Programming in the Wild Outdoors

Why, you may ask, would one ever, ever, ever want to program outside of the library? In library school, were we not told, in no uncertain terms, to place programming within and only within the library building itself??

We were.

Then why, why, why why would we ever take programming out of the library?

It is a question I never asked myself before last year. Then, suddenly, a revelation:

Netflix.

Or Bittorrent. We don’t exclude criminals in the library.

What I discovered when my beautiful girlfriend re-activated her streaming video subscription was that people already have little enough reason to leave their houses. Within twenty years, I predict that most of humanity will spend their lives indoors and mostly immobile.

The likelihood of anyone with home Internet access venturing out to the library, of all places, to acquire entertainment and information, of all things, is low. Add to their already pared-down outside-of-the-house routine when all they want to do is spend less time out of the house? No way. (Note: I feel this applies differently in areas where the Digital Divide is a serious concern, but I’d like to point out that a working poor single mom with two jobs may not have a ton of time to get to the library. So why not bring the library to her? I’m envisioning a computer station housed in a modified van and parked at a playground after school. But I digress.)

So before we get the Internet-using Internet-saturated Internet generation coming into the library for programs and other life-enriching activities, we’re going to have to ambush them during their brief vulnerable outings, like lions leaping upon gazelles as they drink at the water hole, unaware of the strategies being planned around the capture of their attention and stuff.

The question we need to ask is simple: what do people with Netflix still need to go outside for?

Below, I have formulated a chart. Feel free to contribute your own observations in the comments. We need all the ideas we can come up with. Time is running short and civilization as we know it depends upon our creativity.

Unavailable-From-Home Activity Location Program Description
A mocha that tastes like anything other than watery milk Starbucks Loan magazines, paperbacks, memory sticks, and printing services, all from a booth
The adoring public Well-trafficked open land anywhere. A park would be ideal, but I think this could be a hit, so to speak, at a street fair. Or in a quiet residential neighborhood. Rent a full drum set, an appropriate backdrop, and a video camera. Set everything up under an awning. Put up a sign. Stand back.
Space to play frisbee A park Get a big, ugly thing from a dollar or thrift store. Furniture, a lawn gnome, the town’s prized hideous half-naked statue, whatever. Set out water-soluble paint, paint-filled balloons, and stuff like that. Encourage havoc by beginning the destruction with some volunteers.
Mad skillz A separate, thematically linked event that makes people wish they were savvier, ideally a fire spinning show Bring in an expert to teach some basic madness of the skillz. Like, with LED lights on strings instead of kerosene and open flame. Jeez, guys. That’s dangerous.
Props from the more-cardio-than-thou set The YMCA Mobile booth concept. OK, so they patrons aren’t likely to have their cards on hand…at first. Who knows how far it’ll go once they figure out that you’re there every Saturday? Pass out exercise reading pathfinders and diagrams of yoga positions for free – all with the library’s logo, obvs.
The freshest of all possible vegetables Farmers’ market Another mobile booth concept. (Do I love the mobile booth? Yes, indeed, I do!) Pass out recipes bearing the library logo. Loan cookbooks. Will they learn to bring their card? They will if you give them salsa!
A human to help with technological concerns Anywhere accessible, comfortable, and well-ventilated Bring your computer and accept the iPhone weary. If you can’t help them, know who can. It’s all about bridging that pesky digital divide.

You’ve got ideas! Throw ’em out here!