In a low-income, high-poverty setting, it is a struggle to get adults to come to the library and participate in programming. As far as I can tell, this is a true situation across the nation. Parents in high poverty settings often don’t participate in school functions. A Pew research study also suggested that residents in low socioeconomic status are not aware of the resources that many libraries now offer in the 21st century.
The survey notes that while 62 percent of libraries offer online career and job-related resources, 38 percent of adults don’t know whether their library offers them. Likewise, 35 percent of libraries offer high school equivalency classes, and nearly half of adults don’t know whether their libraries offer them. The numbers are similar for programs on starting a new business, online programs that certify people who’ve mastered a new skill, and ebook borrowing.
Since the start of 2017, I’ve been attempting to develop adult-targeted programming at Kensington Library. This came out of being asked to start scheduling Saturday programming from our program’s coordinator and knowing attendance was painfully low on these days. In an attempt to make the most of the new requirement, I saw an opportunity in reaching out to adults who may not otherwise come on a weekday due to the high volume of younger children on those days and availability in adults’ schedules.
I discussed the idea with Kensington Library’s librarians to get an idea of what they saw their library patrons being interested in. From there, I consulted our mission and created a series of workshops based on their feedback that fit within our program’s goals.
So far, I have tried a repeating Computer Basics Workshop and a Sewing Workshop. We’ve listed them on the calendar and left flyers around the library. All of the workshops we’ve attempted have had zero participants.
I have been trying to consult our original grant documents, as well as articles from other institutions trying to reach adults and families in high poverty settings. Overwhelmingly, my anecdotal experience combined with what I’ve been able to gather from research suggests that attempting to engage low socioeconomic communities on weekends is not effective.
Weekday programming can be geared towards families, as we already have many families that participate in programming after school. It may be a better use of a makerspace’s resources to create programming around the schedules of library patrons as opposed to trying to impose that schedule upon them.