15 Ways to Make Your Library the Talk of the Town
Tried-and-true programs and resources helped you reach your current circulation and traffic numbers, but in order to become even more of a hot spot in the community, you may need to attract the attention of a whole new audience. These 15 ideas will help make your library the talk of the whole town. Give them a try to inspire current patrons to rave about your library, which will leave their friends and family members wondering what they’re missing by not being library patrons themselves.
- Be a prominent part of your community’s celebrations. Washington, D.C., has the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Albuquerque has the International Balloon Fiesta. Determine what annual celebrations your community has planned, and amplify them with related library events, programs, and exhibits at your branches. For instance, you might offer your library as a location for the celebration’s official launch party or dedicate one of your exhibit areas to books that are related to the topic of your celebration. Reach out to the celebration’s organizers and brainstorm ways your library can contribute to their goals and plans for the event. Make it your goal to have people think of your library when they think of your community’s celebration each year.
- Host holiday events. Host craft classes that not only teach patrons how to make greeting cards, decorations, and more for Independence Day, Halloween, Eid al-Fitr, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and other festive occasions throughout the year, but also highlight various holiday customs. Invite people from all cultures to share their favorite festive dishes at holiday potlucks. When your library helps people learn and enjoy new holiday traditions, patrons appreciate being noticed and will keep coming back year after year.
- Create a new reason to party. Celebrations are a great excuse to have fun! There’s no need to wait for an official holiday. Host a birthday party for the library, or celebrate the seasons with a splash. Your community likely knows you host a summer program kickoff party, but just because you may not have a fall, winter, or spring program is no reason not to celebrate the wonderful things that are coming in those seasons. It’s a nice way to remind people how fun the library is and the different ways you can serve them.
- Become a donation drop-off spot. Nonprofits often run supply drives to collect items for people in need. Offer your branch to these groups as a drop-off site. When people stop by to donate their goods, make sure to display relevant signage about an upcoming program or event near the drop site to entice them to explore more of what you have to offer. This is also a great way to meet more nonpatrons and find out new ways the library can offer value to them.
- Promote students’ work from local schools. Host a poetry reading featuring student poets, display student artwork around your branch, or work with schools to host a student talent show. Parents and caregivers have a vested interest in coming out to participate, and once they’re in your branch, you’ve got a captive audience that will be interested in learning more about your resources and programming for children.
- Support like-minded groups. Local businesses, organizations like 4-H, and associations like SCORE already have programming that reaches a wide audience. Ask leaders of these groups how your library can contribute to their success, and ask for cross-promotion of your programs in exchange for your support.
- Set community-wide goals for your reading programs. By offering a reason to come together for an attainable common goal, you’ll unite people from all backgrounds behind something that’s good for the whole community. Plus, patrons will spread the word about the goal since they know they’ll benefit from more contributors!
- Get out in your community. Marathons and races, parades, farmers markets — these are all great opportunities to promote your library to diverse groups. You can make it official with a table or have librarians engage attendees one on one as they walk around. If you go with the latter, have staff wear shirts with the library’s logo on them so that it’s clear what organization they represent.
- Target your promotions. Your library offers an expansive collection of books, movies, music, and other valuable resources to your community. To draw the most attention, be strategic about which resources you promote. Reach out to local community organizations to gain insight into what would be most valuable for your community. For instance, if your library serves an area that is mostly populated by families with younger children, dedicate your promotional efforts to age-appropriate events for kids.
- Enlist local media. A solid way to get your community talking about your library is to get the public figures they listen to talking about your library. Establish relationships with local radio and public access television show hosts so they invite your librarians to be guests on their shows. Your goal is to make their audiences more aware of all the partnerships your library has and all the great things you are doing for the community.
- Create advocates and let them spread the word. Inviting community members to be in an advisory group will make them more invested in promoting the programs that they had a hand in creating.
- Incentivize engaging with your library. If you’ve followed the best practice of cultivating relationships with local businesses as a part of your summer reading program, you already have a source for prizes to offer patrons. Offer a gift card to a local coffee shop to the first 10 patrons who use your library’s hashtag in a social media post, or enter all of the community members who visit your library on a certain Saturday into a raffle to win a gift basket.
- Rethink how you advertise your hottest items. Think of the fiction bestseller that everyone’s talking about or magazines covering the latest celebrity gossip. Your library already offers these items — and most importantly, they’re available for free to those who have a library card! Run a promotional campaign that focuses on the full range of popular entertainment options that patrons on a budget can find at your library.
- Go viral. Eighty-eight percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 use social media, so showing up — and standing out — in social feeds is a sure way to reach community members. Ask your social-savvy staff members (or patrons!) to use their knowledge of popular memes and viral content formats to keep your library’s content relevant.
- Offer your spaces for public use. How are your library’s conference rooms or staff meeting spaces used when you’re not hosting a program or meeting? Rooms like these could be as valuable to community members as they are to your staff! Think of all the small business owners, party planners, businesspeople, and more you could serve through offering your spaces. Introducing a new service like room reservations can be simple if you have the right tools to manage it. Take a hint from this California public library’s success and let Demco Software’s SignUp and Spaces do the rest of the event and room management work for you.
Whether you open rooms to the public or go on a local press tour, become a holiday hub or give movie rental services a run for their money, be sure to capture contact information (especially email addresses) as often as possible. Once you have a way to reach your new patrons with regular updates on your resources and happenings, you’ll be in a prime position to keep your community raving about your library.