end-of-season reflections on farmers’ market outreach
So, I’ve teased before that I’ve gotten to spend some of my summertime Thursdays out in the sunshine for library outreach at the farmer’s market. This week marks what will probably be our last Thursday of the season, because though the market runs until October, we’re seeing a decrease in traffic at our booth. I thought it was time I stopped for a few reflections on our experiment.
- Books given out: something in the neighborhood of 2-3 dozen— this was a combination of collection discards, Headstart donations, and swapped books
- Pencils taken: something like 100
- Applications for library cards: under 10
- talked to a woman unaware of the (newish) location of the Holyoke History Room, gave her the contact’s number
- talked to a woman who plans to bring a group of kindergarten kids in the fall
- spread the word about the excellent reciprocity agreements between our library and other local public libraries
- talked to a young man about free computer use at the library
Things I’d do differently next time
- I think having a sign would help attract people who hesitated, couldn’t tell who we were, and fled. We eventually had a little 8 1/2 x 11 one, but a real canvas one seems like a worthwhile investment that could be used at many library programs.
- Better records. My supervisors actually didn’t ask for this at all, but I tried to keep a rough spreadsheet of interactions. The one I ended up one was full of anecdotes but pretty light on actual numbers, as evidenced above, but keeping detailed records would help justify our time out there.
- I wonder if some kind of game or giveaway could get people more excited about filling out library applications. Either only existing patrons stopped to talk to us, or else people were unwilling to take any kind of form that might inconvenience them, because very few people accepted applications. I would love to see this outreach as a way to reach people who have never had C/W MARS library cards, not just existing/lapsed patrons.
- I would love a greater degree of consistency, but because the outreach wasn’t top priority, there were many Thursdays this summer when, with staff on vacation, we couldn’t be spared. That’s totally fair, but probably not helpful for the overall relationship we’re trying to build with the community here.
This is one of the first projects I proposed and saw through to the end, and it was a lot tougher than I expected to get the weekly support I needed to schedule time off the desk, have help carrying down supplies (I was pregnant the whole time), and even justify why I got to sit outside once a week to (some) coworkers. That said, it really felt like a good move for the library to get out into the community to reach the many people who, nine months later, haven’t realized we’re in our new location. Additionally, at least when the project started, our foot traffic was so slow that it was comparatively easy to spare a staff person or two from the desk to try to reach patrons where they were. This may not be the best or final model for our library, but it was a step in the right direction.