Krysta writes a lot about libraries, resources, and accessibility on the blog, but lately my own struggles with my new local library got me thinking about marketing and outreach to the local community. Those who follow me on Twitter might have noticed me recording my saga in attempting to find out about the Summer Reading Program—basic information like the dates it’s being run and what ages it’s open to. (For instance, some libraries have a minimum age for kids; some don’t. Some have an adult Summer Reading Program; some don’t.) I looked in vain on the library’s website and social media for information about what is one of the biggest programs of the year for any library in the US. I then asked on their Facebook page for more information and was met with silence. I finally emailed my queries, only to be answered by someone who said they didn’t know and I should check the library website—the website that does not have any information. The saga ended somewhat happily with someone finally giving me the email address of the children’s librarian—who subsequently told me there is no adult Summer Reading Program anyway—but the whole experience had me questioning how this particular library markets their events and gets people to come, and then I wondered what libraries in general are doing and what seems most effective.
I was actually seeking and asking for information about a program I assumed the library had, and I could not find the answer. This library’s Twitter account has not been updated since 2018. Their Facebook page has scheduled posts about some events, but the posts lack any real information. One might read something like, “Come July 14 to see Pete the Rabbit!” After reading this, I have no idea who Pete the Rabbit is, what ages this is suggested for, or why anyone might want to see him. If I cared enough, I could try asking, but my experience demonstrates I might not get an answer, or it might take me so long to get an answer I just get frustrated and decide I’ve had it with Pete entirely. The library has no other social media (such as an Instagram), and their website has sporadic, ill-formatted information that ranges in quality. Imagine a page listing programs that’s in Comic Sans and also includes general info like “Science stories, June 3 from 9-10 am, ages 4-10.” What is the “science stories” program? I have no idea. Incomplete information that’s distributed only very locally—on the library’s own website and on the library’s own Facebook page—means I really have no idea what’s happening at the library, and I have to rather intentionally look for the information to find out. There is little chance I will find out about any programs or offerings if I am not already someone who routinely visits the library or frequently checks the website for updates.
I’ve belonged to better-funded, friendlier libraries. (I don’t think I would have gotten an email response that amounted to “Dunno. Ask someone else,” from my previous library if I asked for information about a program.) However, this local marketing seems fairly common. If you want to know what’s going on, you have to check the library website (other libraries do have more informative sites than my current one), or you have to go in the library building and see some flyers hanging around. Krysta talked about how more local media coverage would benefit libraries and help them inform a wider audience about programs and services. But now I want to know:
How does your library market their programs? What social media do they use? Is the information they post vague or actually informative? Are they active or fairly absent? Do they advertise outside of their own channels? What works, and what do you think libraries can do better?