Transform Community Members into Engaged Library Patrons

Jan 8, 2019 | Articles

Public libraries are always looking for ways to become more relevant to their communities. The good news?

  • About two-thirds of Americans age 16 and over have a library card.
  • Over half of American adults have visited a library in the last year.
  • Millennials are the most likely adult generation to have visited the library.

Yet, nearly 20% of Americans say they have never visited a public library or a bookmobile.

Of those people that have not visited a library, nearly two-thirds of them agree that libraries provide people with the resources they need, and more than half say that closing their local libraries would have a major impact on their communities. They see the value in the library, so why aren’t they taking advantage of what the library has to offer? How can libraries leverage this support to increase community reach?

In this post, we explore key ways to transform your community members (those who live in your serviced population but who are not active library users) into library customers (regular users and vocal advocates of your library).

Go Beyond Print

It’s time to expand the community’s awareness of your library beyond books, and you can do that by publicizing the non-print resources that you offer. As e-content has been steadily gaining popularity, circulation of downloadable audio content is up more than 10% in the last 10 years and the circulation of available e-books has quadrupled in the last six years. However, while 90% of local libraries in the US offer e-book lending, nearly 40% of Americans are unsure whether their local branch does.

To increase your library’s reach, market your e-books and downloadables via your website or social media pages, where you can reach those looking for e-content. Consider publicizing your library’s e-books and downloadables where people might find this type of content handy, like local cafes, fitness centers, and waiting rooms around the community.

Go Where They Are — on Their Phones!

Reach community members who don’t use the library by offering a mobile app. Public libraries that offer mobile apps have increased from 15% to 84% since 2012, and the most popular of these apps deliver digital content. Some even enable access to library services like room reservation and program registration. Not only does offering a mobile app extend your reach, but it can help you gain new users by building awareness around resources and events and making it easier to engage with your collections and services.

Are you ready to turn your community’s non-users into library customers by offering or updating your mobile app? Check out the Mobile App Selection Guide to find the app that will best serve your community and attract new users.

library mobile app selection guide

Support Lifelong Learning

According to the the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans say libraries should “definitely” offer programs to teach people of all ages how to use digital tools like computers and smartphones, and half of Americans want libraries to help patrons learn how to use new creative technologies like 3D printers. Furthermore, libraries have seen a 10-point rise in class, program, or lecture attendance in the last year alone. Informative programming, then, provides an opportunity for libraries to extend their reach. Since local community colleges are a great potential source of teaching talent for programs about using digital tools, updating your class schedule also offers an opportunity to expand your library’s community partnerships.

Consider what types of programming you currently offer and how you’re marketing that programming. Could you create new programming or update your marketing strategy to target a segment of your community that you haven’t yet reached?

For instance, you’ll want to promote your “Smartphone 101” class to older patrons since this demographic is most likely to need this sort of guidance. Post ads about the class in retirement homes, grocery stores, local doctor’s offices, and other locations those in this age group frequent, and you might also consider sponsoring radio or public access channel ads since this age group is used to consuming more traditional types of media.

If you decide to add a 3D printing class to your schedule, your target audience will depend on how in-depth your instructor goes into the topic. If the content is advanced, you might be better off targeting working professionals who can use this knowledge on the job. Reach out to local businesses to see about posting your promotional materials in break rooms or other common areas around workplaces if this is the case. If the content is introductory, target elementary, middle, or high school students who may be interested in pursuing a STEM career. The partnerships you’ve already established as a part of your summer reading program can help here — for example, ask teachers to help you share information about your “Basics of 3D Printing” class with their students.


“By the Numbers: Library Cards,” American Libraries

“Fewer Americans are Visiting Local Libraries – and Technology Isn’t to Blame,” The Atlantic

“Libraries 2016,” Pew Research Center

“Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries,” Pew Research Center

“The 2017 Public Library Data Service Report: Characteristics and Trends,” Public Libraries Online

“Under the Surface: Materials Survey 2017,” Library Journal

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.