Change the image of the public library?

I’ve read quite a few article over the years, that talk about wanting to change the image of the public library.

I can understand that.Β  For example, I had a couple come into the library today to use our Internet. The young man had commented that he hadn’t been to a library in years and got really interested when I talked about our DVDs and magazines. His wife said it was likely that he would be spending a lot of time in the library, knowing this.Β  He was most enthusiastic. πŸ™‚Β  But would he have ever discovered that if he hadn’t come in for the Internet?

No matter how we market ourselves, many people still have no idea that we have so much more for them than the books they remember using (often under protest), from the library of their childhood.

So a new image sounds great – how to get it is a post for another time.

However, I run into a quandary with this. Yes, I want the image of the library to change, but what if that change impacts libraries in a way we don’t expect or want?

I am talking about current public perception of libraries. Numerous studies have shown that public libraries are considered, by local communities, as a necessary service in local communities, even by those who don’t use them. They are seen to be a valuable resource and a trustworthy and impartial source for content and who provide good service. Public library services in Victoria, which are local Council run, consistently rank highest in satisfaction with Council services.

So the quandary for me is how we do change the image of public libraries, without changing the image of public libraries?

How do we update the image of what we do and what we offer, without changing the perception of value, trust and good service. If changing the former means changing the latter and we lose our community goodwill, then we lose our chance to be around for the long term. Yet if we don’t change the former, will we still be here anyway?

Your thoughts would be appreciated.Β  πŸ™‚


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    • Kelly on June 7, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Sometimes I think its just about being more vocal. My library is in the grounds of a shopping centre, and today I visited a CD store in the centre. When I mentioned to the sales guy that I worked in a library he was surprised to find out we lent CD’s, and even more surprised to find out there was a library within 500m of the shopping centre…..

    • Carlie on June 7, 2012 at 5:34 am

    I think that libraries’ most important marketing message is superb customer service. You mentioned that the community already has the β€œperception of value, trust and good service.” We have no reason to change that. I think what we’re talking about is getting the community to see that libraries are able to meet their multiple media needs. Changing our public image to include letting people know we offer multiple media formats still requires the personal service and will incite the goodwill you refer to. Libraries are highly regarded not because they offer DVDs for checkout but because we are responsive to the needs of the community and provide them with the items they need.

  1. I find that I am marketing the library all the time, no matter where I am in the community and I come across the same situation all the time. It is the way to go, I just sometimes wish that it those situations could be broadcast community wide rather than just one on one.

  2. You are so right Carlie – we are well known for our customer service and it is about our community recognising our responsiveness to community need. Now only if we could get them to recognise it, lol.

    • Steve on June 8, 2012 at 1:09 am

    Yes, quite a quandry. My suggestion is to start by changing the image locally. Don’t be concerned about changing the world image of the library, just the local image, which your continual marketing is no doubt doing.

    IMHO, the new paradigm of libraries is that;
    The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of their local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.
    The Revolutionary Library

  3. Good point Steve, but isn’t that how we change the world image anyway – start local and spread globally? πŸ™‚

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