Libraries have to provide activities and services to encourage people to use libraries in different ways. Outreach activities go out into the community, encouraging people to become library users.
Just providing services within libraries may not be enough. Some individuals and groups may be unwilling or unable to use the services on library premises.
Some ‘outreach work’ is in fact part of the core work which libraries are funded to provide, such as prison libraries and mobile libraries. Other long-established services may be provided by volunteers. The WRVS often provides the Home Library Service, for example.
Many library services employ an outreach librarian and have a senior manager who oversees outreach activity.
1. Libraries in community venues
Library services will provide a selection of books and other media (including talking books, CDs, etc) which can be set up as a ‘mini library’ in community venues such as:
- care homes
- sheltered housing
- children’s centres
Library staff can help the coordinators select suitable material which is likely to appeal to the client group. Books are exchanged periodically, either the entire deposit collection or on a rotational basis.
A similar service is often offered to school libraries. School librarians can work with the library service to select books which support the curriculum.
2. Books on prescription
Many library services now work in partnership with local primary health providers to provide support to people suffering from emotional or psychological problems.
Libraries have to provide activities and services to encourage people to use libraries in different ways.
Local libraries carry a stock of recommended, high quality self-help books on prescription.
GPs and other healthcare professionals ‘prescribe’ a book which they feel will help the patient understand and deal with their condition. The patient brings the prescription into the library in order to borrow the recommended book.
3. A 'Book Doctor'
Leicester Libraries has a ‘Book Doctor’ who promotes reading and books by:
- organising events
- running reading ‘surgeries’
- appearing in the media and at festivals.
4. Outreach over the web
Libraries can reach out to users by physically going to where the users are. They can also reach users across the internet:
Cornwall Libraries uses its cyberLibrary to reach out across the county. It provides an A-Z index, local links, access to online reference, as well as a children and teen cyberLibrary.
Higher education (university) libraries are leading the way in using social media to reach their users and encourage them to become more active participants.
Libraries can reach out to users across the internet.
The University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries have an alphabetical social media directory of subject-specific links for: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Delicious, LibraryThing, Netvibes, Slideshare.
The library’s WISER (Workshops in Information and Electronic Research) team use Twitter to pass on hints and tips to help students use information more effectively.
Students at the University of Bath can use their phone to read and save the QR codes of individual entries in the library catalogue. Library floor plans also have QR codes to link to an MP3 audio tour for the subject floor.
Southampton City Libraries and Westminster City Libraries are using the Library Anywhere mobile catalogue which can be accessed online using a smart phone.
Some university libraries are also using it, including: Edge Hill, Glasgow Caledonian, Keele and Staffordshire
Linked to Library Anywhere, LibraryThing is a tool which allows users to create their own catalogues of books to share online with other users.
Rather than set up their own online book review and social media sites, several library services use Goodreads, including: Hillingdon, Northumberland, East Sussex, Leeds.
- add book reviews
- see what other people are reading
- look for recommendations
- form book clubs.