There is no doubt that people value libraries as a great source of information and relaxation during work or leisure time. Nonetheless, by taking a brief look at the public library statistics offered by UNESCO, it seems the direction for public libraries is one of funding cuts, decreasing amount of book loans or reducing the number of branches.
The modern library goes beyond the traditional book-based library service. There is much more a library can offer to its visitors and it can become a central hub for knowledge exchange where people can easily spend hours and hours. Here are 5 ways you can transform your library into a community hub.
Partner with other local public institutions and offer a mix of community services
Use the library as an opening to other public services. People perceive a visit to the library positively, whereas a visit to a public institution can be perceived sometimes as a time-consuming duty. Therefore, sharing the public space of the library with another public institution can be a great way to attract different user segments and make public institutions more attractive.
According to Build Partnerships (a project created by a few libraries in Denmark), partnerships can develop in two ways; from an existing need, or by discovering a need that the network of partners wishes to fulfill together.
1. Partner with the local authority to offer citizen service functions
A growing number of public libraries offer citizen services which open up the library for new interactions and help create a trustworthy relation with the citizens. These services could include information and guidance on health insurance, passport, driving license, marriage ceremonies as well as a help with some private matters, such as tax, divorce, child maintenance, etc.
2. Partner with public clinics to offer simple medical services or training
Take inspiration from Enfield Council’s Ordnance Road Library in the UK that has developed into the Ordnance Unity Centre. The local institution recognized the need for a new GP and dentist surgery and at the same time the need to offer new services at the library. One year later, a new facility combining a library and providing people access to healthcare services was a reality.
Source: Enfield Independent
3. Partner with the daycare providers to offer childcare
In our chat with Pamela Benjamin, she suggested that libraries could work with daycare providers to offer childcare as an official service, instead of “serving as ersatz babysitters without being recognized”.
Oregon State University’s Childcare & Family Resource office discovered through research that the students with children couldn’t use the library during peak times because they had no place where they could leave their children. So, why not have this in mind and officially offer childcare at the library? Parents can bring their children with them to the library and focus on their activity while children have a safe and fun area in the library to play.
Partner with external organizations and companies to create a community space
It is often easier to partner with other local public institutions that share the same mission and the same set of values, but you can do even more by partnering also with local private organizations.
A main challenge can be choosing the right partners, but the community’s needs are constantly changing and there is always an opportunity to explore. You can start with one main partner and grow over time.
4. Partner with a food service provider to offer food and beverage on site
The National Archive report highlights that having the possibility to have drinks and snacks is the most commonly cited change that people say would encourage them to use the library more often.
Why not offer a more extensive service and create a simple food corner? People can enjoy their time at the library while satisfying their basic needs without leaving the building.
For example, Suzzallo Library in the U.S recently opened a new coffee shop in partnership with Starbucks. While maintaining the library’s rich history and legacy, they partner with a well-known coffee provider which attracts a considerable number of people.
5. Partner with a local company to offer workshops and training
There are many people seeking work or looking for new connections and libraries have a great opportunity to offer the space for specialized job training for job seekers.
DOKK1 – House of the Main Library for the Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark- has made more than 100 partnerships with local institutions and organizations and the building is one of the most visited places in Aarhus.
How to get started?
Motivate the staff to innovate and find partnerships. By constantly observing and managing the stream of visitors into the library, the library staff has access to a broad spectrum of information regarding the public’s needs and problems. This knowledge represents the best source when thinking to implement new functionalities in the library. Plus, librarians are known for being creative with numerous ideas and should be supported in their efforts to develop new partnerships or create new programs.
Conclusion: Be adaptable and embrace change
Transform your building from a library to a community space, where people can gather to find information, play games, eat and drink, enjoy family time, relax reading a book or participate in a workshop or exhibition.
Want more examples of how libraries across the world are attracting more visitors? Stay tuned for our weekly posts and read the latest developments in libraries from around the world. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up to our blog to receive new library insights directly to your e-mail.