A New Market for Members?
One of the objectives of Staffordshire Library Service during the National Year of Reading was to increase the number of new members. Staff at Leek Library decided to promote the benefits of library membership by engaging with the general public at the town's mid-week market.
A stall was hired for three separate days in May, July and September. Internal promotional literature, bugs and balloons were ordered in spring. Some staff volunteered to wear costumes. Costumes were either from publishers, home-made or lent by Shugborough Arts and Museums Service. The availability of a stall was confirmed by the Market Superintendant 1-2 weeks prior to the chosen date. Coffee mornings were held in the library on the day of the stall. Staff at the market encouraged the public to have a free cup of tea and visit the recently refurbished library.
May: Adult Learners' Week and Bookstart were promoted at this event. There was a general booksale on the outdoor stall. 240 people were approached.
July: The primarly aim on this day was the promotion of the national Summer Reading Challenge to parents and carers with children. The outdoor stall housed a children's booksale. Staff spoke to 290 people.
September: Staff promoted our Local and Community History Month events and the Local Studies collection at Leek Library on this day. There was a local history display and original copies of some 1970's newspapers on the indoor stall. Over 250 people stopped to talk to staff.
Was it Worth it?
Yes. The days raised the profile of the local library service and that of our partners including Learndirect and Bookstart. Staff actively spoke to all sectors of the public. We found people were surprised at what the library was offering. We received some useful feedback about library services. The National Year of Reading campaign was a good opener for a conversation. We also found the costumes attracted a lot of interest and were good ‘ice breakers’.
We found the events encouraged lapsed members to return to us. There was a segment of library members who had not returned to using the library following its closure for refurbishment. Active Borrowers numbers increased by 7.6% and issues were up 1.9%. Issues of Local History books at Leek went up from 66 (September 2007) to 142 (September 2008). However we did find that we did not attract many new members and we spoke to a lot of people from out of the district who were here in holiday.
Forthcoming events were well attended allowing us to exceed our district targets for Adult Learner’s Week, Summer Reading Challenge and Local and Community History Month. It was difficult to promote more than one aspect of the service when approaching people. The book sale on the stalls was of limited success even though it was supplemented by a sale at the library.
We hope to repeat sending staff to the market when we have other major promotions. We feel that it is not always essential to hire a stall. The coffee mornings have been continued on a regular basis. The promotion was good for reminding the community that libraries are about things other than borrowing books.