ILA’s Bigger Than a Building Campaign helped libraries prove our worth while physical locations were closed. Now it’s important to continue to tell the library story—and that means the stories of your patrons. When you announce the return of specific services, relate those services to patron needs. Have public and academic library patrons regained access to in-building Wi-Fi and public access computers (though possibly with pandemic-related limitations)? Then point out that out-of-work and underemployed adults and adult students can use them to apply for jobs as a census worker or contact tracer. Is your library having a virtual or pick-up summer reading program? Parents and youth can use these reading programs to help mitigate and prevent pandemic slide and summer slide. Is your special library open again to your industry's professionals? Announce the grand re-opening of your library's services to point out how employees can use your library to prepare for their next big project or study for the certification they've been working toward.
With this shift in services, now is an ideal time to collect patron stories. In your newsletters, consider asking patrons how they've used the library to help them in their work or personal lives. Collect the stories in a Google form or similar format. These stories can be used on your website, social media, and newsletters to share your patrons' stories and encourage engagement among readers. With the correct permissions collected, you could also use them in targeted ads on social media; promote Library Card Signup Week with ads directed at page followers, friends of followers, residents of a town, or company employees. Want to provide an incentive to increase participation in story/testimonial collection? Offer a prize drawing for participants with the winner receiving a small gift, such as a $5 coffee gift card and a branded coffee mug.
Using these stories collected (or theoretical scenarios created, if necessary), make sure to connect with your audiences. Share services of the library alongside pieces of patrons’ stories in your newsletters, social media posts, board reports, and village newsletters. Remember your local media. By sending a relevant reporter a press release or a detailed summary of your library's reopening plans, pandemic precautions, or unique services developed in light of the pandemic, the reporter can help spread your message to a wider audience. Meanwhile, you are helping the reporter provide useful and interesting information to their readers while developing a relationship with someone whose help you may need in a future time of crisis. Finally, share your stories with important decision-makers outside of your library. A quarterly or semi-annual report snail-mailed to the mayor’s office, select state officials, school leadership, or the right corporate officials (as relevant to your library) can make an important impact in growing support for your public, school, academic, or special library.