ALIA Dreaming 08 – PM Concurrent Session – Debra Rosenfeldt

Connecting with the community: strategies to help public libraries better engage with hard to reach groups – Debra Rosenfeldt

Approximately 60% of Australians use public libraries. 50% of public library users visit weekly, 90% borrow books mainly, 37% use computers, 46% get information, 61% for social ontact and 50% to meet new people.

Why dont the other 40% use public libraries. Original LBC study showed that 27% dont use them for lifestyle reasons. 13% dont use libraries but have much to gain by doing so. The study aimed at finding more about this 13%.

Had to choose groups – criteria were universality, achievability, policy connectedness, research efficiency and coverage. The groups identified were indigenous, disadvantaged young people, Horn of Africa communities, low income families, vulnerable learners.
The groups were not mutually exclusive.

Searched out the groups that worked for them and with them, consulted with them, conducted literature reviews and more. Each target group had a report produced about them. Principles of engagement were developed – which included awareness, engagement collections-programs-services, policies-procedures, customer service.

In future, the SLV estimates that this group will drop down to as low as 8% of non-library users.

Summary of Horn of Africa – most arrived since 99, 20,000 in Victoria mainly in 4 municipalities, from many countries with many languages. Many come on refugee and humanitarian services. Limited access to government service, had little education, training and work experience, young people are caught between cultures and domestic violence, health and gambling are also issues.

Focus groups identified 4 key areas where libraries could help which were: a conduit for information about government and community services, help them with IT skills, access to computers and the internet connections to the broader community.

Factors influencing library use; awareness was low, but those aware were good users limited collections, difficulties in joining libraries and behavioural policies, sensitivity of library staff to their difficulty in asking for assistance.

Public library staff suggested that collaboration between the serving libraries could help improve service to this group, as would partnerships with groups involved with them. That libraries should provide computers with arabic keyboards and employ a staff member from that background.

Followed up with workshops for library staff. The six year project has now come to a close but the work is ongoing.

Question: whats next? Work in public libraries will continue, the SLV is about to start a new piece of research on the economic benefit of pubic libraries.