It's important to promote your library and its programs through local media outlets, but focusing solely on these resources misses valuable opportunities in any community. The primary goal of any outreach effort is to get the word out about programs and resources, but it's also important to use these opportunities to create goodwill toward your library. This local support will serve your library in many different situations and will be well worth the effort you expend.
Here is a list of suggestions (outside the media) to promote your library, its programs, and the staff members and volunteers, and to remind all area residents of the valuable contribution the library makes to the community and the important role it plays.
Remember, there is no one right way to expand your outreach efforts. Therefore, what is right for you will probably be a mixture of ideas you gather over time and from various sources. Below are just ideas to get you thinking. You need to do what works for your library and community.
- Use your library Facebook and Twitter accounts on a regular basis to share information about library programs, classes, and resources.
- Attend one local civic group meeting each month to talk about the library and its programs (less or more frequently depending on the number of groups). These include, but are not limited to, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce, Business and Professional Women's (BPW), Rotary, garden clubs, historical society meetings, hobby clubs, churches, etc.
- Library Director and staff members should be members of the some of the civic groups mentioned above to ensure the library is represented in those groups' planning efforts.
- Showcase services and various online resources to community clubs and organizations to demonstrate how they relate to whatever research the group might be doing.
- Communicate regularly with school district employees and teachers to keep them abreast of library programs and to keep yourself informed about projects or assignments for which students will turn to you and your staff members.
- Offer to give presentations to local businesses and their employees. ALA has all sorts of stories about how business/industry has saved (or could have saved) significant investment if they had only talked to a librarian before beginning a project.
- In an effort to spread the word about library services to the community, library staff members should meet with service agencies and organizations like:
- literacy councils;
- health departments/WIC & nutritional sites;
- child care councils;
- homeschool organizations (major library supporters);
- job centers; and
- Head Start & Even Start
- Prepare a PowerPoint presentation that highlights your library's hours, programs, and services. This can be made available on the library website, or distributed on CD-ROM to civic groups or businesses when you can't meet with them. it can be included in packets prepared for prospective new businesses, or by realtors when they work with home buyers new to the community.
- Create a virtual tour of your library on your website.
- Write a regular column in the local newspaper (monthly would be ideal, but less frequently also works if that is all the space the newspaper can provide).
- Work with your local cable access channel to produce a regular program on the library and library/information issues. This is a great opportunity to highlight programs or events (with video clips of past programs), recognize the contributions of staff and volunteers, interview local elected officials or library trustees about library-related issues, or highlight local experts about issues or topics that the library can help research (like genealogy, technology purchases, travel/vacations, auto repairs/purchases, gardening, music, home improvement, etc.). It could be something as simple as a book talk.
- Work with the local cable access or television/radio stations to produce regular Public Service Announcements (PSAs). These might be for specific observances (like Library Card Sign-Up Month) or library programs, or they might just be generic "support your library" messages.
- Make regular appearances on local radio station(s) to promote your library.
- Prepare a "Welcome to the Library" packet for all new residents. This could be distributed by realtors, lending institutions, businesses/industries, churches, Chamber of Commerce, or Welcome Wagon.
- Prepare a packet that can be distributed to new parents. You can turn to "Books for Babies" from the Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) -- http://www.ala.org/united/products_services/booksforbabies -- or create your own packet with local contributions.
- Use floats, booths, book cart drill teams, etc., to tie in with local "festivals" or other community observances (including county fairs). These are excellent opportunities to keep the library and its mission before the community.
- Make sure the websites for local organizations, businesses, and government include a link to your library's website. Encourage them to highlight specific databases or services that may be of interest to users of their websites. This is a great way to make your library a direct resource to others with specific information needs.
- Consider an electronic newsletter for your library. This can be either email or web based.