Library Marketing to a Non-Digital Population

by Sara Dixon, Head Editor, INALJ Kansas

Library Marketing to a Non-Digital Population

saradixonIf you’ve been following my blog posts here at INALJ, you probably know that I’m working at a rural library in Kansas. I love my job and I want people to love the library as much as I do. I’ve been working to promote children, teen, and adult programs, and just get people into the library. I want to change the notion that libraries are only about books, which is still important but not the only thing we’ve got going on. I’ve revamped our library website, redesigning it to make it more professional and appealing, keeping it up to date with upcoming events and library news, and adding all kinds of pertinent information. I’ve also been using Facebook to get the word out and get people excited about upcoming programs, but not everyone ‘likes’ our Facebook page (only about 320 likes out of the possible 8,000 people just in the town’s city limits). To complicate matters, Facebook has reconfigured their algorithm so that only something like ten percent of your followers see your posts, unless you pay money to promote them or your followers share them. Call me crazy, but I just don’t think libraries (or other nonprofits) are going to start building “Facebook promotions” into their budgets any time soon. I’d create an email listserv if I thought it would be useful.

But these are not enough. I often hear from people: “Oh I don’t use the Facebook” or “Wait, you emailed me? I haven’t really checked my email in a while.” or “Really?! The library has a website? I had no idea!” My preferred mode of communication is via technology; I’d much rather use email or text than call someone. I want to think that if I’m such a technophile, the people in my town must be too. But, unfortunately for me, that’s just not the case.

So how do you reach out to a non-tech population? Well, it’s not as easy, I’ll tell you that. And I still don’t have all the answers. I’m still trying to reach people.

  • First, I started going to weekly Chamber of Commerce meetings almost as soon as I started my job. These meetings are designed to promote local business, and keep the community apprised of upcoming events. Plus you get free coffee and doughnuts, and the doughnuts are really good. (I’m pretty sure sometimes people go just for the doughnuts.) Whenever they let me, I will chime in with a library update. I’m able to network with key community members with the sole purpose of marketing the library. I’ve had people come up and ask questions, or ‘joke’ around about the relevance of the library in today’s society. And I am seeing people view the library in a whole new, more positive light. In a couple weeks, the Friends of the Library are sponsoring the weekly meeting, which means we get a full 10 minutes to promote the library. From there, we hope to have positive word of mouth dissemination, especially about a book launch party we’re hosting!
  • Another major effort we’re working on, and the possible subject of a future blog post, is our community survey, asking questions about how often people use the library, the nature of their library use, and possible ways to improve services and collections at the library. After some great advice from a fellow small town librarian, I worked with the city office to mail our one-page survey out in the utility bill. That way, we only had to pay printing costs, not postage. For my fellow computer- loving people, we supplemented the paper survey with an online version through Survey Monkey. So far, we’ve had about a five percent return rate. It’s not great, but I can’t help but be optimistic. And even with that five percent, we’ve had some great responses. Taking a note from the INALJ community, our survey requests honest, constructive criticism, but notes, “Negativity is not helpful.” As a result, we have gotten some great program ideas for the future. I even had someone write that they did not know we had a website until they saw it on the survey!
  • Marketing takes a lot more effort when you can’t just post something up online and know that everyone will see it there. But it’s not impossible. Soon our library will even have classes to help people learn to use the computer, so they can see our website and Facebook updates. But first, they need to know that those classes are going on.

Let’s collaborate! How do you market your library or agency off line?

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