Libraries can use more modern methods to have more frequent visitors, which will result in great mutual benefits for the libraries and the communities.
In addition to community outreach activities which is vital for promotion of the engagement of people with their libraries, other arrangements and planing should be done at the library to turn the library friends to avid advocates and rare visitors to frequent enthusiasts.
What needs to be done at the library
The answers vary but they are all about the experience of the library visitors.
There is great deal of lessons that libraries can learn from business world to make their visitor become frequent visitors.
The idea is simple but the execution is important and needs attention.
The way to achieve this is to make the library goers enjoy their experience, specifically for their first interaction with the library. The visitors to the library are there for one reason, to learn while having a great experience at the library.
Think about Starbucks and how they built a culture around their brand through integrating their coffee shops with Indigo bookstores in Canada or Barnes & Noble in the USA. The 2 giant bookstores also knew that the reason people go to their stores is to discover new ways to get "delighted", seeing and experiencing new intellectual or recreational materials.
Creating a great experience for library visitors will make the visit more memorable resulting in more frequent visits.
On the other hand, Starbucks knew that they need to build an intellectual culture for their consumers. They didn't want someone who was just after their daily dose of caffeine. But rather, they wanted to be memorable and create a class with their brand. A class that is about intellectual nourishing, indulgence in quality content and yet stimulation of senses with the best coffee aroma!
So integrating with bookstores sounded like a natural coexistence. In fact it was a smart business decision for both the coffee company and the bookstore.
And talk about the refills! You get to refill your coffee at the bookstore at a fraction of cost, as long as you stay at the bookstore. A great way to keep the visitors at the bookstore even longer.
What visitors want
What is described above might sound very business-type approach for a public library, which is only interested in serving its community. But the truth is, the reason people in my generation still remember their amazing time at their local libraries was because of the great and lasting experience we had.
Understanding the reason people like to visit their libraries is a key to make them come back.
So like businesses, libraries can think about ways to nourish the sense of "discovering a new adventure" of their visitors.
What if your local library was a place you could meet new interesting people, drink amazing coffee, be surrounded by meaningful signs and quotes and get to forget about how long you have been at the library?
Getting to know the reasons the library visitors are coming to the library can help us improve their experience and bring them back more.
If libraries could make these experiences memorable, anyone from the community will come back without a doubt.
What can be done
Talking about the memorable experience, there are simple and cost-effective ways this can be done. Here are some examples but depending on what the real need of community is, each library can think about innovative ways. Never forget that it should be what the community will like.
1- Free coffee
2- Free movie night with pizza
3- Kids' musical classes
4- Entrepreneurship classes
5- Science and engineering classes and competitions
6- Family coaching classes
7- Christmas tree decoration open to public
8- Donation events
9- Summer camp
10- PJ party at the library with music and movie/cartoons
11- Book giveaway events
12- Reading competitions
And you may add other creative ideas...
Preparation and library environment
In addition to the events and engagement ideas, it is important to make sure the library has a welcoming atmosphere. This is beyond training staff and telling them how to smile back at visitors. It's about the environment of the library and how people feel when they are in the library.
Here are some of the elements to keep in mind and work on them to make the environment warmer and more nurturing:
3- Sounds and noises
5- Aesthetic aspects
9- Awareness and updating
11- Cleanliness and tidiness
Combining these efforts with other activities such as community outreach will assure that the library visitors will have a rich experience, which will be memorable and will entice them to go to the library every time they need to refill their intellectual needs.