Column Description: This column will explore how library programming has no bounds but endless possibilities – when you think outside the box. Every issue, there will be a different contributor sharing their stories of when they tested the limits and experimented with programming for their patrons and interviews of those who are pushing the bounds of programming.

During the last ALA Conference, I was one of the speakers for the Sustainability Roundtable Sustainable: Choices in Library Prizes & Promotional Materials program. The idea for the program came from Tara Lingg who was the chair of the programming committee and a Children’s Librarian herself. I thought it was a great idea and worth discussing. Basically, public libraries usually give out a lot of things for Summer Reading (and other events), mostly plastic toys and things that wind up in the trash. What a waste, right? 

During the program, we talked about different ideas for making summer reading and library events more sustainable. During my talk, I discussed the things we did at my library. For example, we have a ping pong table and a basketball arcade game, which cost around $150 each. We’ll reward the kids and teens for good behavior (i.e. doing their homework, reading a book) by letting them play. We have a robot therapy dog (from Joy for All) which is also useful. When I see a small kid feeling down or upset, I let them play with the dog, and they tend to cheer up after seeing it. The dog listens and wags its tail and reacts to being petted. In the past, we also partnered with our local supermarket to give away free fruits, like apples and bananas, once a month in the library. They would all be gone at the end of the day. I was surprised and happy to see our kids and teens enjoying healthy snacks so much. 

As a library, we want to offer fun experiences and positive memories to our customers. Every customer is like a book, and we want them to have great stories about the time they spend in the library. We also want our kids and teens to grow up into adults who are advocates for the library. So instead of getting a cheap give-away, maybe invest in something that will last and bring smiles to customers for a long time. I am sure your library also has great ideas for sustainable programs and events. Feel free to share at:


Kacper Jarecki is a community library manager at Queens Public Library. He is the membership chair of the Ethnic Services Roundtable (ESRT). Help celebrate diversity by joining ESRT today ;-)