

Just some lofty thoughts to ponder on a sunny Saturday morning. 🙂


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