28 October 2019

In the survey RAILS conducted earlier this year, we asked members to rate major challenges they faced when trying to tell their library’s story. The number one challenge identified by academic, public, and special libraries, was attracting nonusers and making sure that potential customers are aware of all the library has to offer. (This challenge was rated #6 by school libraries.)

While attracting nonusers may sound like a monumental task, there are six steps almost any library can take to get started:

  • Enlist the help of satisfied customers. When someone compliments the library or a library service, ask them to tell colleagues, other students, friends, family, etc. about the library.
  • Have an open house to introduce potential customers to all the library has to offer. Spread the word about the event via as many internal and/or external communication channels as you can. Serve food.
  • Build relationships outside of library walls. If you work at an academic, school, or special library, go where colleagues gather (cafeterias, breakrooms, workplace events, etc.) and say hello to them in the hall. Find out about their interests and needs and throw in a casual mention of how the library can help them. Invite them to visit. If you’re in a public library, get out into the community and follow the same practice.
  • Find out who the new members of your particular library community are and send them a welcome letter, postcard, or email. Public library staff can find listings of property transfers in local newspapers or check with their local Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a welcome packet where you can include library information. If you work in an academic, school, or special library, watch for announcements of new employees and invite them to visit the library.  
  • Send information about library programs/services to the local newspaper. Especially in small communities, we’ve seen some papers devote a whole page to this type of news. If you’re in an academic, school, or special library, target in-house publications with the same information.
  • Keep your ears and eyes open in the course of your day-to-day life. If someone mentions that they are looking for a job, tell them about the job hunting assistance the library can provide. If you meet someone who’s into e-books, tell them about the e-resources available at the library. Make sure all of your friends, family, and colleagues know about the different types of libraries and what they have to offer.

These are just a few ideas that all types and sizes of libraries can use to get started attracting nonusers. What have you tried at your library that has worked? Please share below.