Help Yourself

Last November, we began a passive programming station for school age children called "Help Yourself." Each month features a different theme and a few activities. A participant also wins a small prize, primarily by random drawing. The prizes are old summer reading incentives and other small items we've accumulated (Our fearless leader even had an old treasure chest to store the prizes in!).
Most of these activities were gleaned from 2 titles in our professional collection: 
DIY Programming and Book Displays by Amanda Moss Struckmeyer & Svetha Hetzler
The Librarian’s Guide to Passive Programming by Emily T Wichman
Once again, I was able to use supplies we had on hand. I hoped to get an easel, but happily there were already several in the building and I was able to permanently requisition one.  For a raffle box I used an old plastic tub we hadn't yet recycled and decoupaged it. The other items, such as baskets, pencils, paper, etc, were readily available.
November's Help Yourself - the homemade version before our graphics request was completed

  • November's theme was thankfulness for books & the library. One activity asked patrons to list reasons they are thankful for the library and staff shared a list of reasons we're grateful for patrons.
  • December featured the distrAction jar.
  • January was all about fairy tales, including a giant birthday card for Jacob Grimm. He turned 228.
  • February was about friendship and love of the page and included a library scavenger hunt as well as Valentine-making for authors.
  • March featured weather activities. We flexed our meteorological muscles by estimating how many "clouds"were in a jar (they were cotton balls) - by far our most popular activity with 72 guesses. Patrons were also encouraged to trace their hand prints onto colored paper we provided and leave them to add to a community rainbow.
  • April was much less popular with poetry-themed activities, such as writing a poem describing how you spend each hour of your day or writing an acrostic poem using one's name. 
  • May celebrates comics and graphic novels with the creation of one's own 3-panel comic and voting on favorite super powers. I plant to chart the results.

January's Help Yourself, with completed raffle box and poster from our Graphics Department.
The sheer quantity of ideas in the 2 books allowed me to plan themes over one year out. June's theme will tie into Summer Reading with ideas borrowed from the SRP Manual. I'm generally able to prepare any needed handouts and supplies a couple months in advance during quiet hours on the desk. You do need space for the station and a display area is quite nice. It's very easy to tie book displays in with each theme. 
All in all, it was a time commitment to read the books and plan, but this soft program now needs my attention just once a month. I have planning documents for each month available to any interested parties and am happy to share. Just comment below!


  1. This is great! I'm six months into my new children's librarian position, and have been researching passive programming. Those books look great, I'll have to think about getting them. If you're willing to share your planning documents I'd love to take a look! You can email me at belys at llcoop dot org . Thank you!!

    1. Thanks, Carrie. There's another Help Yourself entry on the blog with our summer activities, in case you didn't see it. I'm happy to share docs with you but there are A LOT. Do you want them all? Follow up question: do you have Publisher on your work machines? Future Librarian Superhero's blog also has some great "stealth" programming ideas.