Libraries spend a lot of time focused on getting people to sign up for a library card–particularly during summer. That’s a worthy promotional goal. After all, imagine how great the world would be if everyone had a library card!
But I fear that we often take our current cardholders for granted. We assume that once a person has gone through the trouble of signing up for a library card, they’ll use it. WRONG.
Here’s a stat that should shock you. Only about half of the people who have a library card are using that card, according to research from the Pew Institute. This is a huge missed opportunity for libraries. So what are we going to do about? I’ve got five ideas.
Find out what they want! If you’re not already collecting data on card usage, you should. I know libraries are worried about privacy issues. There are ways to track usage without invading privacy. Software is available that lets you know whether someone tends to check out print books, eBooks, audiobooks, kids books, etc. without actually collecting the titles of those items. You could also send current cardholders a short survey and ask them to voluntarily tell you how they use your collection, what they’d like to see in terms of products and services, along with their general interests and concerns outside of the library building. All that data can create paths for you to solve your cardholders problems by providing them with what they need and will use. And you can do it without invading their privacy. Another great way to figure out what your cardholders want from you is through social listening–watching and asking questions of your cardholders on social media.
After they sign up, we have to figure out what our cardholders need from us. They check out items but what other services are they interested in? It’s likely they would use a service that they don’t even know exists! We have to figure that out–and then we have to keep asking them periodically, because people change! Our perception of what our cardholders like to do with their library card is vastly different from what they actually want to do. This is where data plays a key role.
Figure out what your cardholders are doing behind your back! Are they subscribers to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Pandora, or any other streaming music and video services? There’s a chance for you to show your customers that they can get streaming music and video from your library for free.
Watch for trends. Pay attention to monthly statistics. If you can spot a trend early, you can adjust the course of your marketing to reflect that changing tide and meet the needs of your customers more effectively. If your library is seeing a rise in digital usage, take advantage of that new interest and focus your marketing messages on available items in your collection. Make sure your cardholders know that many new titles are available to download. Publish blog posts about new items in your collection and email cardholders who use the digital collection with direct links to they can immediately download select titles.
Show them some love. Get your current cardholders invested in the use of their cards by asking them frequent questions about the books, DVDs, CDs, and other items they love most. When you ask your cardholders for feedback, it helps you to create an experience that is personal and meaningful to them–and it lets them know that you do care about their wants and needs. And that makes them more likely to think of you the next time they need an answer or an item.
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