Skip to content

Passive Programming? In My Library?

February 15, 2016

When it comes to creating engaging programming in any library, the most difficult challenge seems to be striking a balance between what your patrons want to do and what kind of programs your library can afford to plan and staff. But not all programs need to involve equipment rentals, room scheduling, guest speakers, or even just having librarians in attendance! This (not so new) movement is called passive programming. Passive programs are easy to plan, require little to no expense in terms of materials or staff time, and are designed to run almost completely on their own. They also allow us to get creative with little risk of wasting time or money, and allow patrons interact with the program however they like.


Passive programming is, generally, more common among public libraries than academic, and especially common to youth services areas. Do a quick search of Pinterest for “passive programming ideas” and you’ll see what I mean – there are a lot of resources out there for grade-school crafts, themed obstacle courses, and scavenger hunts designed specifically to appeal to kids. But that doesn’t meant passive programming has no place among college students! In fact, passive programs provide the perfect way to create small “study breaks” for your students that will help them see the library as an interactive space where they can be comfortable, not just an awkward building they have to plod through to find a study room where they can suffer in peace.


If all this is starting to sound like something you’d like to try in your library, I’d suggest starting with some of the following common (and easy) passive programs!


  • Adult coloring pages! This trend could not be bigger, and there are tons of free printable pages to be found on Pinterest – putting them and a tub of crayons or colored pencils out is easy, but it makes a big impact! If you can, look for coloring pages that have something to do with your school, mascot, or area. Want to step up your game a little? Cover the table in blank paper and ask students to draw, write on, or “tag” it however they’d like!
  • Before midterms or finals, try a special “study break” table with coloring pages, word searches, sudoku pages, crosswords, etc. Add in board games, puzzles, or playing cards if you can! Let students take the items throughout the building if possible, but be sure to ask they return everything to the table when they’re done. Want something a little more challenging? Include a contest, like designing a library mascot, captioning a picture, or illustrating a quote, and leave out worksheets for students to submit their designs.
  • If you want something a little more DIY, figure out a date, event, or mascot that’s important to your campus, and make up a simple craft around it. Bookmarks made from paint-chips and yarn in your school’s colors are easy and nearly free to supply – provide students with a hole punch, scissors, and pens to add designs! If your library has never done something like this before, include some information at the table about how creative study breaks can improve memorization and mental function, and definitely drop in an ad for your research help or reference services while you’re at it!


Want to learn more about passive programming? Check out the following links for more information and ideas.

Reaching Teens Subversively through Passive Programming (Programming Librarian)

The Who, What, Where, Why, When, and Hows of Passive Programing (OLC Small Libraries)

Does Programming Have a Place in Academic Libraries? (Mississippi Libraries)

Passive Programming Ideas (GoogleDoc)

Passive Library Programs (Pinterest)


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: