As a public library, serving your community is a central piece of your overall mission. Unique digital resources like Mango Languages support your patrons in innovative, meaningful ways — but sometimes, those digital resources fly under the radar.
You’ve put up flyers around the library, you’ve pinned links to the homepage of your library website, but still, you’re not seeing the usage you want. If you’re looking for new, effective ways to promote your library’s digital resources, we’ve got two words for you: community outreach. In working with our library partners, we’ve learned together that community outreach is a great way to think beyond your library’s walls and reach a larger market, driving patronage and better serving your community. There are so many ways to collaborate with groups and organizations in your community to strengthen your relationships and bring new patrons through your library doors - both digitally and in person. Here are three things you need to know about promoting digital resources through community outreach.
1. Set the stage for a successful partnership
Before jumping in to make a community connection, a little pre-planning is in order. Youth Services Librarianship recommends considering both your overarching program goals as well as your target audience as you get started, suggesting that, “A major way in which community partners can help libraries is through attracting new and special populations to your library. A good way that libraries can benefit from community partners is to find community partners that have connections or influence with your target population.”
Work backwards by identifying which digital resources you’d like to promote and dig into your community’s existing organizations to find a meaningful connection. For example, if you’d like to promote Mango’s specialty business courses to non-native English speaking professionals, you might seek out internationally-based companies in the area. Approach a desired partner by clearly stating the benefits of working together and setting expectations for moving forward. Clear communication and a mutually-beneficial relationship makes for a successful community partnership!
2. Build connections within your community
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for successful community outreach, you can start mining for a range of potential community partners. There are so many effective ways to collaborate with the community and help them learn about your library. Boston Public Library’s Kirstein Business Branch provides business development services to new immigrants, working with a microlending program in New England to connect aspiring entrepreneurs to the popular workshop. Incorporate relevant digital resources into the workshop curriculum to demonstrate the value of your library to a new audience of potential patrons.
Looking for inspiration on where to find great community partners? We’ve rounded up a quick list of potential collaborations for promoting your digital resources to get you started:
- Public school districts and private schools
- Homeschool community groups
- Local colleges: student language clubs, language departments, exchange student/study abroad programs, student cultural clubs, teaching departments, networking clubs
- Internationally-based companies in the area
- Cultural festivals
- Local language clubs and groups
- ESL Courses and students
- Cultural clubs within the community
- Sister city organization or Rotary Club
- Chamber of Commerce
- Realtors working with international buyers
- Travel agents
- Community center/Senior center
- Preschools and daycares
3. Innovate your involvement
You’ve got the who, where, and the why - now we need the what and the when. This is the fun part: work with your community partners to meet your target audience where they are, doing what they love. At Princeton Public Library in New Jersey, they partnered with a local Italian restaurant to host an Italian film series followed by a reception at the restaurant. The event is a hit with the area’s large Italian population, and it’s a great platform for the library to promote relevant digital resources like ESL courses, Italian language learning, or your online foreign film database.
Markham Public Library in Ontario switched up their usual Writer in Residence program to host a Digital Artist in Residence, involving patrons in a collaborative photo-sharing project that not only brought them into the library, but invited them to log on to the library’s online website, too. Plus, the artist’s existing following helped the library and its project reach a larger audience.
When you think outside of your library walls and venture into the community, magic happens. As you build meaningful, lasting relationships with community partners, you’ll find more doors opening, more awesome events filling your library calendar, and engagement with your digital resources sourcing.
Want to hear more insights on branding your library for success? Download our white paper to read how today’s top librarians are working to promote their awesome offerings and let their resources shine.
- How to embrace social media and interact with patrons online.
- How you can create a network of resources online and with the media.
- How other librarians have gotten creative in their branding efforts.
- Ways you can let your resources shine.