Some of the first things we must consider when promoting our libraries are who is using them and why. We know intrinsically that our libraries are used for many reasons from traditional materials checkouts to study space to community meetings to library programs to Internet access and so on, and most of us have the statistics to back that up.
When I took the reins at Dunlap last February, staff members were concerned about declining circulation and less visible use of the library. With the task of developing a marketing plan already in front of me, I asked the question: who is using our library, and why? The immediate answer from staff was: young families for library programs and children’s materials and immigrant families for specialty programs.
Any one use of our library buildings is an avenue to promote further use of our library services. Staff at Dunlap held the perception that we were being used more in one service area (programs) and other service areas (circulation, computer use, etc.) were in decline. The trick, as I saw it, was to promote our programs better in conjunction with promoting other library services to program attendees.
I met with the staff members responsible for programs and together we developed an overall plan for library programming for the new fiscal year. As part of this program schedule, we also discussed how the collection could support the programs and how the programs could support circulation.
Linking the library collection to library programs for the betterment of both is a great way to reach patrons who may have been coming to the library for one service but not the other, but what about the potential patron? The patron who doesn’t have a library card, or does, but uses it at the neighboring library?
We were lucky to have a fair amount of patron feedback on file about the kinds of programs they would like to see in the future and I empowered staff to act on them. We have successfully expanded the number and type of programs we offer and are working to do so further. In addition to simply adding more events to our calendar, we’ve worked to make sure that our events are publicized as widely as possible within our larger community.
By focusing on the programming avenue to attract patrons into our building, we have seen an increase in overall use, including circulation. We have brought patrons back to our library who had been primarily using neighboring libraries as well as encouraging new library users to come in for programs – and sometimes, a new library card.
Brock Peoples is the Executive Director of the Dunlap Public Library District in Dunlap, IL.