This study was conducted to learn if libraries make community engagement with local creators a priority and if so, what tools, including community engagement software, do they use? Communicating the value of these programs and securing funding are also asked about.
Nearly eight-in-ten respondents strongly agree or agree that their library’s long-term strategic vision emphasizes engaging with local creators to make their works available to other patrons and provide artists with a discovery opportunity.
Almost all responding libraries (94%) currently make an effort to work with local creators in their communities. Urban and suburban libraries are more likely to have reached out to local writers, artists, and musicians, possibly because they have a larger pool of potential creators to tap.
Arts and crafts programs are the most common program for creative communities, offered by 95% of libraries. But writing classes, 3D printers, makerspaces, and coding/website design classes are offered by the majority of libraries as well.
Funding sources for community engagement programs and tools vary widely, but Friends of the Library groups (65%) and the library’s programming budget (61%) are tapped most often. Donations and one-time grants are relied upon by nearly half the sample.
Forty-one percent of respondents report that district-level administrators and stakeholders are “very supportive” of funding community engagement programming. Another 34% say their administrators are merely “supportive.” Only 7% of libraries feel that administrators are “not too” or “not at all supportive.” The few responses to a follow-up question asking why district administrators are non-supportive vary from “no money for arts funding” to community engagement is not viewed as an “essential service.”
The value of community engagement programming is communicated to funders at library board and town meetings, in library newsletters, and in the local newspaper. Staff presentations generally include anecdotal outcomes, photos, and ‘data’ without a description of what type of data. Customer feedback/survey results or project outcome statistics are mentioned by very few libraries. Some respondents commented that they could be doing this better.
About 1-in-5 libraries have software that enables local creators to contribute works to the library’s collection. Of the libraries that have no community engagement software, almost two-thirds believe it would be either very valuable or valuable to use.
For those libraries with community engagement software, their state or library consortium is the biggest contributor of funding. Library administrators and technology staff are the most mentioned community engagement software decision makers.
True engagement with creators and non-creators is the primary method libraries use to measure the value of their community engagement software, followed by software usage metrics.