The Passive Programming Playbook
101 Ways to Get Library Customers off the Sidelines
by Paula Willey and Andria L. Amaral
May 2021, 227pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-7056-9
$60, £47, 53€, A83
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7057-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Offers new and field-tested ideas for reaching diverse library customers with fun programming—even on a limited budget.

This book offers 101 passive programming ideas that are extendable, adaptable, customizable, and above all, stealable—so your passive programming never runs dry.

Passive programming is a cheap, quick, fun way to make all library customers feel like part of the community. It can support reading initiatives, foster family engagement, encourage visit frequency, and coax interaction out of library lurkers—while barely making a dent in your programming budget. Passive programming can be targeted at children, teens, adults, or seniors; used to augment existing programs; and executed in places where staff-led programming can’t reach. It can be light-footed, spontaneous, and easily deployed to reflect and respond to current news, media, library events, and even the weather. But even passive programming pros run out of ideas sometimes, and when that happens, they want a fresh, funny source of inspiration.


  • Make programming less intimidating
  • Get the most bang for your buck from whatever resources you have available
  • Make diverse customers feel welcome and seen
  • Encourage repeat/regular library visits
  • Boost your programming statistics
Paula Willey is a children's librarian in Baltimore, MD. She has written about children's literature and family engagement for publications such as School Library Journal, the Baltimore SunBooklistVOYA, and Baltimore's Child and speaks on topics ranging from book illustration and trends in children's literature to what it means when a kid is totally into truly creepy books. A member of the 2019 Michael S. Printz Committee, she is a vocal advocate for families with justice system involvement.

Andria L. Amaral has spent more than 20 years planning and developing public library programs and collections and services for students in grades 6–12, including after-school activities, summer reading contests, and innovative outreach programs targeting at-risk and incarcerated teens. She has provided professional development workshops at local and national library and education conferences, has guest lectured for MLIS students at the University of South Carolina and YA Literature students at the College of Charleston, and serves on the board of the YALLFest young adult literature festival.


"Packed with great ideas that require little money or staff time, this volume will appeal broadly to library program planners, particularly those on tight budgets and those who want to expand patron participation."—Library Journal, July 1, 2021

"Both public and school librarians can get inspired by these fun ideas; teen library councils could also have a great time designing and implementing these passive programs."—Booklist, February 25, 2022

"This is such a clever and useful guide for helping busy librarians engage their customers. In addition to great ideas, it provides encouraging guidance for staff to design their own! An invaluable resource."—Deborah Taylor, Recipient of the 2015 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

"This vital guide to understanding the purpose, power, and creativity of passive programming in libraries will leave you eager to engage patrons of all ages in valuable ways. An excellent resource packed with ideas for every library budget and space."—Kelly Jensen, Editor, Book Riot

"Public library workers know that passive programming is a lifesaver in the face of budget cuts and staffing shortages. With engaging and entertaining language, a clear layout, and first-hand understanding of working with the public (and an obvious love of what they do), Amaral and Willey have created a unique and valuable guide to help you supplement your programming schedule and meet your community's needs without burning yourself out (while being inclusive and imaginative at the same time). I plan on stealing MANY of the ideas contained in this book—this is a resource I will turn to again and again!"—Rita Meade, Public Librarian and author of Edward Gets Messy

"Patron outreach and programming are central functions of libraries, but with all the tasks required in successfully running a facility, finding ways to implement library-led activities can be daunting. Passive library programming is the answer to any weary librarian who wishes they could do more—it supplements traditional programming and offers a way to engage library patrons at their own pace and interest level through self-directed activities. The Passive Programming Playbook highlights the most inclusive, accommodating, and adaptable programs for patrons of all ages and is an outstanding resource that provides librarians easy, effective, and assessable ways to serve their community well through meaningful library experiences. Rich with innovative ideas that leverage additional interactions with patrons, this worthy addition should be welcomed into your professional collection to support your patron engagement endeavors."—Rose Brock, Associate Professor, Department of Library Science and Technology, Sam Houston State University

"This book has something for librarians everywhere. Have a small library? There are ideas for you. Have a large space but no budget? There are ideas for you. This isn’t just programming for kids; Willey and Amaral show readers how to use passive programming to reach elusive teens and busy adults. You’d think a book like this would be dry. But no! Using a fun and conversational tone, first they tell you how to use the tools that you have, then they give you ideas upon ideas upon ideas. My only problem with this book is trying to decide which passive program to use in my library first."—Julie Dietzel-Glair, Librarian and Author of Books in Motion: Connecting Preschools with Books through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props

"Reading this book, I felt like I was in the room with an optimistic friend—one who would enthusiastically brainstorm with me from a place of honesty and flexibility. One who is rooting for everyone, because they believe in them! I so wish I'd had this book when I was starting out."—Megan Emery Schadlich, Creator, The Healing Library
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