Public libraries are a bastion of education, civil society, progress and democracy. How that role is evolving, however, is an issue that keeps librarians awake at night. In an age of rapid technological revolution, changing consumer expectations and social upheaval, libraries need to stay true to their purpose while delivering a new type of experience and proving ongoing relevance to funders.
Through a process that included both document desk research and extensive primary research through general public surveys, patron surveys, staff surveys and focus groups, we found that the library was “converting people to the library one person at a time”. Retaining patrons had become a secondary focus.
The library was stretched by its need to communicate that it was “something for everyone, it became clear that they needed to consider a different approach based on the lifecycle of a patron, starting with their initial experience as a youth and moving with them as their drivers and needs changed. The challenge was not “how do we market to adults?” but rather “how do we keep a library patron for life?”
A critical part of answering that question was about moving communications beyond creating awareness or marketing events to being an integral part of delivering an active library experience. The plan looked at every aspect of patron and public-facing communications to map out an approach that put the focus on communications that added targeted value, always giving something back in exchange for attention, engagement and patronage.