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Innovative Ways of Connecting With Your Community


David Lee King

David Lee King discussed using your data to figure out new ways to connect with your customers (which is called market research in the business world). This is not weird!

Use your data

  • GIS mapping will show you characteristics of the library’s service area. For example, here is a map of the county served by David’s library (the city of Topeka, KS is the green area at the center).
    Library Service Area

    Library Service Area

    77% of inner city people are library customers. The 25,000 people living in rural areas of the county will not drive to the library so they do not have library cards, which suggests that maybe a bookmobile stop would be appropriate for them.

  • The library’s website can reveal data about library visits. Almost 40% of website visits to the Topeka library are from mobile devices. Libraries need to make sure their websites work responsively. 77% of our population are smartphone owners; 51% own a tablet. This is happening now in your library; are you prepared for that?
  • Most social media platforms have some type of analytics that you can use to measure usage.
  • People data: who visited the library? (Topeka has  about 3,000 visitors/day.) An iBeacon stuck on a tree can measure traffic going into the building. (Some libraries use Wi-Fi signals or webcams for this purpose.)
  • Welcome signs are a good way to thank your customers,and an email newsletter is a way to do it digitally. If they don’t use their card much, they can be sent an email inviting them back.

Ways to make strong partnerships

  • Librarians can help organizations facilitate their meetings, which can help the library in its strategic planning.
  • Hold facilitation meetings around town and share what you are doing with the community, get input.
  • Help train candidates for local office. Give them basic social media training to communicate with their constituents.This gives them communication with the library and can be an advantage when they get elected because they are a friend of the library.
  • Assist in the planning stages for makerspaces, etc.—they are one of the places in the community where innovation starts.
  • Use partnerships when it is necessary to scale up the library. (Community connections were one reason why the Topeka Library was Library of the Year last year.)

Use technology tools

  • Install self-checkout machines to avoid lines at checkout desks. (Even less tech savvy customers liked them.).Give people something to do while they are standing in line by putting a book display near the checkout station.
  • Make the catalog social. Get Bibliocommons to show recently reviewed materials, get comment from library staff members, follow staff members in the catalog and see what they like. Allow readers to  comment and share their opinions of books.
  • Put the library on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Instagram so they can interact with the community.
  • Digital inclusion projects: put books and checkout stations in homeless shelters. Help build a computer lab in a community center.
  • Create a Library HotSpot like the New York Public Library did for people to get internet access at home.

Why should we do these things? Because of our customers.


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