5 Simple Steps to Draw More People Into Your Library

May 14, 2019 | Articles

After Schreiner Memorial Library in Wisconsin made one change to their list of offered resources, they were able to host 500 nonlibrary events per year, reallocate more than 400 hours of staff time, and save thousands of dollars annually. What change did they make? They began offering a large meeting space to community members and managed it with Spaces, Demco Software’s online room management tool. “This new space really put us on the map in a way that we’ve never been before,” shared Library Director Jennifer Bernetzke

While Schreiner Memorial’s community room was created through a long-term renovation project, you likely already have spaces that you can leverage to draw more people into your library. Follow these five steps to take advantage of your existing real estate.

Step 1: Solicit Feedback (and Act On It)

While you may be confident that additional meeting areas will be useful for your community members, double-check that’s true by asking your target audience. Launch a survey to ask if meeting space is in demand and find out what specific uses your community members would have for it. You can even use some of the insights that you collect to influence other programs and services  — for instance, if wedding showers are the main type of event that your community members want to throw in your space, consider developing an in-branch display that features your books about weddings or even investing in wedding decorations that you can rent out as well.

Step 2: Inventory Your Spaces

You know best when it comes to the physical meeting areas that you can offer local businesses, organizations, entrepreneurs, and party planners, but you may have some hidden space you didn’t realize you had. Have a common area that can be partitioned off from the rest of the branch? That could work! What about offices that have served as storage rooms? Consider cleaning them out and offering them to your patrons as reservable space.

Your community needs a range of room sizes, from extra large to very small, so it’s OK if your library offers a space that’s the size of an office rather than an auditorium. To prepare for success once you get to promoting your space(s), be sure to answer these questions early on:

  • What’s the space’s capacity?
  • What potential table and chair configurations can it accommodate?
  • Is it private, semiprivate, or public?
  • What power sources does it have or will it need?
  • What media equipment will users need?

Step 3: Expand the Uses and Users of Your Library

While you recognize your library as a thriving community hub, some of your community members may not yet realize it as such. Offering reservable rooms is a great opportunity to expand on their idea of what your library has to offer them, and it will give you a chance to draw in crowds that have never visited the library before. Don’t just take our word for it — hear it from Schreiner Memorial: “We absolutely have more patronage now from people who weren’t originally library users,” Bernetzke said after launching her library’s space.

She continued, “Community members would come in for a meeting and realize we have DVDs they can check out, or they would see in-branch promotional materials about other programs that fit their interests. People who had never used the library in the past now identify themselves as library users because of our community space.”

Here are just a few possible events that could be hosted in your library’s reservable rooms:

  • Parties and showers. Birthday and holiday parties, wedding and baby showers — no matter what they’re celebrating, many people in your community are looking for an affordable place to throw a party. Make that place your library.
  • Presentations and working sessions. Nonprofits and startups have big ideas much like larger businesses do, but they have less office space in which they can share them. Draw these movers and shakers in by offering a professional-looking place to pitch their ideas to donors and investors.
  • Common interests bring together groups in your community, so why not let those same interests bring those groups to your library? Offer to host meetups of babysitting co-ops, Kiwanis clubs, environmental groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and the like in your space.

Step 4: Promote Your New Spaces

Now that you know what spaces you have to offer and what they can be used for, it’s time to spread the word. Work with community partners to share the new ways your members can use the library. Post flyers near the checkouts at local party stores (with their permission, of course), arrange meetings with scout leaders so you can tell them exactly how the library can meet their troops’ unique needs, and visit college campuses to pass out flyers to students and student groups. The key is positioning your room as a blank slate that can be used for any and all purposes.

Step 5: Refine How You Manage Your Rooms

Once you’ve collected feedback to guide your spaces moving forward, identified reservable spaces at your library, brainstormed new uses and users for them, and promoted them to your community, it’s time to refine how you manage your spaces so you can maximize your return on investment.

While it’s possible to manage room reservations with pen and paper, many libraries have found that leveraging Demco Software’s Spaces software helps them get the most out of their reservable rooms. Spaces offers an easy-to-use interface for both staff and patrons and robust reporting capabilities that allow staff to learn more about who is using the spaces and when the greatest demand for them occurs. Learn more about how Schreiner Memorial used this software to minimize administrative tasks, offer an improved patron experience, and even monetize their community room in this case study.

Kayla Fargo

As Demco Software's Marketing Director, Kayla champions our efforts to educate public libraries on the need for a robust community engagement strategy. She works alongside our other teams to ensure that Demco Software's solutions effectively complement and amplify libraries' community engagement efforts.