I’ve been spending a lot of my time facilitating the strategic planning process for libraries in our region. Conducting a community survey is the first step in our planning process and our surveys normally use a combination of community based questions and library-specific questions. Regardless of the specific questions, one of the notable categories of response revolves around the fact that many survey participants do not know what the library has to offer in terms of materials, services and programs. In our experience reading community survey responses, this is pretty much a universal challenge. The challenge becomes even bigger when we note that survey participants are almost always overwhelmingly patrons of the library. So, why do libraries find themselves in this situation? There are obviously lots of reasons, but generally, I think those of us associated with libraries make too many assumptions about what people know about libraries both generally and specifically. Because libraries have been around a long time, we expect people to inherently know what they are, what they do and how they can be accessed. We think we can roll out a new program or service with lots of promotion and then never mention it again. Thinking in this manner has led to our inability to promote the library effectively as a whole on a continuous basis (think Target or Amazon), our inability to promote specific services or programs or materials on a continuous basis (think Coke or Pepsi) and to dedicate staffing to the marketing of our libraries. Because our communities are filled with many, many people from all walks of life that have no idea what the library has, is, or does, and because our library communities are transient, we need to be willing to aggressively promote what it is that we do and offer. Reminding people on a daily, continuous basis of what we have and what we do, is not only necessary to our success as libraries, it is necessary to the success of the individuals that live in our communities. So, let’s think about our “product” as though we’ve never tried it, used it, or heard of it before, and see what we come up with! Together we are maximizing library potential.
Have a great week!