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Small and Rural Libraries: Increasing Community Engagement

Libraries offer some of the most important resources to the community. From revitalizing neighborhoods to addressing social problems, libraries are catalysts for fostering thoughtful communities. The local library makes it easier for the community to access training opportunities, technology workshops, public computers, and conduct research.

We all know the value of libraries and how vital they are for the community. It is important to increase community engagement to create advocates for better funding and resources.

But, how can small and rural libraries increase community engagement?

Common Challenges

All libraries face challenges when it comes to serving the community. For small and rural libraries, connecting to the community can be a daunting task. Here are some common challenges that impede increasing community engagement:

  • Lack of funding
  • Getting the word out about library services
  • Addressing community needs
  • Limited staff or IT support
  • Allocating resources effectively

  • Taking your challenges into account, we’ve laid out five tips for increasing community engagement for your small or rural library.

    How to Increase Community Engagement

    1| Let the Community Have a Voice

    Your library should provide programs that benefit the entire community. Use surveys to gather feedback from community members. What resources or programs do patrons want more of or wish you offered? Reach a larger audience by attending festivals, visiting local businesses, or showing up at other events to gather input. Create a discussion and listen to the community’s wants.

    2| Participate at a Local Event

    Many cities and areas offer local events. This is a great time to be present and raise awareness of the services the library provides. Go to where the people are. Consider these venues and opportunities the next time you want to share awareness about the library:

  • Grocery store
  • Co-op
  • Church bulletins
  • Football or other sporting events
  • Parades
  • County fairs
  • Schools
  • Restaurants
  • Rallies
  • Doctors’ offices
  • 3| Build Powerful Partnerships

    One of the keys to engaging local communities is to create partnerships with local schools, businesses, and organizations. Get involved in local initiatives and use the library’s resources to help your community partners.

    4| Use Social Media

    Use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to spread the word on upcoming events, programs, and new books. Encourage patrons to comment and share their pictures of the library. Social media should be updated year-round.

    5| Make it Easy to Participate

    This sounds like a no-brainer, but if it is not clear that people can access and use the library's resources, they won't. Make it easier for patrons to participate by helping them understand how to use library services like reserving books online, using meeting rooms, logging on to technology equipment, and so on.

    How to Build Community Engagement with Alexandria Library Software

    Small and rural libraries can create smart spaces by utilizing all available resources, starting with their library management software. We understand that rural and small libraries face unique challenges, that require creative solutions in order to overcome. We’ve outlined Alexandria’s most exciting and useful tools that will empower small and rural libraries to deliver excellent service to their communities.

    Alexandria’s Features

    Bulletin Boards. Alexandria’s Bulletin Boards feature helps librarians bridge the gap between the library and its community. Share information about upcoming events, post news, and exchange ideas all in one place.

    Slideshow. Market your library and its resources by dynamically displaying a range of titles from your collection on a tablet, TV monitor, or computer screen. Slideshow is an excellent tool to help you promote a theme or subject in your library without needing to move books or create displays physically.

    Reservations. Coordinate item circulation, including equipment, by using Reservations. This is especially useful if you have patrons that are spread out very far away from your library.

    Self-checkout. Short on extra helping hands? Allow patrons to check items in or out themselves using the Self-Service interface.

    SmartMARC Search. SmartMARC Title Assistant searches Z39.50 databases for existing title records, which allows for simple cataloging and fast circulation of items.

    Hosting Options. We can accommodate your unique needs. Short on staff? We can host and take the IT requirement off your hands. Do you have limited internet connectivity? We can install the program on your machines.

    24/7 Support. We want you to feel confident using Alexandria, and in the moments where you need guidance, we have a multitude of free resources to help answer your questions. It will feel as if you have your own dedicated IT team.

    Perfect for Small and Rural Libraries

    See how Alexandria can fit your unique needs.

    Perfect for Small and Rural Libraries

    See how Alexandria can fit your unique needs.

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