Passive programming is a way to engage with your library patrons (or students, dorm residents, etc.) that is unscheduled, informal, and does not necessarily require interaction from staff.
In highly staffed libraries, it can be great for teens (who tend to be a bit standoffish when it comes to librarians) or for introverted patrons who love the library but would much rather be left alone. In smaller libraries, it's a fantastic way to create unique experiences at each library visit without having to overextend a small payroll.
Hide & Seeks
Hide laminated pictures or phrases around the library to encourage patrons to explore the space or follow clues. At my library, we usually cut them out, laminate them, and tape a popsicle stick to the back. You can make a game out of them, or just give out prizes or raffle tickets when patrons find all of them. (They don't need to find all of them at once -- our circ desk keeps a clipboard where patrons can cross off which ones they've found at that visit, and pick up again at their next visit.)
Links go to printable PDFs on Google Drive. I tried to be judicious with the picture attributions and all images should be free to use; please correct me if I'm wrong.
[Bats] - Six photos of bats.
[Biomes] and [Biome Animals] - Six biomes and three different animals from each biome. Can be paired or used individually. I recommend hiding three sets of biomes and having the animals in a stack somewhere near a reference material such as an encyclopedia. Patrons pick up an animal, determine which biome it belongs in, and set off to find that biome.
[Countries] and [The Seven Continents] - (can be adapted for all ages) Can be paired or just used individually. There are three countries from each continent. I recommend hiding three sets of continents and leaving the countries in a stack near a reference material such as an encyclopedia. Patrons pick up a country, determine which continent it belong on, and set off to find that continent. You could also make it more difficult by just hiding everything.
[Flags] and [Flags with Country Names] - Flags of Argentina, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Turkey, South Korea, the United States, and Venezuela. One set has the country's name on the flag and the other does not. These specific flags were chosen because they have either inspired other flags or are very unique. (Also, Denmark is the oldest flag still in use!) There is a lot you can do with these -- I'd recommend getting out a book about flags or directing kids to a website of flags and seeing if they can find other flags that are similar to the one that they find.
[Fruits and Vegetables] - Photos of raspberries, lemons, kiwis, green beans, peppers, and asparagus. Just because.
[Inventors & Inventions - Women] - Nine female inventors and their inventions. In some cases, they didn't directly invent that thing, but they developed integral technology that contributed to its creation. Find your inventor and their invention. (Can be simplified if you write which inventor or invention they are looking for on the back.)
[Sweet Treats] - Just six tasty pictures of desserts to find.
It’s oh-so-easy to set up a small space with a book and a craft or activity to accompany it. You have the option of making it entirely self-contained with no staff interaction, or incorporating a reward if they share.
Check out these book pairings with some simple printables.
Pirates in the Library - Nadia Ali
Draw your own treasure map to a hidden treasure.
Make your own geocache.
Chalk - Bill Thomson
Make an alternate ending -- what really happened?
Open-ended craft with large paper, colored pencils, crayons, etc.
Liam Takes a Stand - Troy Wilson
You’ve just been given a thousand dollars to create your own stand. What do you sell? What does your stand look like? Describe it and then draw it with this [printable].
The Princess and the Pony - Kate Beaton
You’re a proper prince or princess and the royal family has decided to give you the animal pet of your dreams. What kind of animal is it? What does it know how to do? Describe it and then draw it with this [printable].
Barnum’s Bones - Tracey E. Fern
Create your own dinosaur using glue, noodles, and construction paper.
Wall of Fame
This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to new faces from history, and maybe even give your nonfiction/biography section a little use.
Post a picture of your figure with their name, and invite people to write their name, number, and a brief sentence saying who that person was and what impact they made, and draw one person as a winner. It could be as simple or complex as you'd like.
Here are a few figures you could use: