Passive Programming Wins

When funds or time are in short supply, passive programming is a great way to continue engagement in your library. This type of programming draws in students, builds community, and increases positive connotations with the physical space and library staff. Last year, we had three passive programming wins in our library.

#1–Wooden puzzles at the check-out desk

Absent during the pandemic, these wooden puzzles (and a mini-Jenga!) have made a huge comeback. Students specifically come to the library to try and solve these puzzles. We have a couple of students who are the expert fixers and when others take them apart and cannot rebuild them, they stop by to set everything right again. The puzzles’ close proximity to whoever is staffing the desk provide easy avenues for us to strike up conversations.

#2–Jigsaw puzzles

On and off over the years, we have had a jigsaw puzzle out on a library table. Last year, we had a dedicated puzzle table on our main floor. Different groups of students work on it throughout the day. When one puzzle is complete, another comes out. I’ve noticed the puzzle is a fantastic way for more introverted students to work on something together instead of feeling forced to talk the whole time.

#3–Question board

One of my favorite things in the Library the last few years has been our rotating question board. We use old-fashioned paper pads and Sharpie markers on a standing easel, which lives across the walkway from our check-out desk. Approximately every 4-5 school days, we change the question and stand back to watch what happens. Some questions take more thought so the answers trickle in (such as the most recent query, “What is your superpower?”) but others invite immediate responses like “Top song on your playlist”. Similarly to the wooden puzzles, the question board is close enough to the desk that we can initiate conversations based on students’ reactions and oversee (and correct when necessary) inappropriate responses. This board is a destination for our regular library users who stop to read what’s new since the last time they were in. The best part for me is seeing a group of students huddled around the board, reading others’ answers and adding their own, building community in this small way. (If you’d like a list of questions we’ve had success with this year, email me at

What passive programming has been successful in your libraries?

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