The Role of Observation and Assessment in Library Marketing

Informed marketing decisions require detailed information about your organization, your patrons, and your community – the same information that can also be used to drive materials acquisition, staffing levels, and even space needs.

Data regarding your community and population comes from outside of your library – US Census Data, community surveys, and data sold by demographics and consumer research companies are all useful. However, a significant amount of data can be gathered by observing the use of our own libraries in the form of usage statistics.

What statistics you value in your organization to assess the effectiveness of your library services may vary slightly from library to library, but the most commonly used include total circulation, program attendance, patron count (or total visits), and computer use or Internet session total. Many libraries keep monthly statistics in these and other areas, however, more detailed statistics can give you even more information for your assessment toolbox.

Daily and even hourly statistics combined with program attendance and item-type circulation statistics will illustrate usage patterns within your library and allow you to target your marketing efforts to groups of patrons (demographics) that utilize your services and different times of the day and in different ways.

For instance, a spike in patron count and Juvenile circulation might correlate with the weekly Tuesday morning story time. Another example is a daily Yoga program that brings a dozen people into your library who rarely check out materials would register as a patron count spike but not correlate to increased circulation – and may present an opportunity to promote health and wellness materials.

Do you keep track of detailed, daily statistics? If not, start today with a clipboard or a spreadsheet! Keep a close eye on circulation, visits, program attendance (specify between adult, young adult, and children’s programming), computer use, and use of your building.

Every hour, staff at my library note the patron count for the day (allowing me to calculate how many patrons visited each hour of the day), record how many patrons are in the building at that moment, and mark if the patrons are on library computers, using laptops, or using a study room – providing us with a wealth of information about hourly trends that can inform not only the marketing process, but also the best times to schedule what kind of programming and even staffing levels.

As you gather more information and develop an archive of historical data, you will develop a powerful set of tools to assess the use of your library and to inform marketing and strategic planning processes.

Brock Peoples is the Executive Director of the Dunlap Public Library District in Dunlap, IL.

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