Uke Can Do It: Ukuleles at the Los Angeles Public Library


A California State Library LSTA grant program intended to facilitate easy duplication of successful projects

Informational Webinar

Description: This program provides circulating ukuleles and accompanying music education programs to community members. Trained staff and volunteers offer multi-session and one-off instructional workshops with accompanying audio-visual materials to library visitors of all ages.

Purpose: At a time when music education is often limited at local schools, and families seek arts education, this program aims to get musical instruments into the hands of patrons and offers opportunities to participate in music classes and entertaining programs.

Target Audience: The initial version of this program targeted children and teens, and Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) expanded the programming as it became apparent that ukuleles are appealing to all ages, including seniors, and especially welcomed by low income community members who can’t afford to purchase their own instruments.

Expected Outcomes: This program increases access to musical education and entertainment in low income communities. Participants experience increased confidence to pursue creative activities, learn to play a musical instrument, and engage with their community in a culturally-rich environment.

Partnerships: While there are no formal partnerships in this program, it is imperative that libraries reach out to local community organizations such as schools, senior centers, recreation centers, and early education programs. These groups have “built-in” audiences, can serve as hosts for programming, and can assist in marketing the program. Local music education programs can be a source for volunteers, and music stores a source of donations.

Budget Considerations

  • Ukuleles & Accessories (cases, tuners, books or DVDs included in circulating kits)
  • Materials related to having a circulating collection (a display shelf/case, tags)
  • Audiovisual Materials
  • Staff time (training and instructional programs)
  • Fees for outside instructors, if applicable

See original grant application for more detail and staff estimates. This program is scalable to fewer branches than the original project; maximum funding amount, $18,000, allows for duplication of this program in up to four branches.

Implementation Steps

  • Purchase instruments
    Purchase more instruments than you think you will need if you’re setting up a circulating collection. You will lose some along the way, as with any library materials you are lending. Ukulele invoice (pdf format)
  • Catalog instruments
    Sample Circulating FAQ for Staff, Sample Tuning Instructions for borrower, Sample Borrowing Guidelines, Handout to circulate with instrument (all Google docs)
  • Purchase instructional audiovisual materials
    In addition, promote existing e-media items, such as e-books. Ukulele resources (pdf), Sample handout of materials in Overdrive, Sample handout of materials in Hoopla (both Google docs)
  • Identify and recruit volunteers and staff
    for training. Music education programs at local colleges can be a good source for possible volunteers to teach in return for experience or credits if this is available in your community. See the Volunteers section of this website for tips on recruiting and working with volunteers.
  • Train staff and volunteers
    The method is simple: in one 45-minute session, almost anyone can learn the basics of playing a ukulele (a few chords and a handful of basic songs). Use the same handouts and tutorials as participants will (see below). With some practice to boost confidence, and some additional YouTube tutorials for good measure, this knowledge is enough to teach that same beginning workshop. It’s like the idea of the piano teacher who is only one lesson ahead of the student–it’s more than enough!
  • Decide on programming format and create handouts
    Will you have one-off programs, multi-sessions, invite many for large events, or focus on small classes? Uke programming options (pdf), Tutorial handout, Sample agenda for 4 week class (both Google docs)
  • Schedule programming and book space in the library.
  • Develop promotional materials and messages
    Promote the program in the library and in the community, including schools, community centers, and music schools. Ukuleles are great at outreach events, as they attract ukulele aficionados who might become volunteers. Sample presentation (Google doc), L.A.P.L.’s Ukulele webpage, Ohana Music’s (vendor/partner) webpage, L.A.P.L.’s Tweet, Local Media
  • Evaluation
    Survey attendees to assess success in reaching program objectives. Sample participant survey (Google doc)