Public relations is the process of invoking a public understanding of goodwill toward the public library system. A public relations program is an integral part of the library system’s strategic plan. A plan builds good customer relations, and contributes to a positive relationship with the media, businesses, and other local government agencies/organizations. It is important to remember that the public relations efforts of the library system have to be continuous. A public relations plan should be written by the director or his/her designee, approved by the administrative board of trustees, and reviewed on an annual basis.
Traditionally, libraries have offered services to various groups in the community based on the library’s mission and service policy. Libraries offer a variety of outreach programs including:
Literacy Programs – In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of library systems began such services in local communities because literacy was a targeted area of many federally-funded grant programs. Today, a number of library systems are engaging in early literacy programs such as Every Child Ready to Read and Excel by 5 that target families, teachers, and communities in order to take a more holistic approach to literacy education.
Jail Services – Today in Mississippi, many prisoners/inmates once sent to state prisons are housed in county, regional or privately-run correctional facilities. Because these facilities are not required to have recreational libraries, the local library is often asked to provide library services for this jail population. Many library systems have established small rotating collections in jails.
Note: These institutions are often grateful recipients of paperbacks. Inquire about any possible restrictions before establishing such a collection.
Nursing Homes/Retirement Homes Services – Nursing and retirement homes have recreational directors looking for new programming ideas for residents. Many librarians have weekly book talks and book discussions at nursing homes. A number of library systems, lacking the staff to provide regular programming opportunities, have established rotation collections for residents.
Note: Many of the nursing home/retirement home residents are eligible to receive library services from MLC’s Talking Book Services. Library representatives can bring TBS applications to nursing or retirement homes to make joining the service easier for visually or physically impaired individuals.
Schools (K-12) Services – Many library systems have good working relationships with the schools in the communities they serve. It is essential that local public librarians know what schools are asking students to research and what books and other resources are being required. To establish or improve communication, librarians can offer presentations about library services to teachers at staff trainings, students at assemblies, and members of the Parent-Teacher Organization during meetings. Librarians should also create and distribute bibliographies for subject areas that are taught every year. Finally, a library representative should ask teachers about the books/materials they will require their students to read so that the library can be stocked accordingly.
- Whenever there are programs at the library that would benefit local service providers such as Head Start, nursing homes, etc., invite them. Head Start staff and elementary school teachers frequently request story times at their facility and might benefit from a workshop on storytelling. Library systems can develop theme-based packages on seasons, holidays, etc. suitable for long-term loan.
- Contact local school and community college guidance counselors to promote library services which improve student achievement. Bookmarks detailing access information for resources available through MAGNOLIA or Learn-a-Test should be provided.
Services to Home Schoolers – Homeschooled children and their parents rely heavily on the public library to supplement the students’ curriculum. These customers should be reminded to take advantage of all the library services available, especially computer classes and online databases. Available staff can also be used on an appointment basis to demonstrate these services and resources to homeschool groups or families. Librarians may choose to meet homeschool groups off of the library premises in order to demonstrate the online resources and features that can be accessed outside of the library.
English as a Second Language (ESL) – The population of the State of Mississippi is becoming more diverse. The library should identify these varied populations in the local community and help these new citizens by providing programs and materials where English is the second language. Additionally, librarians should look for opportunities to serve ESL patrons well and without prejudice.
Dilger-Hill, Jeannie and Erica MacCreigh, eds. On the Road with Outreach: Mobile Library Services. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2010. Print.
Pfeil, Angela B. Going Places with Youth Outreach: Smart Marketing Strategies for Your Library. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005. Print.
Smallwood, Carol, ed. Librarians as Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010. Print.