Rural libraries struggle to offer variety of programs

Librarians cite funding, lack of staff as root of problem

Submitted photo

The Kalona Public Library has tried to offer programming for seniors but due to staffing and lack of funding has struggled.
Submitted photo The Kalona Public Library has tried to offer programming for seniors but due to staffing and lack of funding has struggled.

Libraries in rural towns are often hot spots for free activities for both youth and adults. While children’s programming is fairly easy to come by, programming for seniors can be more and more difficult to find and maintain.

Anne Skaden, library director at the Kalona Public Library, said last year the library had an art program for adults that was able to come to fruition through a grant. However, because it did not get the grant this year, the library did not offer the program again.

Staff have been actively looking for more ways to offer adult programming but with a combination of lack of funding as well as time and staff, the challenges are hard to overcome, she said.

“It’s just really difficult to try and do everything,” she said.

Rhonda Mixon, Director at the HJ Nugen Public Library in New London agreed. A weekly book chat and discussion group takes place and recently the library has begun to implement a Sunday matinee movie showing.

The most recent showing was Downton Abbey and library staff created a tea party atmosphere for the event. Numbers have remained low, but the few who do partake in the activities have reported enjoying it, she said.

In Kalona, the library hosts an adult book club that meets the last Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. or the last Wednesday of the month at 12:30 p.m. The books for the year are chosen by patrons and planned out for the whole year. The same book is discussed on both the last Tuesday or Wednesday, she said. Having two days for book club allows for more members to attend.

Skaden said she sees an increased need for more programming and has heard so from patrons. Interest has been expressed in more technology classes, such as how to use an iPhone or browse for information on the internet.

“That really prompted us to say ‘we need to sit down and start looking at this and planning this,’” she said.

The library has tried to offer these classes before but found finding the right time was difficult as people are so busy and each day of the week varies so it can be hard to be constant, she said.

“We would offer it and then we would have no one. Another time we would have quite a few so then we would think, ‘Oh that’s the time to do it.’ But then the second time we would do that, no one would show up. So it’s a tricky thing to figure out the time,” she said.

Mixon agreed that timing make things difficult when trying to establish a consistent schedule.

On Friday’s the library hosts Senior Moments, a coloring club that is also a time for adults to get together to chat and catch up on their weeks.

Sometimes a speaker is brought in, but Mixon said it is hard to establish programs when it is uncertain if people will arrive for them. Lack of free time and unsavory weather are usually to blame, she said.

“What I find is that everybody is very busy and even when I have things, it’s hard to get people to come in,” she said.

One activity Mixon has reported success in is a passive craft program. Bags with all the materials needed to make a craft are available at the library to pick up and take home. Because it can be done on their own time, she said the activities have been very popular.

In Kalona, Skaden said the library offered an adult reading program over the summer and has extended that into the winter as well. The library staff are still looking for program ideas and anyone who has an idea they would like to share is encouraged to let them know.