Life Changing Library Programs!

The evidence is clear, library programs offer definite opportunities for deep, long-term impact including life changing, improved health outcomes. The rich findings from research for the master’s thesis, Quantifying the value of programming in public libraries: An examination of benefits, ROI, and research methods demonstrates the positive benefits library programs can deliver. All public libraries conduct programming.

These activities enable community connection, provide new knowledge and skills, give opportunities for inspiration, and can improve health and wellbeing outcomes. Programming is also a key method for bringing a variety of cohorts into the library, building relationships, and breaking down barriers. Librarians worldwide instinctively understand the worth of programming, but where is the evidence to back up these anecdotal hunches? How do stakeholders really know what benefits or outcomes are being provided to patrons?

Understanding the value of library programs is a complex topic which requires a nuanced and multifaceted approach, as such there is very little published, evidence-based research on public programming, especially within the Australian public library context. This research investigated the value of public library programming at Ipswich Libraries. How to most accurately measure and report on the benefits and outcomes is also explored in detail. A mixed methods study was employed to understand how quantitative and qualitative data work together to best convey a complete picture of the worth of library public programming. Ipswich Libraries’ adult program participants were the focus of the research. Program participants were surveyed and interviewed to discover the overall benefits to individuals and communities.

Case studies from this research will be presented and these key findings will be discussed:

  • Clear community and individual benefits with the top three benefits being new knowledge, enjoyment, and an increased sense of wellbeing.
  • Programs offer definite opportunities for deep and long-term impact including life changing improved health outcomes.
  • Ipswich Libraries’ programs do satisfy patron needs and those library members place a high value on programs.

Kaley Schelks

Senior Program Officer, State Library of Queensland

Author Bio

Kaley Schelks is a curious and evidence-based Librarian who specialises in library engagement and public programming. Kaley recently graduated with a Master of Information Management from the University of South Australia. In 2022, she was awarded ALIA’s inaugural Charlotte Henry Study Grant. She used the funds to complete her master’s thesis, Quantifying the value of programming in public libraries: An examination of benefits, ROI, and research methods. Passionate about the impact that libraries make in our communities, Kaley began her adventure in the information sector with the Public Programming Team at Ipswich Libraries.

Working for over six years in this team gave Kaley an understanding of the importance of engaging the library community with programs that are targeted, meet demographic needs, and that are fun! Kaley specialised in innovative programs for hard-to-reach cohorts and those with alternative needs. Looking for a new challenge, Kaley is now supporting regional libraries and their communities as a Senior Program Officer with Local Government Coordination at State Library of Queensland. No stranger to the microphone (don’t mention karaoke), Kaley’s career in library engagement and programming has afforded her many opportunities to MC events, host programs, and present to stakeholders and government bodies. She also presented on the topic of coping with the pandemic through making library connections, Brisbane to Brooklyn via Wuthering Heights at ALIA Queensland’s 2020 Webinar Series: Survivor 2020 – Webinar 1.