What do librarians need to do to engage with the community through their program offerings?

As per our previous blog post from April last year, our research into the engagement of public libraries with people in the community continues. We focused on a couple of programs offered by ACT Libraries and interviewed parents/guardians of participating kids and the host librarians. The resulting qualitative and quantitative data was analysed in detail using thematic and statistical analysis techniques.

Our findings indicate some key differences in how the two programs were perceived by the library staff as opposed to the program participants. Program success was perceived quantitively by librarians in terms of numbers, while program participants perceived success in a qualitative manner when the programs were thought to be enjoyable, educational, engaging, non-repetitive, and economically viable.

To enhance community engagement, our findings indicate that the libraries need to ensure that program content is targeted to the age groups expected to attend each program, and the songs/activities, crafts, readings should successfully blend and flow with each other. Repetition/duplication needs to be avoided and all chosen components should relate and connect to each other. Delivery needs to be by experienced and committed staff, who over a period of time become a familiar face for the participants. Finally, we all know that libraries provide an all-inclusive and diversity embracing space, but visible actions need to be taken to convey that aspect successfully to community to attract all segments.

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