Library Leadership

68. Big Programming Ideas for Small Budgets with Chelsea Price

Want to create amazing programming while making every budget-dollar count? On this show, I talk with Chelsea Price, Director of the Meservey Public Library in Iowa. She’s the author of the book 209 Big Programming Ideas for Small Budgets and shares on this episode ways that with creativity, flexibility, and heart we can all deliver outstanding programs that make the most of every programming dollar. These are ideas every library can use.  

Transcript

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Adriane:

This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.

Want to create amazing programming while making every budget dollar count? On this show I talk with Chelsea Price, Director of the Merservey Public Library in Iowa. She’s author of the book, 209 Big Programming Ideas for Small Budgets and shares on this episode ways that with creativity, flexibility, and heart we can all deliver outstanding programs that make the most of every programming dollar. These are ideas every library can use. Enjoy the show.

Chelsea, welcome to the show.

Chelsea Price:

Thank you so much. I’m happy you invited me.

Adriane:

Well, thank you for talking with me today about big programming ideas for small budgets. I think sometimes in libraries we believe that more funding can solve more problems. And while funding is certainly important, in your new book you say that sometimes we can do a lot with a little when it comes to programming.

First of all, tell us what made you decide to write this book? 01:52 

Chelsea Price:

To be honest, funding could probably solve a lot of our problems, but this book is all about doing more with less, and how the word little does not always mean less than, and how small libraries can do things just as well as big libraries can.

I wrote this book because I really love to read books on programming and library management, but I noticed these books were usually aimed at larger libraries. And to be honest, most things it seems are aimed at larger libraries than mine. Even when I attend conferences, even the ARSL Conference, the Rural and Small Library Conference, small is really a relative term when it comes to libraries. The 25,000 population, still is considered to be a small library. My town, Merservey has only 250 people. So, we’re really tiny. 

I remember I heard in one session at the ARSL Conference, the one talking about spending – it was something like $1500 on Nerf guns for a team program. I was like, I cannot imagine going to my board asking if I could spend $1500 on Nerf guns. So, yeah, the term small really is relative.

I noticed that gap in the market, that there was not a whole lot of literature that was aimed specifically at small and rural libraries. So, I wanted to write something that could fill that gap, that could come in handy for libraries of any size, even tiny ones like mine.

Adriane:

And your book is chock full of amazing ideas. Especially right now with COVID some libraries are finding budgets getting tighter. How can we lead our libraries in a direction that involves creativity, flexibility, and heart to deliver services with less money? 03:50 

Chelsea Price:

It is such a weird time. It’s a weird time in general. But, it’s a weird time to publish this book because most of us are not doing in-person programming at all. A lot of us don’t even know when we will be able to start again. So right now, a lot of the programs in my book will have to be translated to distance programming or virtual. But, once we’re able to plan in-person programs again, I think it will be all about using what we already have -digging back into that storage closet to see what crafts and what games we already have handy.

Seeking out more donations and grants, there is a chapter on that in the book. And, giving yourself permission to do less. I think it’s so important right now – always, but especially right now, to be gentle with yourself. And if you are a leader in libraries, being gentle with your employees. Because right now, our employees’ lives should be our main concern and our main priority. 

I think we need to be super aware of burnout always, but especially right now. The prevalence of burnout in this field…one of my favorite chapters in the book is on job burnout in this field. It’s particularly noticeable in small libraries because the responsibilities are often all on one person’s shoulders. Even though a lot of us are just on the brink of losing it sometimes, we’re expected to keep a smile on for serving our community. And it can be really tiring, especially during COVID. 

I think it’s so important that if you’re in the position of power to do what you can to ease stress for your employees. And to remember that we’re not superheroes, and we can’t do it all.

Adriane:

You say that you did this because you’re a small library looking for great ideas for ways to do things on a budget. But, is this only for small libraries? 06:08 

Chelsea Price:

No, I actually had them change the title of this book because it was originally, 209 Big Ideas for Small Libraries. Instead, now it’s, Small Budgets. I had them change it because I didn’t want a large library to see the book and be like, Oh, well it’s not for me. Because I think it can be helpful to a library of any size. Libraries are always looking to save money, no matter how big their budget already is. Who doesn’t love saving money?

There’s not only just chapters on inexpensive programming, there’s a chapter on burnout, there’s a chapter on partnership outreach, a summer reading program, you actually contributed to that chapter.

Adriane:

Right…

Chelsea Price:

…A chapter on marketing, a chapter on fundraising, and grant searching, and those other things that can apply to a library of any size.

Adriane:

What would you say to people who may feel nervous about implementing programs on a shoestring? 07:09 

Chelsea Price:

I would tell them that just because a program is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s of lower quality. I think amazing programs can be done for a reasonable price, and they can be just as good or better than programs done on a huge budget.

There’s a whole chapter in the book about taking risks and taking chances on doing these big programs. But, you may have always thought, Oh, I’m too small to do that program or, We don’t have the time, or the space, or the money to do that program. But, if I can do big programs in a library this tiny anyone can.

If they’re nervous about asking for things like taking a chance on a partnership opportunity, or asking for donations, or for more volunteers – if that’s what they’re worried about, the worse a person can say to you is no. You’ll never know what can happen if you don’t try. A lot of the best programs that I’ve ever had have been because I took a chance, or took a risk. And, they’ve turned out to be really amazing.

Adriane:

Can you give any real life examples of how you’ve seen some of these programming ideas deliver success? 08:26 

Chelsea Price:

One of my favorite programs, that I talked about in the book, is our Annual Summer Carnival. We’ve done it for three summers in a row, except for this past summer, of course. We have inflatables, there’s a petting zoo, games, face-painting, there’s food, there’s prizes, and all of it doesn’t cost the library much more than around $300. It’s all been possible because of the partnerships I’ve built in the community, and some generous donations, and small grants from community organizations.

The carnival has brought in double our population, which again we are only 250 people. So, that isn’t too terribly hard to do, but it’s a big deal for our town. It brings in lots of donations, even though the carnival is free, totally free to attend. I do put a donation bucket by the food. There’s always over a $1000 of donations in there. If my library can do a program like that, anyone can do it.

Adriane:

That sounds great. Partnerships are always a great answer. I find that volunteers sometimes are so happy to be involved in the program. Have you had that experience, and do you talk about that in your book? 09:47 

Chelsea Price:

I do. So, I don’t think I talk in great detail about volunteers but I know it’s mentioned several times. We depend on volunteers for all of our larger scale programs. The volunteers come out in full force for that carnival. I don’t know what I would do without them to help. Not only to set up and tear down, but also to supervise and help run the games. My board members are always a huge help. Some volunteers have to be forced, as in the case of my husband [laughter]. But he ends up having just as great a time as everyone else. My volunteers are really amazing.

Adriane:

Do you have any other favorite programs from the book you’d like to talk about? 10:40 

Chelsea Price:

Sure. The book doesn’t only include ideas from my own perspective, or my own experience. It also collects a lot of ideas from smaller rural libraries around the country. We even have a few from Canada. These people share some of their favorite programs or ideas. One of my favorites is from Christy Russell, I can’t remember which state it’s from. But, she is a small librarian who does a Book Yak on a Kayak, she calls it. 

It’s basically a book club out on the water. She has them sign waivers and goes into a lot more detail in her contribution in the book. They go out in kayaks and they talk about what book they’re reading while they’re floating out in their kayaks. I just love that so much. It seems so peaceful, I just love that. What a neat idea.

There’s a lot of other really great ideas in there. There’s a Comic-Con, a lot of really great passive program ideas, marketing. I got really lucky in the awesome people who contributed to the book. 

Adriane:

I want to float in a kayak and talk about books. That sounds amazing.

Chelsea Price:

I know, right?

Adriane:

I think everyone is going to get so much from this book, big or small. The programming ideas are incredible. I would just tell our listeners if you have a chance, pick up this book, take a look. We all have wonderful programs that we’re used to doing, but it’s always fun to get ideas from all over the US and even Canada, you said.

Chelsea Price:

Yes, definitely. So, the book is for sale on the ALA store, through ala store.ala.org. And I know times are tight and we don’t want to spend a lot of money on stuff right now, but you can get $5 off with the code, MPIB20. That gets you $5 off the book. Then, you can always buy it on Amazon as well.

Adriane:

Thank you so much for sharing that with our listeners. I’m sure they’ll appreciate that a lot. Anything else you’d like to share, Chelsea? 13:17 

Chelsea Price:

Well, I guess I could plug – I did at the ARSL Conference just this past week, I did a short webinar promoting the book, talking a little about what’s in each chapter of the book. That you can find on youtube. It’s posted now, by searching big programming ideas for small budgets, and it should pop right now. 

And then I also write for the Programming Librarian blog, so you can find me on there. Then I also, I don’t know if this will be out in time, but I wanted to share it anyway, I’m currently working with the ALA as an Outreach Consultant to help spread the news about a new grant specifically aimed at small and rural libraries, and small is considered 25,000 population or less. 

There are 650 libraries, and that can be any kind of library: public; academic; school libraries that will get $3000 to go toward a community engagement project of your choice. They basically want you to have conversations with your community about important issues. But, it can be spent on anything relevant to your community issue. It can be used for PPE, for COVID, Wi-Fi hotspots for your community, diverse books (if that’s something your library needs to improve on) …staff time, programming. You can learn more about that by going to ala.org/ltc, as in Libraries Transforming Communities. And, the deadline for that grant is December 2nd. But they are having another application period starting in January.

I just wanted to plug that because $3000 for a small library can go so far.

Adriane:

Thanks for getting the word out about those things. I don’t know that many of us know about them and I’m sure our listeners will look into that once they hear that. And of course, that would be December 2020 that that is due for this first round. And then, January 2021, when they’ll open up another round. Thank you for that, Chelsea.

Do you have a favorite management or leadership book, and why? 15:41 

Chelsea Price:

So, I think the ones that have really inspired me the most…there’s one that’s called, Start a Revolution, Stop Acting Like a Library, by Ben Bizzle and Maria Flora. And, there’s another one called New Routes to Library Success, by Elisabeth Doucett. Both books look outside of the library bubble to get ideas. They look at different businesses and organizations for their ideas on marketing outreach, and customer service, and how to think outside of the book to improve upon those at your library. 

I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas. I think it’s so neat to be able to get inspiration from a bar that does really good community programming, or a bookstore, or a humane society who does really good marketing campaigns. I just think you can find inspiration from a lot of other places.

Another one that is not library related, but I wanted to talk about is Joyful by Ingrid Lee. This book is about aesthetics and design, which doesn’t sound like it would be super relevant to libraries but it really inspired me to incorporate the light into my library space. It talked a lot about the light, and surprise, and celebration, and the different ways that can be incorporated into customer service… It inspired me to update my whole children’s space. Now it’s just so much more pleasing to the eye.

Adriane:

Chelsea, in closing, what do libraries mean to you, personally? 17:37 

Chelsea Price:

Oh, well, libraries have always represented a safe feeling, a feeling of home to me. My mom was a library director of a tiny library as well when I was growing up. For about fifteen years she was the director of my hometown library. Her mom, my grandma, was also a school librarian from ages forty to eighty. So, I feel very comfortable around libraries. They feel safe to me. 

That’s where I would go everyday after school. I have always sought them out. If we were on a trip and were looking for things to do I’d always head to the library. When I was in college and I was feeling overwhelmed about anything, I would head to the library. I wrote most of this book inside a library, not my own but a library. They offer a safe space for me. They’re comforting.

Adriane:

They sure are, and I love that family connection. Thank you for sharing that with us. Chelsea, it has been so nice to have you on the show today. Thank you for all your great information. I would just encourage all listeners to get hold of this book, wonderful ideas for programming for all libraries. I know that I’m going to use it, and come up with some great ideas, and have some fun, and flexibility, and heart in programming going forward. So thank you for writing it, and thank you for talking with us today.

Chelsea Price:

Yes, thank you so much, Adriane. It’s been so fun.

Adriane:

It really has.

You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at https://libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.

We would like to thank the Park City Library for their dedicated support of this show. The opinions expressed on this show are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of Library Leadership Podcast, or our sponsors.

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