Libraries are for everyone no matter the income level, the education level, the age, the languages spoke or the ethnic heritage. This is why identifying different segments of the community and personalizing the communications to them is crucial in the activity of every library.
By dividing the local community into smaller segments that have similar needs and demands from the library, it makes it easier to understand how to fulfill them. Kathy Dempsey recently emphasized in an article on infotoday.com that people are more likely to click on a message that’s personalized to them: “look at the messages that come out of your library. Are they generic? Do they invite “everyone” to participate? Now think about yourself again: Are you more likely to click on a message that’s for everyone or a message that’s for you?”
Read next examples of the different community segments libraries are targeting and how various libraries around the world personalize their services to them.
1. Small Businesses/ Entrepreneurs
It is difficult to build a company starting from nothing because a successful business goes way beyond finding the right idea. This is why more than 30% of new businesses fail according to a study made by ISED Canada. The main reason for failure is inexperienced management.
Librarians are powerful allies full of resources that can help managers and entrepreneurs understand the important steps to build a business. For example, the Ottawa Public Library in the US offers free guides for starting a small business in Ontario.
2. Job Seekers
In 2017, most western countries had an employment rate between 70% and 75%. This means that in most countries, 1 of 4 people were job seekers. There can be different explanations for that, but one of them is that people didn’t have the resources to find a job.
Librarians help those faced with this difficulty. As Michael Baumann mentioned in an article on Information Today, Inc “job hunters have been turning to public libraries in their search process and 62.2% of public libraries consider aiding job seekers as critical to the library’s mission.” The Toronto Public Library has a calendar with specific activities targeting job seekers like Resume Writing events.
3. People with disabilities
We all know someone that has a disability and we know their everyday life can be really difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirmed that 53 million adults in the US live with a disability.
Citizens with mental or physical disabilities have special needs that cannot be easily fulfilled through ordinary library services. By adding additional services that are personalized to their needs, libraries improve the quality of life of users with disabilities. They provide a place where those citizens feel welcome and understood. The Central Library of Portsmouth has a lot of different services for people with disabilities. For example, they offer free computer training for the visually impaired.
In 2015, there were recorded nearly 1.8 million new refugees. Having to need to move to another country that has a different culture, religion, language, and even values might be a great challenge for many of them.
Public libraries are known to be a safe space where everyone has access to knowledge and information, regardless of their ethnic origin. Libraries give refugees the resources they need to keep themselves on the learning path. At Nottingham Central Library in the UK, they offer conversation workshops which aim to help people with English as a second language get more confidence when engaging in conversation.
Immigration has been a hot topic over the past few years as western countries receive more and more immigrants. Migrants leave their home country most of the time to find themselves a better situation, to reunite with their families or to experience a new culture.
Libraries through their resources and well-informed staff are in a perfect position to help people settle in their new country. They can help them understand the things they need to know and how they can be part of that new society. Take a look at the North Vancouver District Public Library Website, they have a page where they welcome newcomers and they give them information about what resources they provide to them.
6. Lonely people
Humans are highly social beings and loneliness is a huge, cultural problem all over the world. An article from the Guardian states “that loneliness can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day”. They also argue that one of the best ways to fight loneliness is to increase social contact by getting into a new group, volunteering, etc.
As Pamela Benjamin mentions in her chat with Princh, “libraries are great at tackling loneliness and dividedness by creating opportunities for different generations, ethnicities, social classes, etc. to connect”. A great example is Warwickshire Libraries in the UK which emphasizes on an article on Libraries Taskforce Blog that “they support all kinds of get-togethers such as Silver Surfer computer sessions for the over-50s, coffee mornings, Knit and Natter clubs, and reading groups and board games” as health and wellbeing have long been high on their agenda.
Travelling has never been trendier. People want to explore the world and they travel more and more. When we consider countries like Canada, the US, Denmark, Australia, the UK, and Germany, we can see that all of them have an increase in incoming trips between 1 and 5% for the past year.
Librarians with their knowledge and research skills are the perfect guides to explain to them what they should visit and they also can help them find the resources they need. For example, DOKK1 the main branch of Aarhus Libraries in Denmark organizes guided tours of the city from time to time.
8. Homeless people
There are numerous reasons why someone is homeless such as house fire, unemployment, physical and emotional abuse, etc. Those people are often alone and without the resources they need.
It’s a sensitive topic and opinions are divided, but it has been noticed that the library plays an important role in their lives. Libraries represent to them a neutral and warm place and librarians help them find solutions to their problems. One of the best examples of this would be the Los Angeles Public Library who have a section on their website where homeless people can easily find the resources they need.
Around the world, we hear about teachers quitting their job after teaching only for a few years. For example, in the UK, almost a third of new teachers will quit their job within 5 years as emphasized by an article in The Guardian. There are numerous reasons for that, but one remains the most important – they lack time.
Visiting the public library is one of those activities that the children love, and that gives some bonus time to teachers. Librarians not only help teachers, but they can also teach young generations the benefit of visiting the library too. The Australian State Library of New South Wales has a full section on their website where they promote activities going on in their library for schools and teachers.
10. Families with small children
Having small children is never easy, and some families don’t have the same resources as others to offer entertaining materials to their children. The National Center for Children states that about 15 million children in the U.S live in families that have a low- income. Libraries are the ones who offer families a peaceful environment full of books, games, and activities – basically, a small paradise.
This is true for all families. By targeting families with small children, libraries indirectly target families with low-income, but also all the other families that can benefit a lot from the libraries’ environment and activities. An example of this is at The New York Public Library, where they have a specific calendar for children which is full of activities.
Teens are the future, but a lot of them don’t even finish high school. There are many reasons why, and a recent study on dropout prevention highlights the two most important. Firstly, teens may quit because they are failing too many classes. Secondly, teens may drop out because they are simply not interested in school.
Librarians are a big help in these cases. They have the capacity to show teenagers what is beyond high school. They open their minds and let them discover an infinite spectrum of possibilities; from science to mathematics, to languages and communication. A good example of this is the Public Library of Montreal. They have a space completely reserved for teens between 13 and 17 years old where they have access to new technologies like laptops, video games, 3D printers, etc.
Data from the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) shows that there is a lot of evidence that students are more engaged in their studies if they use libraries. The AUSSE report argues that “Libraries actively contribute to students’ awareness, understanding, and capabilities in using, managing and working critically with information.”
Most universities have their own academic library, but that doesn’t mean public libraries don’t have services available for university students. Librarians are definitively the best in helping with research and planning. A great example of that is at Melbourne Library where you can book a librarian to help you research a subject.
The population is getting older. As mentioned in this article from the American Library Association, the first wave of baby-boomers has now turned 65. In most western countries, the percentage of the population older than 65 years old is now between 15% and 20%.
Elderly is, therefore, an important segment considered by many libraries. Libraries are providing services specifically for the elderly, but at the same time, they also help with the transition they go through, from working every day to being at home every day. The Brooklyn Public Library offers multi-session art workshops for old people.
The examples above are just a few of the segments a library targets with its services, programs, and events. Libraries are for everyone and they are an important pillar of the community. For many users, it is not easy to distinguish between the different offers that a library has specifically for them.
Advertising the services to that segment is also important. This is why those that succeed in personalizing their communications, they will be able to prove their value to the local community.
We’ll be back next week with another interesting article from the library world! Until then, you can get more interesting bits from libraries around the world by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for stopping by!
Post updated on October 23, 2018