Exploring public programming at U.S. libraries

Library workers see the impact of public programming every day — from young people developing comprehension skills through summer reading programs, to older adults finding companionship and learning new skills through arts classes.

But what characterizes a good public program? What training do library workers need to create and put on the best programming? What does excellence in library programming look like, and how can library workers achieve it together?

Together, the American Library Association and Knology, a social science research nonprofit, are working to document the characteristics, audiences, outcomes, and value of U.S. library public programming through the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA).

What We’re Learning

Libraries are more than just homes for learning materials – many libraries are now centers of vital programming and community-building efforts. The role of the library is changing and growing, and library workers are on the front lines of that change.

Since 2014, ALA and Knology have brought together a network of researchers, practitioner-researchers, and advisors to: 

  • Categorize public programming
  • Explore what skills 21st-century library workers need to be successful
  • Understand what program impact looks like
  • Identify how libraries partner with community organizations

The research is ongoing, but we have made great progress:


Interested in digging into the research? Check out the white papers, reports, and publications that have resulted from years of study. We’ve been exploring the big picture and recognize that the skills required to be a library worker in the 21st century are far different than decades ago. We are excited to identify these new competencies and create a new curriculum to help library workers be fully equipped for the future.

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