by Leanna Cowan
Director, Alvarado Public Library
Most of us are pretty comfortable when planning programs or services for children and their parents. We know that anything featuring live bugs, furry critters or snakes is always a big hit. We can send home bookmarks or flyers about our programs with children at their schools. We can put up colorful posters at local daycare centers. We know how much a children’s educational performer will charge us and most of us have a special budget just for our children’s programs.
However, we face some interesting challenges when we try to plan the same things for adults, especially the “Boomer Generation.” Who exactly should we be serving? What do they want or need from us? How will we be able to pay for new programs? How should we market, advertise and promote our new programs?
First you need to determine who you should serve. Using your Long Range Plan as a guideline you should choose your target audiences from those in your service area. You can learn what percentage of your local population is over 65, how many people speak languages at home other than English and other interesting bits of information on the U.S. Census bureau website www.census.gov via their American FactFinder page. You can also call local social service agencies, like Meals on Wheels, to get information on the adults in your area with special needs.
Once you determine who your targets are you need to find out what kind of programs they might want or need. Even those of us who are in the “Boomer Generation” have trouble thinking up programming ideas for our peers. Obviously one of the reasons we have trouble is because adults of all ages have such varied interests and needs. Something that might really excite an avid gardener will bore the pants off of a die-hard race car enthusiast. Someone needing advice on the stock market does not need the same information as a retiree living solely on Social Security. A great way to get started planning programs is to ask other librarians in your county what programs they have done that worked well for them.
There are wonderful, informative Boomer websites such as www.aginghipsters.com , www.bbhq.com , and www.babyboomer-magazine.com where you can find interesting programming ideas. And of course you can always talk to people who are already coming to your library but to reach the majority of your targets you will need to literally go outside the library to search for answers. You might visit golf courses, retirement villages, Senior Citizens Centers, Community Centers, or churches and attend meetings of local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Lions or Kiwanis Clubs.
After you determine what your new programs or services should be you still need to find a way to offer them. Unless your library has unlimited funds you will need to search for people willing to provide free lectures or classes. Some local organizations or businesses might sponsor a speaker for your program especially if you offer to give a free program yourself in return. Organizations supported by the County Extension Service, like the Master Gardener’s Associations, are happy to provide free horticulture lectures, and they often bring their own program hand-puts and sometimes send out their own promotional materials. Antique and classic car clubs will send members to your library to have mini-car shows in your parking lot. Even without their cars in your parking lot classic car owners love to talk about their hobby and can offer free information on resources for do-it-your-selfers who want to learn how to restore the cars of their dreams. You may also have library patrons or staff members or volunteers who have an unusual hobby and could be persuaded to present a program.
After everything is planned you should put up posters, pass out book marks or flyers and talk about your new programs at all of the places and organizational meetings where you did your research. (NTRLS offers a wonderful free service - Outreach 2 the Underserved (02U) using the extraordinary talents of Nell Callison who will design and print out your new program’s full-color posters, bookmarks or flyers.) Send Public Service Announcements to local radio and television stations. Submit articles to local newspapers, or national magazines like Modern Maturity or AARP and those Boomer websites.
Now you are ready to reach out to the Boomer Generation. Go grab `em!