10 Easy Ways Your Library Can Attract More Patrons
“We need to find a way to engage and attract more patrons”. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Benjamin Franklin opened the first library in the North American colonies in 1731 (the Library Company of Philadelphia). Since then, libraries across the country have been trying to find ways to attract more patrons amid ever-changing social landscapes.
We have compiled a list of ten simple things that your library can adopt right now to enhance community engagement and attract new patrons.
1. Holiday events
Your library should represent all people and faiths in your local community. Hosting special events such as arts and crafts classes and holiday potlucks can be a great way to educate and integrate many cultures and traditions into the fabric of your library offering. Think Halloween, Christmas, Diwali, Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and other festive events throughout the year. Patrons like to feel represented and will come back year after year if your library connects with them.
Here are some useful links to help plan your calendar:
2. Become a donation drop-off point
Non-profits are always looking to expand their collection points to encourage more donations. You can offer your library as a donation drop-off point. As well as helping charitable organizations, it will attract more people to visit your library. It’s a good idea to display relevant events, services, and adverts next to the drop-off location to entice people to explore more of your library. This can be a great way to meet new potential patrons and find out how you can support their needs.
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3. Invest in self-service technology
In today’s world, people expect services to be available 24/7 and to access them quickly, often within just a few clicks. Making your library services accessible to as many people as possible will help to attract more patrons.
Luckily, there is technology available to make accessing books, DVDs, and other items a breeze. D-Tech’s lendIT self-service machine dispenses items to library patrons anywhere in your service area. The machine can hold up to one thousand items and can be placed virtually anywhere, including your local hospital, train or bus stations, government office buildings, community centers, malls, and shopping centers; locations are only limited by your imagination. Libraries across many states including New York, Oregon, Texas, Indiana, and others have installed lendIT machines and have seen a jump in patron numbers.
With the introduction of LCF, it will soon be possible for people to sign up to become patrons directly from a lendIT machine. Read our blog “5 reasons we are excited about LCF”, to find out more.
4. Support like-minded groups
Local businesses, groups, and associations such as 4-H, the Boy/ Girl Scouts of the USA, and SCORE already have systems in place to reach a wide audience. It’s a good idea to reach out to the relevant people within these groups to ask how your library can support their needs and collaborate by cross-promoting each other’s services.
5. Gain the support of local media
A surefire way to spread the word about your library’s services and events is to enlist local newspapers, radio stations, podcast hosts, and forums to promote them for you. Often, the local press is willing to conduct interviews with relevant representatives, such as your librarians, to discuss what initiatives you are offering the community.
Top tip: Think about your patron’s lifestyles, where they source information from, which groups they are involved in, which social media sites they interact with, and so on. This will give you a good idea of which platforms to target and build strong relationships with.
6. Offer your space for public use
Do you have areas of your library that are often unoccupied? If you have meeting rooms or spaces that are available throughout the week, you can offer them to local businesses or clubs that are always looking for venues to host meetings. If you can get more people through the door, they’ll be more likely to hang around and explore other areas of your library too. You can easily implement a room booking system using various platforms available online. Simply Google “room booking systems” and see what best suits your library.
7. Use the power of social media
Social media is a great tool to communicate with people. Commit to posting on one to two different platforms regularly to keep patrons up to date with opening times, special events, library initiatives, partnerships, and features that will resonate with them. Remember, photos and videos are more engaging, so be creative and let the community feel like they are in your library, even when they’re not. If people share your posts, they’ll reach a greater audience and encourage the wider community to engage with you.
Check out other libraries on Facebook to see the kind of content they’re posting to give you some inspiration.
8. Engage your patrons virtually
In a fast-paced progressive world, your library must adapt to offer services that are of interest to your patrons in a format that is easily accessible to them. This could include digital book clubs, virtual art exhibits, online book readings, and digital magazines. You will attract more people to explore your library’s resources if you offer them diverse content delivered through technology.
9. Be responsive to trends
There will always be a trending book, film, TikTok challenge or celebrity. People can access many of these related items from your library for free. So, next time a blockbuster film or a best-selling book comes out, be sure to run a promotional campaign to let your patrons know that they can find popular entertainment items at your library.
Or, get your librarians involved in the next Ice Bucket Challenge equivalent and post the video on your social media channels. (It’ll be fun, promise).
10. Attend events in your community
Having a strong presence in your community is a great way to raise awareness and promote your services. Attend local fairs, markets, marathons, schools, and exhibitions to engage with potential patrons. You can choose to book a table or a booth, or just have representatives attend in an informal capacity. It’s a good idea to wear branded t-shirts or caps so people know who you are and to raise ‘brand’ awareness.