Are Libraries Lacking Media Coverage?

Last year, I was present in the library when a local news reporter walked up to the desk and seemed stunned to realize that the library, every single year, offers a summer reading program along with a host of programming for children and adults.  But I’m sure he won’t be back this year to announce the library’s offerings to his readers.  Why?  Because the local news almost never covers the library and, when they do, it is, of course, typically after the event has ended.  And I’m starting to wonder–is the lack of media coverage a key reason why so many people remain unaware of common library programs and services?

Libraries, of course, offer a wealth of resources, far beyond lending books, magazines, music, videos, and more.  They provide Internet access and computer help for individuals searching for jobs, filling out government forms, or looking for local resources.  They teach early childhood literacy, provide tax help, and offer an abundance of workshops and classes.  If the community has a need, libraries are often among the first to step in.  And yet, it seems very often that people who do not regularly visit the library have no clue what the library does.

The problem here seems to be that libraries may often be stuck advertising internally.  They can post events to their social media, upload programs to their online calendar, and pass out flyers to people who walk in the door.  But, unless a person follows the library online or regularly goes to the library, they are very likely to have no clue what is happening there.  All the people who have never stepped foot in the library have no clue what they are missing. They have no clue that they may have been able to get free legal counseling or that they could have learned a new language or created a DIY project, or that their child, whom they can’t afford to send to summer camp, could have attended a music or reading or writing camp.  They have no way of knowing–not if no one tells them.

I’m not sure what the solution here is.  I’m not sure how newspapers determine which local organizations to cover.  I’m not even sure this is a common problem–maybe my local media is just singularly bad at remembering the library exists.  But I do think something interesting is going on here because it so often seems that the same local businesses and organizations get coverage.  And everything the media loves to cover seems to be geared towards people with money.  (People without it don’t patronize these businesses and probably don’t care about them.)  The library, on the other hand?  The library is inclusive.  It’s about equal access.  It’s even for people without money.  And the library is forgotten.

I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe the library isn’t sexy enough to warrant coverage.  Or maybe the people in the local media have no need to use the library themselves, so they simply forget that it exists.  But this is doing a disservice to their readers, who may not be interested in all the upscale events being advertised, but who may be interested in, or even desperately need, the services of the library.  So I’m left wondering.  How can libraries advertise their services to people who have never visited them?  And why doesn’t the media seem interested in covering them?

What do you think?  Does your local media cover the library?

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33 thoughts on “Are Libraries Lacking Media Coverage?

  1. Kimberly's Book Nook says:

    Fantastic article! I find that to be true here in my city as well. We do get a bit of library coverage because our library hosts community events outside the library itself. Unfortunately, there are so many who are clueless to the library and what it offers. Not only within its walls, but the online opportunities are also great.

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    • Krysta says:

      Same here! People seem oblivious to “obvious” things like the fact you can check out DVDs from the library, not just books. It would be awesome if more media outlets could feature big programs at the library to get people in the door–then they could see more of what’s available to them!

      Like

  2. lesserknowngems says:

    Ny two local newspapers have a What valpens today, list online about local events. This is just an online calander with events from the local area. I’m sure it’s the organiser themselves who have to send in what events they are doing, but it is a way of getting people who find the events the library host interesting through the door.

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    • Krysta says:

      I’ve been wondering if the library ought to be notifying the media of events, rather than hoping the media will come to them. They’ve had some awesome events (ex. bestselling authors coming to visit) and attendance seemed rather low. Because no one knew about it unless they already follow the library social media or check the website?

      Liked by 1 person

      • lesserknowngems says:

        The media isn’t mind-readers, and very often need people to come to them to inform them about what happens. In my experience, especially the local news thinks it great when they can have stories about cool stuff happens that also has national apeal (like a bestselling author).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Shannon @ MediaShadowReads says:

    In my town our newspaper doesn’t cover any events (I’m pretty sure), we are lucky enough to have a little ‘booklet’ that’s produced every month which does share a lot of our events so that’s not so bad. Plus we have an active facebook page and our town forum where are services are displayed… but people are still none the wiser half the time. It’s definitely a shame but as it is libraries aren’t a priority or even second thought for many so… it doesn’t surprise me at all.

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    • Krysta says:

      I really wish people would see the library as a cool place! We have an arts/cultural organization that seems to get press coverage every single day. And every time an ice cream shop opens or changes something, that’s like front page news. Yet no one can be bothered to inform the public that bestselling authors are visiting the library? It’s confusing to me!

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  4. Elspeth says:

    It’s not just your local media. Ours is bereft of information about what our libraries offer as well.

    But if someone got caught committing a heinous crime at the library…

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  5. Kim @ Traveling in Books says:

    Our local paper talks about the library system now and then. I know they publicize the citywide book club, and I’m pretty sure they wrote about the Great American Read last year. Granted, I don’t live in the largest city, so local events and services might get more coverage than they would if I lived somewhere larger with more newsy events going on.

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    • Krysta says:

      Oh, wow! That’s amazing! I don’t know how the media works and if maybe the library should be calling them, but they just had a NYT bestselling author visit and I think maybe 50-60 people showed up. And, considering the author, that seemed really low to me. But there’s also no way you’d know this was happening unless you checked the library website or followed their social media.

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  6. J. M. Tuckerman says:

    My library’s website is incredibly junky. It’s hard to look at let alone navigate. And the only reason I know how to navigate it is that I reserve reading rooms. The events page is not hard to find but it’s never really shared. I wish that my library had a better online presence, but I’ve also noticed there aren’t a lot of younger people working there. The whole thing needs a makeover really. Not just online but the flyers and posters it hands out. It makes it look like they don’t care about the programs they’re running.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes! It seems to me that many libraries don’t invest in a marketing person/department. To me, that is one of the most crucial parts of your library (along with the outreach librarian) because that is how people find you in the first place! The other people can’t do their awesome work without people coming in the door!

      It would be nice if more organizations partnered and promoted each other, and if the media would cover libraries. But, for this to happen, the library would need to reach out.

      Actually, library boards should probably do a lot of this? But I’m not aware that most do.

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  7. Maude B. says:

    People don’t know much about the services the library offers in my city – which is a shame, really, since there are 2 colleges and 1 university, all full of students who would greatly benefit from those services. There’s a makerspace, a sewing machine, a knitting group, a couple of language groups, a writer’s group in English and one in French, dungeons and dragons, help with homework for the students… but most people I talk to don’t even know the library card is free. They even loan you natural light lamps during the winter !

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    • Krysta says:

      Same here! I’ve astounded people by telling them things like library cards or free or you can check out DVDs, not just books. (Even avid library users don’t know about some services like ILL.) I’m so confused because the library is basically where I get all my reading/viewing material (and do fun art projects, etc.). How do other people live without it??

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  8. jasminhansen says:

    I have noticed the same problem in my country – the libraries seldom get coverage and I think a part of the problem may be how the library choose to advertise itself. I know museums often submit their own articles to create attention around themselves and specific events – perhaps most libraries haven’t yet realised the benefit from doing so?

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I’ve been wondering this! I don’t think libraries tend to advocate for themselves. I think some don’t even have marketing departments–they just spread out marketing and social media to different workers whose primary job is something else/who don’t have experience with it. But I would love to see libraries getting the word out there!

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  9. Grab the Lapels says:

    I never thought about this, but you’re totally right. The library where I work is doing a summer reading program in bingo style. The categories for the bingo are fun and sometimes crazy-specific to make it more challenging. For example, there’s a book ABOUT space and there a book SET IN space! I’ve never seen anything about the library in the news. However, without fail, I constantly see this animal refuge place that brings in an anxious-looking cat or dog that is up for adoption, and in the land of TV time, the person and pet are on the TV f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

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    • Krysta says:

      Ooh! That sounds so fun! And it could tie nicely in with a segment on summer slide (and could even feature other organizations and how they promote reading over the summer). My library has had really cool events–and no news coverage. Meanwhile, the same arts organization seems to have at least one (or more) feature every time I look at the newspaper, as do the same downtown shops. (I guess small businesses not located downtown don’t matter??)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Book Admirer says:

    It depends on the type of media. At the daily newspaper I used to work at we had a “What’s Happening” page which would list all the weekly events so we put them in the paper and we used to go take photos at the children’s events because they were cute. Unfortunately, something bigger at the library getting covered depends on how busy of a news day it is. Sometimes we had every intention of covering an event that would make for a nice feature but then something breaking would happen and we would have to go to that. You will most likely find library news/coverage in smaller dailies or weeklies. A broadcast station probably won’t cover the library unless its something big or its a slow news day.

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    • Krysta says:

      I love the insider’s perspective! We have a bigger paper and some smaller local papers, as well as some TV stations that cover local news. It seems like they constantly feature the shops downtown, ice cream shops, and the same arts organization. Maybe some of these places are submitting their events to be covered? I’m just confused why a New York Times bestselling author visit gets no press, but “So-and-so now sells alcohol” or “This shop moved locations one block to the left” are like front-page news!

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  11. Angie Sim says:

    I’m so glad someone talked about this!! I go to my local library at least once a month so I can find books to binge for the next few weeks- and it blows my mind when I see all those books for the taking to read and renew as many times as I want, like I’m in a paradise of my own.

    One of my goals in life is to get in touch with my local librarians so I can get my books on their shelves, and the library I go to has programs where you can sign up to read your published book to children. I think that’s a wonderful opportunity for kids, especially ones who can’t access books due to financial, educational or home circumstances.

    So it makes me sad when I see how unaware some people are of their local library programs. I got curious when I first got my card, and checked out their programs on their online calendar. They had book sales, therapy dog visits, indie book projects, you name it! And some of these were on their website while others were in the library itself. Wish this was talked about more often- glad you touched base on this! Very nice read.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes! It seems like you have to go inside the library itself to find out what’s going on! But some people aren’t even aware there IS a library! Or that’s it’s free to join! So this isn’t the best advertising strategy. I’ve seen even avid readers on Twitter (US-based) who were unaware of what libraries do! We can’t just assume everyone knows what the library is and how to use it.

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  12. Enobong says:

    I only what happens at my library because I’m an avid supporter of the library but otherwise libraries don’t get any coverage and they don’t advertise externally (probably because they don’t have the funding to). I also found that hosting publishing events at libraries didn’t get much attendance and we wondered if it was that the library wasn’t “sexy” enough. You’ve got me thinking though about what we can do to boost the library’s appeal and let the wider community know the extent to all it offers.

    I still find people who don’t realise that joining the library is free. So i wonder if that has anything to do with it not quite reaching the wider community – many think they have to pay membership.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it does seem that libraries certainly can’t pay to take out advertisements. That’s partly why I’d love to see the media cover it, instead of the library having to pay for an ad. But do they need to submit their event for coverage, too? Because it seems like the media ignores the library, even when major events are happening, like a bestselling author visit.

      It just seems to me that the media doesn’t care. I once saw an exchange in which a media person asked about the library’s holiday hours. Um…they couldn’t look at the website? They had to make a personal inquiry? (And the only time the library is covered is when it’s CLOSED?) I had to wonder–do they KNOW there’s a library website with hours and an events calendar? (Or is there some rule about asking in person? I don’t know.)

      And, yes! I know people who think joining is free or checking out materials costs money. Some people think the library only checks out books. There’s a lot of misinformation out there! And we need to fix that because so many people could benefit from library resources.

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  13. Winged Cynic says:

    I wonder if “the library isn’t sexy” thing is true. So often with Booktube and blogging, I find that people are so consumerism-driven at times that free things (i.e. free access to used and shared books) just doesn’t sound that exciting compared to buying new things, whether it’s books, tech, or food. I mean, we all acknowledge libraries as a great resource, but I don’t think it sounds as “sexy” or exciting for the media to sell it as this compelling thing. Which is really sad of course, but considering modern advertising is meant to sell you an unrealistic expectation of certain products, I’m not surprised they don’t jump on libraries as the first thing to sell – not to mention, we’ve generally come to take ’em for granted. Even so, the enigma does still haunt my mind… 🤔

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    • Krysta says:

      That could be. The media where I live really likes to focus on boutique shops and upscale things. I guess saying you can go to a place free doesn’t have that glamour to it. I also know quite a few people who don’t like the library because they must associate with homeless people if they go there. It wouldn’t surprise me if that kind of stigma was preventing the library from getting coverage/preventing some people from remembering the library even exists as a place they could go and see what’s happening.

      But it does seem to me that the recession has made people more careful and more desirous of saving money. I could see libraries coming back as part of a certain, conscientious lifestyle. Also, if Marie Kondo has everyone donating their stuff, maybe they would now be interested in keeping their lifestyle small by borrowing instead of buying?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Winged Cynic says:

        lol the association of homeless people with libraries was something I nearly mentioned when writing my comment. Modern Family has this scene in its earlier seasons where one of the girls stereotypes libraries as: “I thought it was just a bathroom for homeless people.” lol

        I do think libraries could make a comeback! I’m seeing new booktubers (i.e., readwithcindy) showing how they don’t buy books in order to live a full, minimalistic life, and I’ve definitely noticed a ripple effect on other booktubers. It seems to be slowly becoming a trend, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if consumerism in the book community decreases in the near future!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Kelly | Another Book in the Wall says:

    Fantastic discussion as always! I too, have noticed the lack of media coverage with libraries, especially with my local branch. I think one of the reasons for this could be the consumerism culture – many people simply aren’t enthusiastic about utilizing facilities that don’t offer new, shiny products/services. It’s a shame, because I believe there are many individuals who would benefit from library services, but aren’t even aware of them because of the lack of news coverage.

    Like

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