I had two great opportunities to think about non-users today. First I participated in the PLA webinar: The Elusive Library Non-User: How Can Libraries Find Out What Non-Users Want? Second, my library is undergoing a strategic planning process with the help of Sandra Nelson. I was privileged to take part in a staff orientation session with her where, among many topics, she discussed non-users.
The webinar I attended defines a library non-user as someone who hasn’t used the library in the last year. Non-users are also people who have never used their library or even folks who bring their kids to the library but don’t use resources for themselves.
Living in library land, it’s easy to overlook or underestimate this group of people. But they’re real. I could share my ideas to reach the non-user–but what’s more important is what I have to say once I have their attention.
In both the webinar and staff training I took part in today, it was made clear that many non-users don’t know what modern libraries do or offer. It’s not that people think, “I love spending money on video games that my kids may play twice– why would I want to check them it for free at the library?” No. Many non-users don’t know that lots of libraries lend stuff like video games (or DVDs, toys, Kindles). The notion of the library as a book museum ran by sushers has to be updated (Note: I know that some libraries are sadly still like this). Our imagery and messaging must reflect the diverse range of services and materials we now offer (and our friendly disposition). If non-users don’t see us for who we actually are (awesome, I think) they’re unlikely to take the leap and walk through the doors.
Sure, there are other reasons why people refrain from using the library–but we are information people. We can’t let people remain misinformed about what we do and who we are.