Program Development Policy

Program Development Policy

Purpose of the Policy

This Program Development Policy upholds the mission and goals of the Somerville Public Library by setting guidelines for the planning and operation of Library programs and events. It is also used to inform the public about standards and principles that are applied to the program selection and management process.

Library Mission Statement

The Somerville Public Library enhances the Somerville experience by acting as a trusted community connector, providing cultural and learning opportunities to all.

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees October 16, 2019

Values Statement

We are committed to providing a welcoming and safe environment; courteous and respectful library staff; and free and equal access to library materials, programs, and services. We affirm the values set forth in the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights; serve as a trusted community resource; and hold dear the principles of Intellectual Freedom and a patron’s right to privacy. We offer enrichment through educational and cultural experiences, and instill a love of reading and learning driven by the ever-changing needs and interests of our patrons.

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees October 16, 2019

Statement of Racial and Social Justice

The Somerville Public Library is committed to providing collections and services that are representative of the people and communities we serve. We stand with librarians across the country who recognize that systemic racism and social injustice left unchecked has led to an underrepresentation of voices that is reflected in our services, collections, and profession.

To create a more inclusive library, we will examine our policies, procedures, and collections; increase representation of marginalized groups in our programs and services; pursue learning opportunities that will confront our biases; and engage the Somerville community to inform our work. We pledge to work alongside Somerville’s Department of Racial and Social Justice, including the American with Disabilities Division, and other city departments, organizations, and people who are working to eliminate institutional racism and inequality. 

Reviewed by Somerville’s Department of Racial and Social Justice, May 4, 2022

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees, May 11, 2022

Reviewed by the Somerville Law Department August 2022

Community Statement

The Somerville community is characterized by its multigenerational and ethnically diverse population, vibrant business community, and rich history and culture. Decisions regarding library programs are made with an understanding of the dynamic and diverse nature of the community, enabling the Library to offer programs and events that reflect the community’s evolving interests and needs.

Responsibility for Program Development

Responsibility for program development rests with the Library Director, who operates within the framework of policies determined by the Library Board of Trustees. Program planning and facilitating is delegated to staff members based on their job responsibilities and areas of expertise. Programming librarians are guided by this policy and utilize professional skills, collections, equipment, facilities, and feedback from the community in planning and delivering library programs.

Selection Guidelines and Objectives

The Somerville Public Library defines a program as an activity or event in a group setting, developed to meet the educational, social, recreational, cultural, or informational needs of an anticipated audience in the community. Programs can be a single event, a short series, or continuously recurring.

Programs may include, but will not be limited to: lectures, forums, visual and performance art, interactive classes or workshops, continuing education, fairs, discussion groups, technology programs, story times, class visits, library tours, community outreach, exhibits, and presentations for social, cultural, educational, or recreational purposes.


When making decisions regarding program content, presenters, and related resources library staff will consider the following:

  • Relevance to the Library’s mission, strategic plan, and service goals
  • Community needs and interests, including feedback and suggestions from Somerville constituents
  • Potential to promote, supplement, and encourage the use of library collections & resources
  • Presentation quality as determined by presenter’s background, record of presentation, and qualifications in content area
  • Historical, cultural, or educational significance
  • Space required, and the availability of that space
  • Budget
  • Staffing
  • Balance of current programs being offered at the Library 
  • Connection to other community programs, exhibitions, or events
  • Safety and security of patrons and staff
  • National and local observances, commemorative months, and initiatives (i.e., National Library Week, Women’s History Month, Veterans’ Day, etc.)

Library programs may take place at any of the Library’s physical locations, offsite locations, and online; and may be delivered by library staff or library partners. Programs may be live-streamed or recorded for later playback, either in person or via web-enabled technologies.


The Library receives funding for library programs in a variety of ways including municipal appropriations, grants, and support from charitable organizations that support the Library. The Library may also partner with other institutions, organizations, or individuals who have received funding to offer Library programs.

Library programs are open to the public and offered free of charge. At the discretion of the Library Director, a fee may be applied to programs and goods that benefit the Library including book sales, raffles, and other types of fundraising.


Anyone interested in presenting a program may submit a proposal that will be reviewed by Library staff using this policy as a guideline. The Library reserves the right to decline a program for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, staffing, budgetary constraints, space, or scheduling.

A partnership is a relationship between Somerville Public Library and an institution, non-profit organization, community group, or individual. These relationships involve an effort to provide and/or promote activities and services for the public. Partnerships can range from a one-time collaboration to a long-term arrangement. The Library welcomes partnerships that promote civic engagement and support its mission and strategic goals and may choose to co-host programs with these partners. Partners must comply with all library policies. Partners that participate in co-hosting a program receive acknowledgement in marketing and PR materials.

Library sponsorship of a program does not constitute an endorsement of the content of the program, or the views expressed by presenters or participants. Program topics, presenters, and resources are not excluded because of possible controversy.

Library programs are non-commercial in nature. Programs are not used for the solicitation of business. Presenters and performers, whether individual or organizational, shall not use a Library program to petition, advertise, or recruit members or customers. While the Library welcomes professional experts to present at its events, Library programs cannot be used to directly further commercial, religious, political, or partisan purposes. Presenters are permitted to have business-related brochures, flyers, or other information available for attendees to pick up if interested. Presenters cannot distribute such materials as part of the event.

Individuals reserving spaces within the Library for meetings or events not co-hosted with the Library are responsible for their own marketing. These meetings/events will be listed in the Library’s event calendar but are not promoted by the Library. For more information regarding  how to reserve Library space for these kinds of programs, please refer to our Meeting Room Policy (Appendix G).

Programs sponsored by charitable organizations whose purpose and mission is to support the Somerville Public Library may include the sale of merchandise as a means to fundraise for the benefit the Library. Performers or presenters may receive permission to sell their creative works as part of a library program. Sale of these works and / or other products at Library programs is not permitted unless authorized by the Library Director or their designee. Presenters and performers who are willing may donate a copy of their work to the Library for possible inclusion in the collection. Their work will be subject to the Library’s Collection Development Policy [Appendix A.]

Intellectual Freedom

The Somerville Public Library offers a wide variety of materials and programs to support its mission of providing cultural and learning opportunities to all. The Library respects the freedom of information of its users and adheres to the principles expressed in the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read and Freedom to View statements (see Appendices B, C, D). The Library's goal is to offer a diverse set of ideas and opinions, including those which may be unorthodox or controversial. The Library opposes any attempts by individuals or groups to censor items in its collection or programs it offers.

Parents and guardians are responsible for overseeing their minor children’s use of the Library’s collections and services. The Somerville Public Library does not stand in place of a parent and is not charged with a parent's rights, duties, and responsibilities.

The Library will not act in the role of censor for any age level, material type, or subject matter. Selection of materials and services will not be restricted by the possibility that these items may be accessed by patrons beyond the intended audience. The Library does not use any system of coding, rating, or labeling to identify or segregate materials and services for purposes of censorship.

Open Access

All library-initiated programs are open to the public, but some meetings and programs may be designed with specific audiences in mind, such as programs intended for children and teens that are geared to their interests and needs. Adults who wish to attend a program specifically designed for children must be accompanied by a child. Tween and teen programs are limited to tweens and teens only, except when they require an adult assistant or companion. Programs targeted toward specific audiences are to be publicized as such.

Every attempt will be made to accommodate all who wish to attend a program. However, when safety, cost, or the success of a program requires it, attendance may be limited. Admittance will be determined on a first come, first served basis, either through advance registration, or at the door. The Library reserves the right to deny attendance to anyone becoming disruptive to audience members or the program facilitator, and to anyone in violation of the Library’s Rules of Conduct Policy or Hate Speech Policy [Appendices E, F].


Please see City of Somerville’s Americans with Disabilities Act Public Notice, and Accessibility Services Division (Appendix J).


Programs may be cancelled for several reasons, including severe weather, absence of the presenter, or low registration. Cancelled programs are not automatically rescheduled. When possible, advanced notification of program cancellations will be made on the Library’s online calendar of events and by other appropriate communication channels.

Process for Reconsideration

The Somerville Public Library adheres to and supports the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, the Freedom to Read Statement, and the Freedom to View (Appendices B, C, D) which state that the choice of library materials for personal use is purely an individual matter. An individual or group cannot restrict the freedom of other persons to read, access, or use library materials.

Concerns about materials or programs currently offered at the Library may be expressed by filling out a Request for Reconsideration form (Appendix H). Forms may be submitted in writing to the attention of the Director of Libraries either in person, or c/o Somerville Public Library, 79 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143; forms may also be submitted electronically through the Somerville Public Library’s website (Appendix I), or via email. Patrons submitting a Request for Reconsideration will be given copies of the Somerville Public Library’s Collection Development Policy (Appendix A) or this program development policy; the ALA Library Bill of Rights, the ALA Freedom to Read Statement, and the ALA Freedom to View Statement (Appendices B, C, D). Anonymous submissions will not be considered, nor will submissions from individuals or stakeholders not residing or located in Somerville, MA. During the reconsideration process, the material or program will remain available in the Library.

A request for reconsideration will be reviewed by the Library Director or their designee, who will respond in writing to the patron initiating the request. The patron may choose to appeal the decision to the Board of Trustees. The decision of the Board of Trustees will be final.


  1. SPL Collection Development Policy
  2. ALA Library Bill of Rights
  3. ALA Freedom to Read
  4. ALA Freedom to View
  5. SPL Rules of Conduct Policy
  6. SPL Hate Speech Policy
  7. Meeting Room Policy
  8. SPL Request for Reconsideration Form
  9. SPL Website
  10. City of Somerville’s Americans with Disabilities Act Public Notice, and Accessibility Services Division

Approved by the Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees May 11, 2022

Reviewed by the Somerville Law Department August 2022