3 Reasons to Love Passive Programming

In August, I attended #BossLibrarianPD put on by K.C. Boyd.  This was a free virtual two-day professional development for school librarians featuring presenters from across the country.  One such presenter was Holly Brown (@MsBrownsLibrary).  She shared a session called Easy Passive Programming.  Her session caused me to think about how I could incorporate more of this type of programming to engage the school community with the library.

Here is how I define passive programming: 

  • Monitored by the school librarian, but the librarian is not there to tell students how or when to complete the task 
  • Interactive and give students something to think about or create
  • Encourage many students and staff to participate
  • Can be located in the school library or in other places around the school building 

There are so many possibilities!  Here are three reasons I love passive library programming. 

Reason #1: Simple and Inexpensive

These types of programs are helpful when you have a limited budget, staffing, or time.  They usually require only a few materials and can be updated on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis based on what your schedule allows. 

One of the suggestions that were shared in Holly’s session was thinking about places in your library or around the school building where you could add a passive program that is not being used to its full potential.  For me, I have two doors that exit out the back of the school library that largely went unnoticed.   This year I decided they were the perfect place to add this type of programming through displays.


The first door was turned into an Author Spotlight.   We added a title using vinyl lettering created using a Circuit.  Then using Canva, I created two signs that are changed bi-weekly.  One shows a picture of the author that has been selected with their name.  Then there is a larger sign which shares two to four books that the author has written that we have available in the library.  The students can decide which book they would like to read using a tally mark next to the titles.   You could probably take this one step further and have a QR that shared an interview with the author too!

Note: I know that this works in my library space because I work with elementary school students that do not write inappropriate messages.  I imagine that the format or location would be need to tweaked in other settings and/or with older students. 

Reason #2: Student Engagement

Since these are often interactive activities they naturally pull learners in.  Students are excited to participate.  They also allow the school librarian to learn more about student interests.  It creates a dialogue about the choices, questions, or creations.   You can see trends or topics that students tend to be more drawn to.  This can help you when making choices about collection development and future activities.

I have a file cabinet that was pretty ugly to look at.  To help improve it I added whiteboard contact paper but was not sure what else it could be used for.  It was decided to turn it into a Wonder Wall.  Each week a new topic is posted and students share questions they have about that topic.  At the bottom, there are several books displayed about that topic that students can check out.  It has been interesting to see what questions they have!

Reason #3: Supports a Culture of Reading

Another thing that I love about these programs is you can help develop a culture of reading in a subtle way.   You can let the activity push your message forward. 

On the second library door, there is a “Would You Rather” question posted.  This changes biweekly and students can answer by adding their name to a sticky note and placing it with one of two choices.   The question always has to do with something related to reading.  For example, would you rather read fiction or nonfiction? Or would you rather read about the past or the future?  We create the sign using Canva and window makers to write the choices.  Super simple, but everyone is excited to see what the next question will be.


All of my examples are of small things, but what I have learned is that several small things put together can have a big impact.  I know there are many who are using passive programming in your libraries.  I would love to see your ideas! 



Boyd, K. C. (2022, August 13). #bosslibrarianpd. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://sites.google.com/view/bosslibrarianpd/home?authuser=0 

Brown, H. (2022). #BossLibrarianPD. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.canva.com/design/DAFI2VTe_vg/JIlyyuIaTYfLFayRGZh81Q/view?utm_content=DAFI2VTe_vg&utm_campaign=designshare&utm_medium=link2&utm_source=sharebutton.


Author: Kelly Hincks

I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.