How your public library can help with online engagement

If you’re looking to access more members of your community and drive involvement in your consultations, then look no further than your city library service.

Sitting right under your nose is quite possibly one of the most active community databases you could hope to harness to help you with your online consultation activities.

In this article we look at some simple ways to utilise your city’s public library to help drive participation in your consultations.

Why libraries?

In recent years, libraries around the world have experienced somewhat of a renaissance.

Public investment in new infrastructure has soared and libraries are once again being utilised as crucial civic infrastructure and community resources.

Gone are the boring quiet spaces and shushing librarians too.

Nowadays, libraries are hives of community activity with a variety of different spaces and facilities to cater for everything from children’s play groups, language classes, digital technology labs and maker spaces as well as community event facilities and public programs.

As essential community infrastructure, libraries are also a natural place for community related discourse and discussion and generally they thrive at the heart of a local area community.

This makes them a natural fit for community consultation activities as they are places where people meet, discuss, learn and engage with the world around them.

The library database

As such crucial community facilities, libraries also have some of the best and up-to-date community databases in your city.

Forming a relationship with your library management is a great way to start a conversation about how you might work with them to help cross promote your community consultations.

When considering ways to utilise a library database to help promote your consultation activities, you might consider discussing the following;

  • Formalising a relationship and process where library members get sent upcoming community consultations as part of regular newsletters from the library
  • Adapting your library registration form to include an option asking if the new member would like to receive community consultation updates
  • Setting up a single sign-on (SSO) so your library members automatically have access to your online consultation platform
  • Including ads and messages in auto reminder emails altering community to open consultations
  • Getting your library on-board to run it’s own consultations. This could be anything from which collections to replenish, what public programs should be run or any number of other community led initiatives.

Utilising your libraries database is a great way to get shared community outcomes and with a little planning, you can easily get the right balance between spreading the word and educating your community on their ability to be civic and engaged.

Utilise library computers and public wifi

Another great way to utilise your library to help enhance your community consultations, is to try and establish a relationship which gives you access to public computers, digital signage and wifi.

In many libraries there are public access computers which allow members of the community to login and use for free.

Most of these terminals will have a default homepage set for their browsers when a new user logs in. This will usually be the libraries catalogue or website homepage.

Working with your library you might be able to negotiate a way to have your consultations featured on these screens.

The same goes for public access wifi and digital signage.

Often there will be a login screen or a confirmation splash screen when a new user connects to a public wifi network and their might even be dedicated digital signage around the library space.

These are both great places to advertise your latest public consultations.

Setup a community consultation area

Finally, you might also try and get a dedicated zone or section in the library where members of the community can discover and get involved in your community consultations.

Often we see this done with dedicated iPads or terminals locked-on to the organisations community engagement portal.

When this is done along with flyers, posters or banners its easy to make consultation a regular and familiar part of visiting the library.

This makes your engagement activities even more accessible and visible and there is the added bonus of having helpful library staff to encourage and assist people with getting involved.

Using your public library service as a valuable connector between you and your community can have great benefits for your consultation activities, can help make your consultations more visible and help you get more input on the things which matter most to your community.

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