Challenges Libraries in Urban Communities Face

Feb 15, 2016 9:30:00 AM / by Lindsay Mullen

library-488691_1920.jpgLibraries in urban communities have access to some of the most coveted knowledge in the world. While being larger in size and scope comes with notable benefits, there are some distinct challenges to operating in a large city that are far different than those facing their rural counterparts. Here are some challenges that libraries in urban communities face and how to keep up the mantra that bigger really is better!

The Limit Does Exist

While all of us wish that life mirrored Mean Girls and that “the limit does not exist” is the answer to everything (including the sudden-death round against Marymount Prep in the regional Mathletes championship) sometimes the limit [of resources] does exist. A common misconception of libraries in urban communities is that patrons will be met with an endless supply of resources at the drop of a hat.

While it would be nice to have the entire collected works of Michel Foucault or a first edition copy of James Watson’s The Double Helix, it’s just not feasible—especially with how coveted each and every square foot in your urban community is. Instead, offer a realistic picture of your resource catalog and help patrons navigate the resources that your library does have (and the information they might not be able to get from you, but that they can get from other libraries). Help patrons access information from satellite locations and walk them through the process of obtaining any necessary resources. While the limit may exist, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a loophole!

A Cake Filled With Rainbows and Smiles

Libraries in urban communities see much higher traffic of patrons than in other areas—making it difficult to please every patron that walks in. Being the overachieving librarian we know you are, this can be frustrating. Unfortunately, providing individualized care happens to be more difficult in larger communities, making it paradoxically more difficult to create an overall sense of community.

One way to combat this is by segmenting your patron base. Fostering a strong community starts with identifying and reaching out to different patron demographics to help you best navigate your own offerings and gain some insight into what your library should offer in the future. Whether you find that the young moms who often come in with their toddlers are really hoping for a revitalized children’s room or the local high school class would love to start up a book club featuring Queen Bees and Wannabees, reaching out to different segments of your patronage can help you develop ideas for taking your library to the next level. It can be difficult to individualize your resources, but we have a feeling there’s enough cake to go around for your patrons to all eat it and be happy.

Full of Secrets

While your library may not have ESPN, it is likely full of secrets that your patrons have yet to uncover. One of the benefits of living in a smaller community is that it’s a lot easier to convey your library’s “secrets” to your patrons—and they’re much more apt to listen. Your urban community library does not have that luxury.

Instead, let the word out about the great things going on in your library by improving your internal communication. Conveying upcoming resources and events can be just as simple as printing out a flyer and distributing it to guests or taking extra care to update your online presence. Make sure you keep an active social media presence and reach out to local businesses and establishments. Getting the word out is the best way for new patrons to not only uncover secrets, but to learn something valuable in the process.

While libraries in urban communities face distinct challenges, there are many perks of larger libraries that can’t be ignored. For more information on the benefits of the public library, check out our whitepaper.

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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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