As some of you may already know, I work at my local public library and I—including the rest of the staff—find it hard to get people engaged, whether it’s to check a book out when we’re at festivals or to come to programs.
A part of it could just be marketing, but they do post everything on social media, including the town’s group page on Facebook, and do have flyers up around the building, but it just doesn’t seem like enough… and they don’t really have the ability to market elsewhere besides at festivals or other town events and within the library and social media, so it’s kind of limited.
Now, I live in a small town in Kansas, USA, where if you want to do something fun like go to mini-golf or bowling or other activities, you have to drive 3+ hours away because all we have here that is considered “fun” is a history museum that is often busy during the summer due to tourists and a small water park which is also busy during the summer. Other than that, people hang out at home or go to Walmart.
But the library tries to bring people in to do various programs for all ages, things like puzzle club, Loteria (which is basically Spanish bingo), putting on movies, crafting, painting, crocheting, and video gaming events. Heck, we’re gonna be doing a write-in this Thursday, too. So it’s kind of all over the board. But not a lot of people come to these events. There are times when there is quite a few, like last week, there was a zoo from the town over (an hour away) that came by with a snake and turtle and we had 204 people come in to see it. But otherwise, many of our programs have zero or on most occasions, 2-4 people that show. We even created a teen book club, and one person checked a book out from it but they didn’t show, and so it was just me and my colleague. There was also a time when we had a live country band that came in and only two people showed.
And it’s not a money thing either. To have a library card is free, and to use the programs is free—and you don’t even need a library card either. You can be passing through for the afternoon, driving to your grandparents house in another state, and still go to a program if it interests you.
But instead, these programs are left empty even though the library has quite a few people in it during those times.
Perhaps you don’t have the time for it. Perhaps you don’t have any interest in it. Both are fair. But otherwise, how could you get people engaged?
And this even goes with social media as well. My colleague (who did the teen book club with me) and I have been coming up with TikTok videos and Instagram posts together, and while our TikTok page is thriving, trying to get people engaged on Instagram, even Facebook, is rough. People may go to the page, may even follow you, but they don’t interact. They don’t like it, they don’t comment on it… Why?
I can’t even begin to help on how to get folks interested in library programs - that sounds like a real tough one to tackle. Sounds to me like you’re doing everything right
This, however, is the bane of marketers everywhere. I also want to say not to compare TikTok stats to other social media - the platforms are so different in terms of what’s considered good/bad and what content works that it’s just going to frustrate you. Depending on your page sizes, engagement rates are LOW on FB/IG. That said, video is king everywhere. Use video. As much as humanly possible.
If folks aren’t engaging, that points to a general lack of reasons to engage. Do you have non-commital and non-personal questions that you’re asking? Inviting people to engage in exchange for a reward (could be anything non-monetary)? Sharing people’s comments on your page as little highlights and encouraging people to comment too?
A quick and dirty method that I like and sometimes (not always) works, is straight up just ask what people want. ‘What’s your favourite part of the library?’ = things you need to do more of. ‘What’s one thing you wish libraries did?’ = things you need to do more of. Hop on trends! Do “this OR that” questions! There’s so many fun ways you can get customers to give you the answers.
Honestly, I wished I went to the library today to get some writing done and to get a library card.
Another thing is, [quote=“AMMeyers, post:1, topic:14211”]
Now, I live in a small town in Kansas, USA, where if you want to do something fun like go to mini-golf or bowling or other activities, you have to drive 3+ hours away because all we have here that is considered “fun” is a history museum that is often busy during the summer due to tourists and a small water park which is also busy during the summer. Other than that, people hang out at home or go to Walmart
3+ hours just to have a good time and other things are always busy?
Dear god, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but Kansas sound batshit boring as hell!
Anyway, I barely go to the library, mainly because I have to walk there and me and walking sometimes don’t mix (ADHD problems). I am trying to get back into the habit of going and I lack a car to drive there.
I mean there is Uber to take me, but I keep forgetting and the library is only 19 to 20-something minutes away by walking. It far-ish, but it is easy to get to on a day that requires motivation.
Moving on, I was once a volunteer for a library a while ago, but couldn’t stay because walking there was a horrible nightmare.
Honestly, I barely go to the library, and when I do, I just want to write or rather work on my stories. I do want to read more physical books.
Other than that, I don’t really spend my time at the library.
Though from your point of view, I could see how that would suck and be frustrating as hell.
Most people gravitate to bookstores with cozy aesthetically pleasing atmospheres or a coffee for anything book related or special little event.
Forgive me, I might be rambling on about nothing interesting and I apologize for that in advance.
Forget bingo; what about poker games? Okay, maybe not. What about having banned book day/week/month? Offer all the books they’ve removed from the shelves in the schools. When the police come to arrest all the librarians it’ll attract LOTS of people. (>‿◠)
Okay, I admit I’m no help. Sure hope you can figure something out, though! ( ˆ◡ˆ)۶ ٩(˘◡˘ )
You guys are doing more than our local libraries do The only difference I can think of is that a lot of ours are aimed at certain age groups at certain times when those age groups can actually participate. We also have some general ones that everyone can go to.
Buuuuut we do live in the middle of nowhere and there’s not much else to do and a lot of people here have never left the area sooooooooo yah ;-;
Perhaps have a look into the way the activities/programs are being marketed and see if it’s possible to make them more attention grabbing or interesting, or even if there are other people to spread the word
I sort of manage our TikTok account (basically making videos, coming up with video content, and following and engaging with other libraries) and I’ve been able to do well with it thanks to Swifties and people who hate banning books (I made a video about how we need to stop banning with Taylor Swift’s recent trending voiceover of her yelling at a security guard at one of the concerts. The video gained over 14,000 views in less than two days). xD We gain quite a bit of traction on TikTok with mostly likes and very few comments, but moreso than other platforms. Facebook hardly sees anything unless posted to the town’s group where it may get a few stragglers. And Instagram barely has anything. So it’s really weird. But those platforms don’t use videos all that much, unless my colleague does a live or a reel, but even then, it’s not engaging. I kind of wish I was able to be a part of it, but I’m just the helper in some programs. If we’re not scheduled together, then I can’t do anything, and she’s just a one woman show.
We’ve asked this to some people, but they don’t really give an answer. They mostly just shrug and say, “I don’t know.”
It’s very boring. It’s a reason why my sisters and I are planning on moving here in the next year or so to Ohio (specifically the Columbus area because that city has everything besides the ocean… which is what I want, but I can’t afford to live near an ocean).
But yeah. We live 3 hours away from Wichita whereas that city has mostly everything you can think of in terms of a good time. The closest place to “get away” is an hour away, but that’s mostly for store-hopping because that town has Target, Game Stop, and a bunch of other little clothing/furniture type stores. But it’s not like a lot of stuff, like what major cities have, but it’s a lot more than what we have because we just have Walmart…
Yeah I’ve noticed that most people who come in don’t spend too much time in there. Like, some will work on projects on their computers or whatnot, others will use our computers to work on things, and some will read (a book, a magazine, the newspaper) and others will just plug their phone into the wall and wait for the bus that goes by every once in a while. Otherwise, the majority of people who visit the library here are: A) Coming in for a notary, fax, or to get something printed. B) Are parents and taking their kids to the children’s department to let them wander around. Or B) Grabbing new items to check out. The people in group A and B tend to be in the library for less than fifteen minutes, and they don’t check out our programs or have no interest in anything else. And people in group B are in the library for roughly around 20-30 minutes, depending on if the parent meets other parents they’re friends with and let’s their kids play while they talk, and then they’re there for like 40+ minutes. These parents though, often use the programs or just want to take the program sheet but not always or at all come in for them.
I think this might also be a part of our problem, too. Our library looks super dull and boring. They’ve had so many changes and renovations over the years, I mean it looks so much better now, but it still needs a lot of work. The teen area alone is so spacious and doesn’t feel as welcoming as I’ve seen in other bookstores and libraries. One of my colleagues is hoping to bring it up to our director who can hopefully okay a change so we can make it better and cozier, which I hope she says yes because she’s already moved furniture around to make it feel better (which people gave positive responses to) but we have a vision that costs money, and that’s the problem…
Poker sounds fun!
I’ve also heard they’re wanting to set up for D&D?
We did something similar last year where they had a cart filled with banned books (and why they’re banned). It had a few people who got attracted to it, but not many took the bait. Lol on the police arresting. xD We’re actually a library that doesn’t censor and have made that clear, especially in most recent times since we promoted ourselves at the local Pride Parade a weekend or so back, and we’ve now had quite a few people complain about our LGBT+ collection for kids (we live in a very conservative and religious area, so it’s no surprise).
That’s actually what ours is doing. xD
We have programs for five types of age groups:
They’re on specific days at specific times. Children’s, teens, tweens, and family events often center around afternoon or early evening times unless it’s specific to early mornings like our storytimes which start at 10am, or the teen art alcohol ink program which starts at 4pm. The adult programs linger after 4pm, such as our adult craft (making bath bombs) which starts at 4pm and ends at 6pm (and this can be more of a convenience for people who are just getting off work). And similar program times for teens and kids whenever school is in session—they tend to happen after school hours.
We don’t have oreos, but we do have free popcorn! c:
We actually do have a suggestion box for things the library can do to get people engaged, but no one really uses it. And we do have an application people can fill out for books or other items they want in the library so they don’t have to purchase it. c:
Add grandparents to the list. You’d be surprised how many grandparents will show up to activities catered to them. Maybe also add some grandparent/grandchild bonding activities on weekends or something like that.
Speaking of weekends, are any of your activities/groups done on weekends?
Lol they’d be scrunched in with the “adult” programs, especially since many of them do come to them. xD
Heck, one of my colleagues is a mother of a teenager (she’s in her 30s) and if there’s an event that’s crafting-like, the teen and her grandma comes in to hang out and participate until the mom gets done with work.
The crocheting event is also mostly for the grandparents, too. They call it “Yarn and Yack” where you can crochet, sew, or do whatever with yarn, and I’ve mostly only ever seen people in their 50s+ go in. The woman who mostly hosts it is in her 40s, too, and basically, you just sit and work on your project and talk (though they gossip or do other conversations lol).
Sort of. We’re only open on Saturdays until 5pm (whereas the weekdays, we’re open until 7pm), and they sometimes offer one or two events on Saturdays if there is someone there to host them, but it’s not always a definite thing, especially when we’re mostly short staffed on Saturdays (there’s a whole thing behind that, too).
We have a suggestion box, but I don’t think people really use it to give suggestions on what to do. And we’ve asked people what kinds of things they’d be interested in, and they often just shrug and say they don’t know… so, it’s not very helpful.
The ESL thing might be interesting, but I don’t know if we’d be able to do something like that. As for the makerspace, we kind of already do that with the crafting stuff. At least, partly. My colleague tries to create different crafts that allows people to learn how to use specific utensils like a sewing machine or whatnot. She likes trying to add education into her events. But for some other ideas, it may not necessarily work due to lack of funds and resources.
They try to hours fairly, so a lot of the kid/teen/family programs often happen either after school or in the afternoon. And the adult programs happen after 5pm. But it is understandable for people to not come due to timing and whatnot.
I’m not 100% on this, but most people who come into the library are often 40+ as our main age group. The secondary age group is people in their late 20s to early and mid 30s. And then families, often parents and kids. And finally teens (usually 12-15). We also live in a heavy Spanish community, so a good portion of people who come in (even if it’s to print something off or to get something faxed) are only Spanish speakers, which makes it even more understandable considering our main programming person is an English speaker even though she has translated flyers and calendars. But even then, her “sidekick” (though, granted, she mostly works with the kids stuff) is bilingual, and she’ll do Spanish events or bilingual events, too, but even she’ll have few people come in. But most people who come to the events on a regular or semi-regular basis are bilingual or English speakers…
Yeah, unless you go to those fancy libraries in other places or farther outside of Kansas, then dull and dreary is something you will have to make due with.
I also want to think that writing in a bookstore or simply being in a bookstore to write creatively or study, is more appealing than being in the library. It is a cozy and aesthetic atmosphere where there’s some nice music and a place to get coffee and/or tea, maybe even a snack.
At the library, there’s silence, can’t even eat inside, and depending on the reading material and overall library, it is harder to find that book you want. Going to the library is that last resort thing for most people.
Another thing could be that, libraries are a haven for much older crowd that the younger people don’t like. In your library, which age groups go there more than others unless there is something happening there?
So, with going to the library, it is a strong hit or miss that seems to be a miss with most libraries.
Most people want that cozy aesthetic vibe that the bookstores and coffee shop have, that libraries will probably never have.
However, some libraries possibly do greater than others, but those have to be those fancier libraries. The libraries where you live have to struggle and come out of pocket just get people to be interested.
hm, well i can see a suggestion box not getting much traffic. if you start asking things on your social media you might get more of a response. Also you could make a questionairre to give / leave around the library for people to fill out. You can ask questions like
what age category they fall into
what day/time they’re most likely to come to the library
what part/service they use the most
to get a solid idea of your demographic and what you should be aiming future efforts towards
and then some more open questions like
what you’d like to see more of
would you be interested in x, y, or z programming
are there any books/materials you want to see in the library?
you can also use the questionairre as an opportunity to see if people know about your resources and programs
have you heard of x, y, z program
are you aware of 1, 2, 3, service the library offers
how do you normally learn about new things happening at the library?
we have esl book bag thingies here where people can get like a little kit full of stuff to practice english, and just return them when they’re done.
With me, my youngest is 2, and then there’s a 5 year old and a 7 year old. The reason I dont Helicopter parent is because we dont go into situations where outside adults with no vetting can get to my kids easily. It’s hard to approach children at school. Its far easier to apprach children in a library. I’ve met plenty of strangers at libraries as a teen–when I would go on my own.
This is likely to be the first summer I should go to the library with my kids, and I’ve not gone yet because I don’t want to do this on my own. When my mother eould do that trip with us kids, there was a 10 year age gap between me and the 2 year old. I dont have that gap.
girl why are you describing libraries from the 1950s
i mean that’s just common courtesy, you shouldn’t, like, scream and shout in a shared indoors space. You can have a conversation in the library, that’s fine. a normal conversation, not a whispered one.
that hasn’t been true of public libraries in a verrrrrrry long time. hell, most academic libraries don’t have that rule. i could see a school library banning food and drink because children are sticky gremlins, or libraries with delicate content. But most places trust you to be responsible enough not to drop your smoothie on the books.
i take my coffee into the library pretty much every single time i go, at least once a week.
this is true. but you can always try out the interlibrary loan system to see if you can get more. i’m ordering Magi to my library from a different library three hours away.
Tell them to use video more. It’s still the best on all platforms. If you’re doing any paid advertising, it’s also the best - higher CTR, lower cost. As far as engagement goes, that genuinely is the bane of everyone’s life (but never try comparing engagement on TT vs anywhere else, as I said - that’ll just lead to frustration. See TT as it’s own, isolated thing in terms of metrics).
I mean on social media, not IRL.
Just a few vomited up social media ideas for engagement for you… I’m not 100% sure where you are or the location, but you did mention tourists - you could even try building up the library to be a place to visit as a tourist. Take a look at your unique selling point, and see what makes YOUR library a worth-while place to visit, as well as a great center of the community.
Social media vomit
Post a pic of the library exterior, touting it as a local hidden gem that people might overlook because it’s “just” a library
VIDEOS of book recs. Share the cover, maybe have a staff member read a small snippet aloud. You could even do this every single week on a designated day.
Do some behind the scenes stuff. Videos of what you guys get up to in a regular day. May not be the most exciting thing in the world, but try and be a friendly face in the local community that people can recognise.
Got any rich history in your area? Has the library been part of it? This goes hand in hand with the whole “making the library a place worth visiting” for tourists, tbh, but local history buffs may not know everything about the place and how integral libraries are for a community
Polls with book-related stuff. Make Vampire Diaries battle it out with Twilight or just fun polls like “which character is better?” or something. Figure out a demographic to focus on with these, as you can’t appeal to everyone (which I know is your goal)
Got any local authors?? Shout them out! Celebrate them! Host local write-ins for NaNoWriMo (MLs are ALWAYS looking for places to crash during these, bonus points if you can somehow wiggle an overnight thing). Get writers involved. If you can hack it somehow, have local authors giving signings, talks etc. You know, really valuable stuff to give back to the WHOLE community
Again just some totally vomited up ideas for you. Use em, cannibalise em, whatever works.
True. It has been a bit of a while since I’ve been at a library.
Be some places want a whispered conversation rather than a normal one, because you know, a quiet place to immerse yourself in knowledge and leisure?
Different places handle the same things differently.
A while back I brought a drink into the library and they would not let me bring it in. I can’t even remember if it was water or something else, but I am betting it was water.
I guess people manage to ruin something with them in regards to bringing food into their facility or maybe they just prefer a clean atmosphere.
It sucks because some people want to bring a bottled water to drink as they work, but can’t.
Then again, I am not really a library person, so things may have changed a lot since I last went.
If my memory best serves me, last I remember is that they have a system where if you use a library card for one location, that it can work for other locations as well. So, a library card in my hometown will work for another different library in my hometown elsewhere.
In terms of libraries outside your town, nope, wouldn’t work like that.