How to Get Library Programs Cheaper

Maximizing Entertainment Value on a Tight Budget: A Creative Solutions for Youth Librarians

In the realm of youth library programming, creating engaging and memorable shows for families is a top priority. However, a big challenge youth librarians face is the constraint of limited budgets when bringing in quality performers. Navigating this financial hurdle requires creativity, strategic planning, and collaboration.

Collaborative Booking:

One innovative approach is to explore collaborative booking with neighboring libraries. By joining forces, two libraries nearby can share the costs of bringing in the same performer on the same day. Collaborating with neighboring libraries or summer camps can reduce show costs, allowing the performer to maximize their earnings by offering multiple shows in a single day—a real win-win for all involved.

Leveraging Local Success:

When a program proves successful locally, librarians can negotiate with performers for discounted rates in exchange for additional opportunities to promote and expand their reach, especially when the librarian has a working relationship with the performer and has seen their program. This might include distributing the performer’s business cards, actively participating in cross-promotions, and making strategic posts on community Facebook groups. Transforming the librarian’s role into that of an active marketing partner gives added value, which can justify a price reduction.

Libraries and Local Businesses Join Forces for Show Sponsorship

Local businesses invest significant amounts—from $50 to $120 per customer—to reach a targeted demographic monthly. Recognizing the high cost of acquiring new customers, businesses are open to alternative strategies. Picture this: local businesses joining forces as program sponsors. Before each show, sponsors receive an acknowledgment, and a brief promotional advertisement is featured. The marketing team can record the show’s introduction, share it on the library’s social media platforms, and foster a mutually beneficial relationship with the sponsoring businesses. This innovative collaboration not only maximizes exposure for sponsors but also establishes a valuable connection between the library and local businesses. Each year, sponsors spend millions of dollars on community programs; all you have to do is develop a sponsorship program.

Navigating Sponsored Programs and Community Partnerships

Sponsored programs may not always seem like an obvious choice for libraries, as some may feel it conflicts with the notion that libraries should provide free community programs. However, this perspective is often counterintuitive, both in terms of business principles and community engagement. Many recognize the value of forming partnerships with companies or organizations that allocate budgets specifically for community involvement. From our firsthand experience, securing grant money is not straightforward and involves a lengthy application and approval procedure. Sponsored programs are easier and can be community-based.

Non-monetary partnerships with Local Businesses for Library Programs

Engaging local businesses in partnerships for library programs doesn’t always have to involve monetary contributions, as evidenced by your experiences with kid’s club programs. Restaurants, for instance, often provide complimentary food vouchers for desserts or kids’ meals. In a past collaboration, we collaborated with Lou Malnati’s Pizza, arranging for free pizza delivery after one of our shows. The franchise owner, driven by a desire to strengthen family ties in the community, was enthusiastic about hosting a pizza party at the library. Initiating the conversation was as simple as asking, “Are you interested in supporting a local family event at the library?

Reveal Your Budget: Don’t Presume it Won’t Be Considered.


Did you ever hear about the Rolling Stones accepting beer as payment for their song “Paint It Black” from the New Zealand-based beer maker Steinlager? Surprisingly, they charged Microsoft millions of dollars to use the same song in a TV ad in the United States. It goes to show that being transparent about your budget is key.

When it comes to entertainment, being open about your budget allows the entertainer to assess whether it aligns with a fair price. A skilled entertainer will tailor their show to meet your needs.

Thinking Outside the Budget Box:

Youth librarians can also get creative with their marketing efforts. Instead of focusing solely on traditional promotional avenues, explore unique and cost-effective methods. Engaging with local businesses, collaborating with schools, and tapping into community events can help stretch the promotional reach without stretching the budget.

In the ever-evolving landscape of library programming, finding innovative ways to bring quality entertainment to families is key. By fostering collaboration, negotiating smartly, and thinking creatively about marketing efforts, youth librarians can overcome budgetary constraints and continue to offer enriching experiences for their communities.

Don’t let budget constraints hold you back; instead, get creative and collaborate to bring new ideas into your library.

Dale Obrochta is a professional entertainer and speaker who assist libraries in creating excellent programs for family events.

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