An exploration of U.S. library public programs

Library workers see the impacts of library programs every day — from young people developing comprehension skills through summer reading programs, to older adults finding companionship and learning new skills through arts classes.
Still, the library field has lacked sufficient data on whether, and how, these efforts are working — knowledge that is necessary in order to prepare the librarians of today and tomorrow to provide the best possible learning experiences for our nation.

Through the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA), the American Library Association is collecting data from libraries across the country to understand and document the characteristics, audiences, outcomes, and value of U.S. library public programming.

This foundational research, conducted in collaboration with New Knowledge Organization Ltd., a social science think tank, has brought together a network of researchers, practitioner-researchers, and advisors to answer two research questions:

  1. How can we characterize and categorize public programs offered by libraries today?
  2. What competencies and training are required for professionals working with library programming?
From 2017 to 2019, NILPPA: Phase 1 researchers studied the landscape of library public programming, including program types, topics, formats, audiences, partner relationships, and current competencies, and identified the skills required to create effective and excellent programs. The research also explores current pathways to programming competencies for library workers, as well as opportunities that may exist in formal and informal skills acquisition.

In the process, we have developed a deeper understanding of the current nature of library programming and created a baseline for future work on trends and forecasting.

NILPPA: Phase I is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant number LG-96-17-0048-17.