Question Eight

With community input and participation the library has developed and implemented various targeted community outreach and communications plans to introduce and promote the library and its services to the community/groups.

What is it and why is it important?

“Just build it and they will come.” As we have come to know, this saying is not necessarily true. Research has determined that many groups – including new immigrants – that are not familiar with a library environment are unlikely to become library-users without additional encouragement through targeted outreach. This outreach must promote the library’s various collections, programs, and services that meet the group’s needs and reflect its interests.

Libraries can play an important role in breaking down barriers for socially excluded members of the community – especially new immigrants – by providing a wealth of free information that will help them integrate into Canadian culture and society.

Free information and services provided by libraries include:

  • government, health, community, and educational resources;
  • free computer and Internet use;
  • information on Canada and local communities;
  • exposure to the English language.

Because access to information is a fundamental component of social inclusion, libraries should be aware of key barriers to library use by socially excluded groups. These barriers should be considered in the development of the library’s outreach and communication plans.

Lessons from the CULC/CBUC Social Inclusion Pilot Project

In the pilot, focus groups with new immigrant youth produced some helpful suggestions about how to promote the library. Youth from Vancouver and Hamilton suggested that posters and advertisements should be distributed widely at schools, malls, community centres, neighbourhood houses, and specific targeted ethnic and youth community newspapers. They also commented that advertising in adult newspapers is not an effective way of targeting youth.

What does it look like and how do you do it?

The development of targeted outreach and communication plans should:

  • use design and language that is age appropriate;
  • focus promotion and outreach efforts in areas where the target community resides or congregates;
  • include information that is translated into relevant languages if the focus is a new immigrant group where English is a second language.

In addition to the above, the library’s marketing plan must address the elements that lead to exclusion.

Lessons from the CULC/CBUC Social Inclusion Pilot Project – Issues to Consider

There are many reasons why various groups do not attend the library. Below is a chart that shows why youth have not attended library programs, as well as the length of time spent in Canada. These are important issues to consider when developing your library’s outreach and communications plan.

Library Reason for not attending library programs Number of years spent in Canada
Toronto 40% – lack of time
20% – lack of interest
20% – lack of interest and time
20% – lack of knowledge
15 years
Vancouver No percentage: no time, lack of knowledge 3 years
Brampton 100% & ndash; lack of knowledge 2 years
Hamilton 100% – lack of knowledge 1 year

Key Barriers to Creating an Inclusive Library

The UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport 1999 document, Libraries for All (© Queen’s Printer of Controller of HMSO) provides a succinct overview of the key barriers to creating an inclusive library.

The document outlines four key barriers:

  1. Institutional
  2. Personal and social
  3. Perceptions and awareness
  4. Environmental

The barriers have been placed in a table format below to facilitate analysis. Questions are included to help assess and address each barrier. The library’s responses to these questions will help customize a marketing, outreach, and communications plan that considers the elements relating to removing barriers to inclusion.

Review these in meetings with joint teams of managers and non-management staff, as well as with members of the focus community group. This will also help determine how to address these barriers in the library’s outreach and communications plans.

Figure 8.0a Institutional barriers

From Libraries for All, UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.

These are barriers that authorities, libraries, and library staff may create an which may discourage or restrict usage by certain people of the community.

Institutional Barriers Does this barrier apply to our library How shall we address this? How have we (or how shall we) addressed this barrier in our outreach and communications initiatives to this community?
1. Unsuitable or unduly restrictive opening hours, or restriction upon the availability of library services
2. Inappropriate staff attitudes and behaviour
3. Inappropriate rules and regulations
4. Charging policies which disadvantage those on low incomes
5. Book stock policies which do not reflect the needs of the community or are not in suitable formats
6. Lack of signage in building, so that people cannot easily find their way around
7. Lack of a sense of ownership and involvement by the community
8. Lack of integration of government services and a focal point for delivering them
9. Lack of adequate provision of services of facilities for people with disabilities
Figure 8.0b Personal and social barriers

From Libraries for All, UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport

These barriers exist either in personal terms, or because of cultural or community circumstances

Personal and Social Barriers Does this barrier apply to the target community group? What outreach promotional and communication strategies have we developed and implemented to minimize these barriers? What other strategies and tactics may assist to address these barriers?
1. Lack of basic skills in reading, writing, and communication
2. Low income and poverty
3. Direct and indirect discrimination
4. Lack of social contact
5. Low self-esteem
6. Lack of permanent fixed address
Figure 8.0c Perceptions and awareness barriers

From Libraries for All, UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.

Perceptions that “libraries are not for us” exist both in individual and community terms. This perception causes difficulties for:

Perceptions and Awareness Barriers Does this barrier apply to the target community group? What outreach, promotional, and communication strategies have we developed and implemented to minimize these barriers? What other strategies and tactics may assist to address these barriers?
1. People who are educationally disadvantaged
2. People who live in isolation from wider society
3. People who don’t think libraries are relevant to their lives or needs
4. People with a lack of knowledge of facilities and services and how to use them
Figure 8.0d Environmental barriers

From Libraries for All, UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.

Perceptions that “libraries are not for us” exist both in individual and community terms. This perception causes difficulties for:

Perception and Awareness Barriers Does this barrier apply? What outreach, promotional, and communication strategies have we developed and implemented to minimize these barriers? What other strategies and tactics may assist to address these barriers?
1. Difficult physical access into and within buildings
2. Problem estates and urban decay
3. The isolation problems experienced by rural communities
4. Poor transport links

Audit Tool Interpretation – How to Assess Status and Progress

The Social Inclusion Audit Tool is designed to help the library assess the library’s current status and level of progress in removing barriers to social inclusion. This box contains some examples to help when using the Audit Tool for Question 8.

Low Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library does not have an effective participatory relationship with the target community and is not actively engaging in successful outreach campaigns to reach them.

What should you do? Be Open to Change.

Refer back to chapters one and five for a reminder of how important it is to work with the target group to remove the barriers to inclusion. The exercises and examples in this chapter will help to identify all the issues that need consideration and will help ensure they are incorporated into the outreach and communications plan.

Low Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library has not done extensive outreach with the community but it recognizes its importance and has developed a plan to refine the library’s outreach and communications strategy.

What should you do? Refine.

The exercises in this chapter are an excellent guide to the elements that a successful plan should include. Getting the target community involved as soon as possible and taking full advantage of their knowledge and views are both important for success. Setting deadlines for implementation of the plans will also help improve future status.

High Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library has conducted community outreach and has active relationships with target groups. The library holds focus groups as needed and uses that information to amend programs, collections, and promotion of the library.

What should you do? Become Intentional.

The library is doing a lot of things right but needs to develop a clear strategy and a plan of action that ensures it is always evolving to meet the communities’ changing needs. Covering all aspects is important – the exercises in this chapter will help, as will regular evaluation of the initiatives.

High Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library’s communications strategy was developed with input from the target community and it is evaluated regularly. Information about the library and its programs and services are getting out to the targeted community groups and they are starting to come to the library.

What should you do? Mentor Others.

The library is demonstrating a high capacity by working with the community to reach out to socially excluded groups and is successfully promoting the library and its programs and services in a method that effectively reaches those groups. There is a well-thought-out communications plan that is reviewed regularly and input is sought from the community. No doubt there will have been some great successes along the way and some failures. Sharing these experiences with other libraries will help everyone on the way to become more inclusive.