Engaging Adults through Programming and Social Media

Introduction and Overview

Welcome to Engaging Adults through Programming and Social Media, the last of the six courses in the Transforming Life After 50 (TLA50) Fellowship series, with instructors Jane Salisbury, janesa@multcolib.org and Analisa Svehaug, analisa@hyperarts.com. For the webinar offered in this course, see Week 2.

It's been a long and, we hope, enriching journey from the Institute in Portland to this final course in the TLA50 Fellowship. Your library may already present an array of programs for adults in your community. It may also be exploring a variety of strategies for use of social media. This course will help you to build on and improve your existing efforts. You will be able to develop programming that creates engagement for mid-life adults with the library and with their communities. You will learn how to use social media to promote the involvement of these active, older adults with your library. As you explore best practices in reaching out to and engaging adults through programming and social media, you will discover how to apply these in your own library and community.

This course builds on the previous TLA50 courses. Using your strategic facilitation skills you will attract the involvement of mid-life adults. You will be identifying partnerships and collaborations that will enhance your programming initiatives and engagement efforts. You'll see examples of how libraries are using skilled volunteers. Building on the Community Assessment and Evaluating Results courses, you will be able to listen to and learn from individual feedback, online conversations, and other community responses in order to develop, improve, and expand your library's programming initiatives.

WEEK 1: Opportunities for Engagement

This week will explore how programming for adults 50+ differs from traditional library ‘senior’ programs with examples of the engaged programming offered at Multnomah County Library. The special role of volunteers and partners, and the social media connection to programming will also be discussed.

Reading 1: Programming and the Social Media Connection (pdf)

Assignment 1, Option 1: Assessing Current Efforts
Reflect upon this week’s reading and answer the following questions:

  • In the area of programming, what has your library done or is currently doing to engage mid-life adults, ages 50+?
  • Is your library currently using social media? How? Is it used specifically to connect with mid-life adults? If so, list examples.
  • How do your library's current methods of engagement with mid-life adults compare with examples given in the Week 1 reading and with what you learned at the Portland Institute?

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 1 Assignment Options.  Also, review any resources of interest in the Supplementary Materials Section.  Otherwise, you have finished the work for this week.

Assignment 1, Option 2: Brainstorming Ideas
Reflect upon this week’s reading and answer the following questions:

  • What engagement strategies could your library develop for mid-life adults, 50+ in your community?
  • What are some of your programming ideas?
  • How can your library use social media to interact with mid-life adults? How could social networks be used to enhance programming?
  • What do you think are the most engaging aspects of programming and social media for your library users in your community?

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 1 Assignment Options.  Also, review any resources of interest in the Supplementary Materials Section.  Otherwise, you have finished the work for this week.

Assignment 1, Option 3: Overcoming Obstacles
Reflect upon this week’s reading and answer the following questions:

  • Do you think you will encounter resistance in your library to these strategies for engagement with mid-life adults? If so, where will you encounter resistance? How will you deal with it?
  • What proactive things can you do to build staff and administrative buy-in for engagement with mid-life adults?
  • What obstacles exist for you personally when it comes to using social media to engage with patrons and promote programs in the library?

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 1 Assignment Options. Also, review any resources of interest in the Supplementary Materials Section.  Otherwise, you have finished the work for this week.

Supplementary Materials – Week 1
Dempsey, Beth, They're changing old age and library service with it. Library Journal, July 15, 2007.

Multnomah County Library Program Flyers

Commoncraft videos that explain the basics of social media:

What to Do Next: Proceed to Week 2.

WEEK 2: Best Practices in Programming and Social Media

This week best practices for engagement through programming and social media will be discussed, with specific insights offered into how these approaches can be applied in your own library for your own community.  More examples of partnerships and collaborations will also be shared.  In addition, more in-depth examples of social media use, including how to set goals for social media interaction will also be explored.

Reading 2: Innovations & Conversations (pdf)

Assignment 2, Option 1: Develop a Program and Promotion
Design a program that you think will appeal to mid-life adults, 50+ in your community.

1. Download these files: Program Template (pdf)
and Sample Program Planning Form (pdf)

2. Using these forms as a guide, write a program description that includes the following:

  • Title
  • Brief description—will this be a single program or a series?
  • Possible presenters and community partners
  • What need does this meet for mid-life adults in your community?
  • If your program is a series, include an outcome and objective for the series. (If you need a reminder of how to write outcomes and objectives, see Cindy Mediavilla’s course on Evaluating Results.)

(Optional) Create a promotional piece that will attract mid-life adults to your program and attach it to your written program description.

Have a colleague review your program plan and promotional piece and ask them to give suggestions about how they think the program could be even more engaging and appealing to mid-life adults.

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 2 Assignment Options. Then watch this week’s archived webinar (hyperlink). 

Assignment 2, Option 2: Interview on Books-to-Action
1. Listen to the recorded interview (35 minutes long) in which Stephen Ristau talks with Bess Piñón and Karen Beal about their involvement with the Books-to-Action program, a partnership between Multnomah County Library and Hands On Greater Portland.
Download: Interview (mp3)
(This is a large file and may take a few moments to start, please be patient.)

Bess Piñón
has 20 years of public library experience, including 15 years in her current role as program coordinator for Multnomah County Library's volunteer program. She has coordinated all aspects of the library’s large and complex volunteer program and is passionate about the role of public libraries in civic engagement and lifelong learning. From 2009-2011, she coordinated an array of innovative older adult programs that were made possible by grants from Life by Design NW and Oregon State Library.
Email: bessp@multcolib.org.

Karen Beal, PhD
, recently directed the Boomer Initiative at Hands On Greater Portland as a partner in Life by Design NW, engaging baby boomers and older adults in community service. She now manages volunteer leader support at Hands On Greater Portland and is also the Project Coordinator for the Boomers & Babies project at the Oregon Community Foundation. In her work as a psychologist, teacher, group facilitator, and nonprofit executive, Karen has enjoyed assisting others in creating a path for meaningful connection in the world. Her deepest commitment is to assist others in becoming more fully who they are within the context of service and community.
Email: karen@handsonportland.org.

2. Reflect on your reactions to this interview and respond to the following questions:

  • What do you think about the potential of a book-to-action program to position your library as a center for civic engagement in your community? Where do you see opportunities? Challenges?
  • Do any specific books and service projects come to mind that would resonate in your community? With which organizations might you partner on such a venture?
  • If your library offers book discussion groups, how could you query them on their interest in adding a group service component to the book discussion? What do you think you might discover?

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 2 Assignment Options.  Then watch this week’s archived webinar (hyperlink). 

Assignment 2, Option 3: Social Media Scavenger Hunt
Do a Scavenger Hunt on Facebook. The goal here is to "scavenge" the answers to a list of questions provided. You will be given a list of library Facebook Pages. From that list, choose three, and answer the list of questions for each of the three Facebook Pages.

1. Download this file: Social Media Scavenger Hunt (doc)

2. Write up the results of your scavenger hunt, including your overall impressions of the libraries’ goals for their Facebook pages.

What to Do Next: Once you’ve finished this assignment, feel free to do any of the other Week 2 Assignment Options. Then watch this week’s webinar (hyperlink). 

Watch: Archived Recording of Course Webinar

Note: The chat box does not show by default. However, it is there. On the menu bar, just click View, then Chat. There was a lot of activity in Chat, so you may want to pause the recording from time to time, in order to scroll through and catch all of the suggestions.

In this webinar, Jane and Analisa demonstrated how three libraries — Hennepin County Library, Cleveland Public Library, and Coos Bay (OR) Public Library — are developing programs of interest to mid-life adults and promoting these programs online and through social media.

As you watch this webinar, please consider these questions:

  • What terms (e.g., adults, seniors) does your library use to target mid-life adults in programming titles and descriptions? What terms could you be using?
  • How is your library creating programs that are targeted to the interests of mid-life adults?
  • How could your library use word-of-mouth marketing (online and in-person) to promote programming for mid-life adults?

Webinar Handouts
Webinar PowerPoint Slides (ppt)

Supplementary Materials – Week 2

1. Blogs targeted to baby boomers:

2. Oregon State University, Mastery of Aging Well
This program is aimed at leading edge Baby Boomers and emphasizes healthful aging. Multnomah County Library is working on a participatory presentation of the series at one of its branch libraries.

3. Troy Swanson, Your Library Doesn’t Participate in Social Media—But Your People Do
A post to the Tame the Web blog, March 23, 2011.

4. A few libraries and library staff to follow on Twitter:

5. Libraries on Twitter

6. Darien Library: The Great Good Place
An award-winning documentary about the Darien Library (CT) and its role in the social vitality of its community.

What to Do Next: Review any resources of interest in the Supplementary Materials section. Proceed to Week 3.

WEEK 3: Listening, Learning, and Improving

Improving programs through listening and marketing strategies (both with community partners and via word-of-mouth) will be explored this week. In addition, using social media tools for evaluation and promotion will also be discussed.

Reading 3: Engagement Provides New Direction

Assignment 3: Promotion of Programs
Reflect upon this week’s reading and answer the following questions:

  • How do you promote your programs now?
  • What programming partnerships have you developed?
  • Are there any new and different ways you can think of for promoting your programs in the future?
  • What approaches to promotion and partnerships will best suit your particular community of mid-life adults?

Supplementary Materials – Week 3

  • Twitter Hash Tags (doc)
    (although this live chat opportunity has passed, this handout explains some of the basics of using Twitter).
  • Matt Thornhill and John Martin, Boomer Consumer, Linx Books, 2007.

What to Do Next: Review any resources of interest in the Supplementary Materials section.  Otherwise, congratulations! You've completed the work for this course.