We take it for granted that people know what libraries do on a daily basis, beyond lending books. I’m here to tell you that your cardholders likely don’t understand all the ways your library contributes to their community. They don’t know that you have meeting space. They don’t know you do outreach work. They don’t know about your literacy initiatives, your job and career readiness programs, and your library’s dedication to the free and open access of information to all people. Now is the time to make sure they understand.
For many of our cardholders, the world is changing drastically under President Trump. They feel less safe and secure. They may be the target of hateful rhetoric in public and private forums. With the proliferation of inaccurate news, they can’t figure out whether they can believe anything they read. In the midst of this chaos, I see an opportunity–and a duty–in this historic moment for libraries.
It’s time for your library to launch a content marketing initiative designed to educate the public about the importance of your institution. And I don’t mean that in the broad sense of the word. We’re going to have to be specific. There are four big points that all libraries need to emphasize to our communities. We can do this together, through stories published on our blogs, eNewsletters, and in our print publications. We must all work together toward re-educating the public about the library’s important role in American society. These are the four big points we need to make in our marketing during Trump’s Presidency.
Make sure your public understands libraries are open and inclusive places where anyone is welcome and all information is shared openly, without judgement. Librarians are proud of their industry’s commitment to free and fair access of information to all. Those of us working inside the library world have always known this was the case but it’s time to emphasize and reaffirm this commitment publicly to our cardholders. Don’t assume they know it. You need to tell your cardholders that your collection is diverse, that your librarian’s are non-judgmental, and that your building is a safe public space shared by everyone, no matter their beliefs.
Market your library’s ability to provide factual information in an age of inaccuracy. A Pew Research Center study conducted in the spring of 2016 found that 37 percent of Americans feel that public libraries contribute “a lot” to their ability to discern which information they can trust, a 13-point increase from a survey conducted at a similar point in 2015. My library decided to dedicate the cover story of our upcoming issue of Library Links (releasing on Feb. 6) to explain how our librarians can help the public to fact-check. We listed several databases with remote access and made sure the readers know they can call, chat, or email us anytime or set up an appointment with a librarian who will help them do the research they need. This is a valuable service that isn’t offered anywhere else and we should be sure the public knows about it.
Make sure your public knows that your library’s primary goal has been, and always will be, to promote literacy in your community–and why that is important. This is the most important tenant of our profession. Increased literacy for everyone improves every aspect of community life. Find ways to make sure your cardholders know that this will continue to be a point of emphasis for your institution and why they should care.
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