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Tap Into a New Patron Base with Community Partnerships

by on April 23, 2014

Sometimes it’s hard to get your library’s name out there for the public to see. About a year ago, my director and I noticed that although we have a great, dedicated patron base in our town, many residents still had no idea about our offerings or that we even existed. Our standard public relations practices—social media, announcing programs in our local paper, in-house signage, etc.— were only going so far and were not attracting many new cardholders. We knew we needed to think outside the box.

Around this time, we were transferring over some library bank accounts and found ourselves dealing extensively with the manager of our new bank. He was excited to hear about our fun programs and how much material we circulated, but admitted we had never crossed his radar before. So, he suggested we join our local Rotary chapter, of which he happened to be the president. He noted it would be a way for us to network with other businesses in the area and perhaps even earn some funding. Once we met some of our fellow Rotarians, the idea of joining our town’s Chamber of Commerce came up again and again.

Joining the Chamber was a huge blessing. It allowed us to participate in the town’s annual festival day in October, during which we recruited a ton of new patrons. Simply seeing our banner in a place other than the library made people pay more attention, and having the opportunity to chat with staff members and trustees convinced residents to try us out. Our Chamber membership opened us up to new connections, some of whom regularly serve as guest readers in our children’s programming. Some of the business owners have also agreed to present at our adult programs.

Last year’s summer reading program also gave us a great opportunity to reach out to our local organizations. At our first-annual Vehicle Day, we hosted the police department, fire department, ambulance corps, and DPW along with their respective trucks on our front lawn. We also implemented a special story time session at the town lake. Both of these programs were easy to put together and just required some phone calls and emails to the respective departments. Since we are also a public entity, all of them were more than willing to help.

I would absolutely recommend making partnerships in the community to any library that is looking to expand its reach. Putting yourself out there can be awkward at first, but it gets easier. If possible, start with your local Rotary chapter or Chamber of Commerce. One membership—which, depending on the organization, may be free since public libraries qualify as nonprofits- puts you in contact with a huge number of local professionals and businesses for potential partnerships. Have your eye on an organization whose mission aligns with your library’s? Approach them about co-sponsoring a program! This will allow you to tap into a whole new customer base that may be otherwise unaware of what your library offers.

Has your library had success with local partnerships? Let us know in the comments!