I was thrilled to see this great article about programs at the NYPL -- it's called "Stars Rock New York's Public Library." Sure, it's awesome that they bring in guests like the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, Princeton's Dr. Cornel West, and rapper Jay-Z. And not all libraries can do that. But here's what NYPL is doing that's more important -- and it's something you can all do -- that is, ASK users what they want from the library. This is one of the points I always preach when I give workshops and speak at conferences. One of the main tenets of what I call "true marketing" is to find out what users want instead of just planning programs and collections according to what you think users want.
Paul Holdengräber is the amazing man who runs the lecture series called Live from the New York Public Library. I've seen him speak and I love the way he views libraries. (Check out this video, where Paul is interviewed by Erik Boekesteijn during the first ShanachieTour and this blog post about another interview at Computers in Libraries 2009 conference.) Paul has been practicing what I preach (tho he was doing it first!) for years. In this article, he reveals:
The trick, says Holdengräber, is to "Find out what the people are interested in and give them much more."
In this article, from Voice of America news, another librarian notes that NYPL does something else that I recommend – it studies demographics and targets populations that aren't usually library users. They're making the library appeal to a broader base.
So, how do you find out what patrons (and potential patrons) want? There are many ways: surveys, focus groups, casual conversations, online polls, outreach programs, reading other studies. I talk a lot more about this in my book, The Accidental Library Marketer.
Here's the bottom line: If you want more people to attend your programs, ask them what they want in the way of programs, then deliver as much of that as you can. Stop offering programs that nobody asks for and programs that staffers assume people want. It's as simple as that.