Introduction (Jo)Beautiful buildings were created to house a treasure of information and resources. The buildings and their treasures were maintained by well-informed staff who assisted the many visitors who came. These buildings were of course libraries. Time moved on and things changed. Libraries changed too. However one day a group of library staff noticed that various groups of visitors were under-represented and that some of the resources were not being used often or as well as the could be. These people decided to embark on an adventure they called “Libraries without Walls.” Each of these people returned to their various home libraries and targeted their non-user groups;My name is Jo and I targeted the teachers of LeetonKristine the databases users of HawkesburyLaura the Singleton teensMegan the Tamworth professionalsRose the parents of yound children of Marrickville andVivien the Willoughby multicultural communityAll made attempts to draw these “non-users” into both the physical and electronic world of their public library. Some had success, others didn’t, some are yet to know of the outcome of their efforts but each played a part in the adventure. The staff have met together to share with you the top 10 discoveries we made…..
Tip #1 (Laura) We now you’re out there Choosing your specific group can be difficult this is all dependent on what information you have access to. Information could be found from library management systems such as statistics for categories like Adult, Junior and Young Adult. This gave a basic outline of membership over the last few years. Our systems don’t necessarily contain all the information we require for example what profession they are. This makes it difficult to track non-user groups such as teachers and other various professionals who use the library as a tool for their work. Other sources of information have been Council Social Plans, Community Engagement Strategies and resource statistics such as online databases and computers designated for a particular purpose. Libraries also have users that aren’t members. These can be visitors, non-borrowers who use the library for in library reading, a meeting place, and computer and Wi-Fi availability. Other approaches to find other non-user groups are setting up a stall at the shopping centre with the focus of ‘promote our library’. This has received some positive and negative responses such as everyone knows that the library exists and they also have a good view of the library. Due to the shopping centre rules, library staffs were limited to what they could do. Visiting other Council departments such as the tourist information centre has been a successful activity in gaining more memberships. It also informed many current employees about the different items and services that we have such as EBooks and EReaders.
Tip #2 (Megan) What’s keeping them awayI decided to target professional people in Tamworth as they appear to be an under-represented group. I compiled a survey using Surveymonkey and sent it to about 150 local doctors, accountants, solicitors, dentists and other professionals. There was a response rate of about 18% which is considered reasonable for this sort of survey. As I suspected, the results confirmed that local professionals are not heavy users in Tamworth. 35% have never visited the library. 20% only visit annually and 17% visit less than annually. 60% have never visited our website. When asked to choose from a list of services the majority of users said they borrow books only. When asked to choose from a list of alternative sources the non-users all said they buy books, CDs and DVDs. They download e-books and music from the Internet and they subscribe to online databases and professional journals for their work. So what’s keeping them away? When asked for reasons for not using the library almost all said they don’t have time. Some said they weren’t aware of what we offer and one said we were too bureaucratic.Keeping in mind that professionals are time poor and have a general lack of awareness of what we offer I designed a couple of flyers. A general flyer highlights anything that might save them time, or at least not cost them time, such as that they can access the library 24/7 from home or office, that they can join online etc. I also reminded them of our hours. In the other flyer I listed the online databases we have with a description written to appeal to this group such as that e-audio books are great for travelling, that they can learn a foreign language from home for instance. I put the flyers together with some other information about the library in one of our glossy black library folders and visited offices around town. I spoke mainly to front office staff and offered to speak at a staff meeting. Hopefully by informing this target group of what we provide in a way that responds to their needs, Tamworth professionals will become more active library users.There may be lots of reasons why some groups of people don’t use your library. Finding out requires more than guesswork and assumptions, it requires a deeper understanding based on inquiry and communication.
Tip #3 (Vivien)Put yourself in their shoesPutting yourself in your customer’s shoes is very important when you design your project. The services we provide must be the services they want. But we need to do a bit more. Well, the services are there but can they really get them? We need to have deep understanding of customers’ concern. In my project in Willoughby, we found that due to the language barrier, many customers from the non-native English speaking background are afraid to come to the counter to ask about our services. Therefore, in the promotional flyer of our ESL online learning databases, we included some clear and simple steps on how to logon to databases so that they can follow them easily at home. From Megan’s survey, it indicated that the professionals in Tamworth do not have time to come to the Library, so she tailor-made a programme which was suitable for this target group and offered to present it at their office at a staff meeting. To find out what things interest young adults currently, Laura conducted a survey of the young adults at the local Singleton Youth Venue. This was the start of some of her new ideas of services in her library.
Tip #5 (Megan) Befriend the gatekeeperWhen targeting non-users don’t forget the gatekeepers – the intermediaries who can either stand between you are target group or facilitate the relationship. While dropping into visit offices in Tamworth I was usually greeted by the front office staff which gave me the opportunity to talk about what we can offer them. I also offered to return to speak at a staff meeting. Hopefully a little better informed, when the opportunity arises, they might suggest the library to their employer as a source of information to help them personally or professionally or they might refer a client.Teachers are a good example of the need to befriend the gatekeeper. As anyone who has tried contacting teachers will know, schools can be notoriously difficult to navigate. Jo found that personal direct contact with school principals and office staff is the most effective way to get your message across to teachers.As it is part of the gatekeepers role to filter the information your target sees, it is a good idea to make friends with the gatekeeper and to include them in your marketing strategy.
Tip #6 (Kristine)Who else is out there?What we have learnt from this is we need to work together, expand our boundaries and not to look at other organisations as competition but to view them as collaborators, our friends.I attended a seminar which explored ways of attracting people and different aspects of marketing. Other staff applied the process of observation. You ask yourself why is this important to libraries…Well the reason is it will enhance the library as a whole to serve the community make it more visible and valued.Working together opens possibilities and enables libraries to share and maintain resources, reaching new audiences and expanding the services. The collaborators we establish relationships were from different areas of the community such as local and parents groups and schools. We even discovered that taking part internally is essential aspect in ‘Who else is out there?’ participating in community meetings this allows the opportunity to voice the importance of libraries.So we need to work with them not against, because there are many benefits for example sharing the talent and resources, being visible and making them aware of the library’s influence on the community.
Tip # 8 (Laura) Try itNew ideas are often hard to come by but inspiration can come from anywhere. Holding a cooking class for young adults for me was a new idea. When I started planning the class Master Chef was still on TV so I used this format in the competition to hold their interest. It gave them something to do in the school holidays that was designed just for them. The planning for my event involved many factors such as the food, location, flyers and other necessary items. The hardest decision was to decide the menu. The most crucial aspect who was a massive help was our qualified chef who prepared the food such as teriyaki chicken to make it a successful event. An idea that is being implemented is roving reference by Kristine. The University of Western Sydney campus designed their library so they wouldn’t have a desk anymore. The Hawkesbury library building is fairly new so the desks couldn’t be renovated but they have been trying roving around and answering patron questions which has been really effective. We’re not sure why customers don’t like coming up to the desk but they rather speak to staff walking around and connecting with customers. Literacy talks are being held by Rose. She has had lots of positive feedback from teachers and school librarians who focus on raising literacy standards in young children. At a local preschool she visited, one teacher commented that a number of their children had never been to a library – so there’s definitely a need and if the talks aren’t successful, it could lead to other avenues of drawing them in. That preschool has since visited the library and participated in a short storytime session.
Tip # 9 (Vivien) Measuring upThe goal of each of our individual project is to get the non-users to join the library membership or to increase the usage of a service that is not used as often as expected. When we design the project in our own library, we all thought of a question, how will all this be measured before and after the project? We tried to gather the data we needed, but from our experience, sometimes we might not be able to get all the data we want. For example, in my project, some of the usage data were lost because of the changeover of the database provider. In Megan’s project, she marked in the application forms and dropped them to the offices of different professions to check if they joined in. However, if they joined online, there wouldn’t be any way to check. But no matter what, it is very important to measure up your project. It gives you real insights into how your project runs—whether it is successful, the result meets your project goals or any improvement is needed in the future.
Tip #10 (Kristine) Learn and Move forwardOur group overcame some road blocks but many discoveries.The following experiences demonstrate what we have gained, the ability to be open-minded and when failures happen its part of the process or pursuing new ideas or improving the project we already have.In terms of gaining membership. Jo’s library there was not much of an increase of customers. Otherwise the understanding of the process of working the project it reminded the teaching community of the resources available both professionally and personally. This created some talk amongst the community.Laura organised a cooking class which was a huge success which was to full capacity. They made sushi which was a popular choice with the group as most of them never made it before. There were demonstrations at the beginning of the class. And they made use of the library’s cooking collection. At the end of the cooking class a prize was awarded to the person who made the best sushi.Vivien and I looked at the Online databases as whole and on a particular collection the multicultural ESL databases. We both wanted to expand the awareness of having this as another form of accessing information.In the upcoming months I will be setting up a display which is entitled ‘E-resources a different way of accessing information’.I am currently creating a blog it will allow users and non-users to connect with the library and show we have a range of online resources to share.Promotional Flyers have been designed and created by Vivien and myself which has increased the usage of some of the particular resources since the flyers have been designed. This will be an ongoing services and will certainly continue to promote the service in different ways. Discussions have been made in finding potential customer groups, internal promotion is our next step involving our colleagues so they to can help and introduce and promote the services to the community.
Conclusion (Jo)In summary our top 10 were;identify your non-users, you know they are out therework out what is keeping them away and address thatput yourself in their shoesdon’t be afraid to take a risk and stick your neck outbefriend the gatekeepersidentify others who are also targeting your users and collaborateconnect with the communitymeasure your resultslearn and move onFinally I wish to leave you with this poem. Please close your eyes. Take a deep breath, let it out. Listen……Empty chairs, silenceReaching out, bringing them inVoices fill the space.