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?