Libraries are one of the most effective ways for communities to get access to proper educational and intellectual materials and not get lost in all the jargon found on the internet.
For the millennial and their families, the habit of going to the library is changing significantly, mostly due to the internet access and the presence of mobile devices like tablets and Kindle. People are relying more and more on pseudo-information found online rather than finding it through a reliable source like the books in the libraries.
Libraries also provide audio and video materials, which is also under attack, given the availability of those content on the internet. We remember what happened to Blockbuster. Since they were not agile to adapt to the age of internet and online content, they became irrelevant very quickly and closed most of their stores and lost the game to companies like Netflix.
Libraries are different in their mission when compared to Blockbuster and Netflix. They want to be a part of their communities and have a positive impact on the people's lives. However, the mission is overshadowed by the internet, its dominating accessibility and convenience.
Libraries want to be a part of their communities and have a positive impact on the people's lives. However, this is overshadowed by the internet.
Libraries are a place where people can build social skills while indulging themselves in all firsthand information they can get. Yet, for the millennial, libraries are struggling to stand out in this loud environment and show their benefits.
One of the best ways to overcome the challenge of having more people going to the libraries is to approach people. This way libraries will go and find people instead of waiting for people in the communities to go to the libraries.
A nice, cost-effective way is putting up pop-up libraries in the communities and bundling that with what the millennials want. Things like movie night or a game night are great ideas. These activities will not only introduce the library to the community but also will de-alienate the libraries for the new generation who is constantly under influence by online content.
Community outreach is always the most effective way to de-alienate libraries from community.
And there is another benefit to that. In a community outreach like pop-up library, the libraries will be able to show other services they have to the community. Things that can generate revenue for the librarians like:
- meeting room rentals.
- training courses.
- instrument rentals.
- business classes.
- exercise classes.
...and many other services the libraries can create.
The point is, the libraries should first try to engage the community, then ask them to come to the library more often. Once the community gets to know what they can do at their library, they will go there more often, stay there more, bring their families and friends and will be willing to pay for some of the services they need.
With this approach, libraries will also help the community to grow in their ability gaining proper knowledge from proper resources offered at the library, helping the community to become intellectually mature and make better decisions in their lives and for their community. This is something that is not offered by massive for-profit companies of the internet.
Libraries can be an essential part of helping communities to grow their intellectual skills and make better personal and social decisions. This is something that large companies on the internet cannot offer.
Now the question one may ask is:
How do we plan a pop-up library?
Well, like any other public outreach there is some preparation.
Here are the main questions that need to be answered to help us have a good a pop-up library with good feedback:
1- When are we going to do it and for how long
Depending on the size of your community, you may want to have several events instead of only one. So break down your area to 3 to 4 blocks. This also depends on how many staff you are able to have in each pop-up. Never go un-staffed because it will affect people's experience and will not have the turnout you expect.
After dividing your community into 3 to 4 block, pick up the best time on your calendar. Sometimes it is not a bad idea to have the popup at occasions like Christmas events or Christmas tree decoration set by the municipality. But mind that you want people to sit comfortably and enjoy the popup rather than not being able to sit still due to the cold.
So Spring or Summer are usually better times for a popup.
Proper planning is the key to make your community outreach successful and memorable for your audience.
Then, for each block in your community, schedule a popup each 2 to 3 weeks apart. This will give you enough time to evaluate the feedback from one event so you can revise some performance or agenda for the next one.
2- Who are we going to approach
This is important as it decides what books and materials we are going to take with us.
The best way to tackle this, is to consider different ages, genders and interests and have the materials categorized based on these.
Another way to do this, is to only take materials that are for a certain audience, for example kids aged 5 to 12 and leave the rest of the audience for another popup. This will make it easy for your to just pick up the stuff and head to the event location. The downside if this is that you are running the risk of being stereotyped as a kids-only popup as opposed to an everyone's-popup.
So taking an everyone's-popup approach is a better way to get more engagement from the community and turn them to frequent visitors at the library.
In your popup, try to have material for any age, taste and need so you can have more engagement from the community.
This way you can also see the general interest and if after one popup you realize that people in certain part of the community are more interested to certain materials, you can offer them more of what they want in the nest visit. Also, this should be logged in an "audience-preference" record (more explained in the "Collect email addresses" section below) so that next time, or in your email communications, you can offer them exactly what they like.
3- Other than books, what else are we going to show
This is important and you have to experiment with it as you schedule your popups. It's a good practice to have some activities other than just books, depending on the feasibility the location of the popup allows.
Some of the nice activities you may have are:
- Movie night using a portable projector (find more here)
- Live music and dance
- Live theater
Depending on who you want to entertain more, pick and choose different activities for each popup and analyze the results each time and improve based on the feedback.
Don't limit it to books and have other activities such as music, dance or games. The goal is to make the popup memorable.
Always keep in mind that the reason for these activities in to create a good experience for the community and turn them to frequent visitors to the library.
4- Get the word out
When you decide when and who and what you want to do at the popup, it's time to advertise. Putting up ads on the library's board is a good thing, but those who don't go to the library, are not going to see it.
The best way to do it is using road banners and road ads, specifically somewhere close to the schools in your community. Both parents and kids are going to see them.
Make sure the banners are installed at least a week before the event so you will get enough people noticing it.
Also, work with the schools in the community to inform parents and kids. This is a great way to have it announced.
When creating your ads, always make sure to mention the incentives like live music or even freebies, if you have them. Mention things that are attractive to people.
When advertising, mention the prizes, freebies or exciting activities like water balloon fight for kids.
Another way to get the work out is through municipalities. Work with your local city hall and ask them if they have any means to help you. City halls usually like community engagements and are open to help.
5- What do we do at the popup library
First thing, you must have an agenda and timeline. Being there at the popup, open ended, is not a good idea. It shows lack of management and you will also get tired when you do not have a proper timeline.
Second, make sure you have enough number of staff or even volunteers at the event, and each should have their roles and responsibilities defined for them in advance. This will help you manage your time and energy together and no one will get overtired. After all, you want energetic people to boost the engagement and create a good experience for everyone attending.
During the event, make sure people are aware of the agenda and also direct them to where they can find books, leaflets and other materials you want to them to see.
Get volunteer help and make sure you are not understaffed. A good execution makes the event enjoyable for the community.
If you have a movie night, tell people what movie it is, including the rating so that families can watch it together. Have the right equipment like portable projectors with minimum setup required to make it easy setting things up quickly. Read more here.
Also, when planning and designing activities, make sure the safety of people is not overlooked. You don't want your music stage to collapse during the event!
Don't overlook safety!
It's really important to have a way to follow up with people. Collecting email addresses is the best thing because it allows you to send thank you emails and also turn the audience into visitors to the library.
Being able to keep in touch after the popup, is crucial to make sure people still remember their library.
People like to exchange their email addresses for something they can take home. So a simple giveaway is a good thing to be introduced where you aim to collect the emails. Raffles or similar types of incentives are good ideas too.
6- How do we have a follow-up
If you have managed to collect the emails, you will have easy time sending follow up emails.
It's always nice to send a Thank You email at first. Make it personal as much as you can. Make your audience feel special. Try to remember them and send them a personal email, wither from the CEO of the library or anyone who was the face of the library during the event.
Then, for each announcement, development and event or services they can get at the library, you can use the email method.
It is a good practice to invite people to another event, but this time at the library. Now that they have shown interest in your popup, it's time to have them come for an event, tour or even free coffee at the library.
Email communication after the event is an effective way to keep the community engaged with their library.
7- After the event(s)
After each popup, make sure to go back to the information you have collected. It is really helpful if you could write everything down.
Write down about the experience at each event as it can be used for next events and you may refer back to it next time you want to work on a new event.
Also, a revised version of the story of the event can be turned to a blog that can be put on library's blog, making more people aware of the event of this type.
Write the popup details down and use the experience to improve the next event. Also write blogs to make the community a part of the experience so they feel involved.
Some other tips
1- Never offer too much
During the event, try not to bring the entire books in the library. You want to bring enough so that people would be engaged and then they can find more when they visit the library. Visiting the library is the ultimate goal of the popup.
2- Consider giveaways, incentives and competitions
Although I mentioned it above, freebies and giveaways are great ways to have more people come in.
Even if it's free coffee, it will being people in. Some people like to get things that they can take home, but a nice treat is always attractive.
If you could bundle the prizes of giveaways with a competition, it would be great as it people more engaged and they will always remember the event.
If your budget allows, you can also consider branded tech products that help the community learn about your library. Read more on that here.
3- Collect email addresses and plan for email blasts
Like mentioned above, be prepared to collect email addresses as it will enable you to communicate with people all the time. Work on your blogging skills or at least have one person at the library to be in charge of writing blogs.
Once your blog is up, you can send emails to your community and make them remember their library as one of their resources for learning and having fun in the community.
4- Use the community talent to set other activities
Sometimes it's hard to have live music or theatre performance at your popup because you simply do not have the staff who can do this. Instead, it's a great idea to invite community members to participate in the event and use their talents to offer programs to the visitors of the popup.
Always be prepared to give thank you gifts to those who offer their talents for free. This will bring them back to the library and the word of mouth created this way is a good publicity for the amazing work you do at the library.