Challenges Facing Small and Rural Libraries

Nov 23, 2015 2:27:00 PM / by Lindsay Mullen

netherlands-97830_1920.jpgAs a librarian in a rural community, you are faced with distinct challenges unlike those of your urban city counterparts. Many residents of rural communities remain unaware of their local library’s resources, meaning you have to go the extra mile to make residents understand what you can do for them.

However, if you combine a focused budget and a sharp eye for your local community’s needs, you can provide your patrons with the knowledge they need, whether it’s the best ways to travel throughout Yosemite or learning the intricacies of China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the major challenges facing small and rural libraries and how you can help assuage them.

Problem: Lack of Awareness

Many residents are unaware of the resources housed in the library. In fact, they may even be resigned to the idea that their choice in rural community has barred them from access to knowledge offered in more urban towns.

In order to turn your library into a community melting pot, you should turn your efforts to getting the word out to draw guests to your library. With your rural town as your own personal business partner, you can tap resources like the mayor, schools, volunteer groups and businesses who may have an interest in supporting local. Once residents of your community realize that their library houses the knowledge and resources to connect them to the world around them, you can begin to nurture your community and connect people with passions they never realized they had.

Problem: Lack of Involvement

Feeling isolated? Many small and rural libraries struggle to make meaningful connections in the community. However, once you demonstrate your value and get the word out about your resources, it’s time to start cultivating great partnerships.

Your local schools are a good way to reach out to the community and let people know about your library’s offerings. Many schools are unable to offer students sufficient resources and lack their own academic libraries. For this reason, making connections with local teachers will allow you to get involved with academics and introduce students to their public library at a young age. From book reports on Dear Mr. Henshaw to PowerPoint presentations on Australia’s dugong population, make sure your local teachers understand that the doorway to learning is just across the road at their local library. Once you begin to build lasting relationships in schools, many teachers will even begin to turn to libraries for presentations, demos and local field trips.

Problem: Lack of Resources

Are you constrained by a small budget? A lack of funding doesn’t have to mean you’re low on resources. If you’re looking to invest in new technology, books or other materials for your library that just can’t be paid for out of your pocket, don’t be afraid to fundraise: the American Library Association has a great guide to building support for tribal libraries that can correspond to any small or rural library.

When you’re getting ready to fundraise, it’s best to have a strategy in place. Identify key figures in your community who you can turn into advocates. They may be teachers, government officials or prominent community members who can help get the word out about your library. Then, use every opportunity to tell people what’s going on in the library and what you’d like to do. If you’ve got a strong fundraising campaign, you may find allies who are willing to donate money or resources to help you thrive.

No matter the size of your library or where you’re located, you can be a positive, powerful force for learning in your town. Check out our new whitepaper, “Why We (Will Always) Need Public Libraries” for our thoughts on the innovations in the industry that are keeping public libraries at the center of their communities.

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Topics: Public Libraries

Lindsay Mullen

Written by Lindsay Mullen

Lindsay Mullen is CEO of Prosper Strategies, working behind the scenes to support the Mango team's world of lovable language learning. A language aficionado herself, Lindsay oversees a team of marketers fluent in public relations, content development and strategy (and they speak some German, French, Spanish and Chinese as well.)

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