11 June 2019

RAILS provides programs and services to approximately 1,300 academic, public, school, and special libraries in the north and west-central part of Illinois. A very frequent request from all types of members is for help telling their stories and proving their value to their different stakeholders. Because this topic is so important to our members, the second goal in RAILS new strategic plan (revised in 2018) is to Work with libraries of all types to tell the library story.

Earlier this year, RAILS conducted a survey of all of our libraries to discover how we could best help them to tell their individual stories and to promote the value of libraries in general. Respondents were asked to rate a series of challenges related to these issues. The top-ranked challenge by all survey respondents was making sure that potential library users/customers are aware of all the library has to offer for them. This was also the top-ranked general challenge by academic, public, and special library respondents. As several respondents noted, “if we can just get people to use the library one time, we can ‘sell’ them on the many benefits we have to offer.”

The top-ranked challenge by school respondents was overcoming the misconception that libraries are no longer needed because of the internet, which was the second highest rated response by all survey respondents and among the top responses for the other library types. This certainly relates to making sure that potential customers are aware of all the library has to offer, since prospective library users (whether they be students, faculty, co-workers, or members of the general public) may not be using the library because they are not aware of what it has to offer that isn’t available on the internet!

Something else we heard loud and clear in the survey results is the need for all types and sizes of libraries to share best practices and examples of how they are successfully telling their stories, because “it’s great when we can learn from each other.” That’s a main reason why we started the My Library Is… campaign and this blog – to have a place for library staff to share.

We’ll be delving further into the survey results in future blog posts since we are prioritizing our campaign activities based on this and other member feedback. Stay tuned. In the meantime, what effective strategies have you found to get people into the library for the first time, or to demonstrate that libraries are needed more than ever because of the internet?