June 3, 2020

Communication is key to a successful and smooth library building reopening

In many parts of the world, libraries are working out the details of reopening their physical buildings while local health officials are setting guidelines for their communities. Ensuring their plans abide by those rules, while also providing the best service possible to their patrons, is unchartered waters for libraries.  

Sure, libraries have reopened before, after renovations or natural disasters. In most instances, library service quickly returned to normal. However, nothing about the ongoing health crisis is normal. And because the virus is easily spread and has been proven to remain on surfaces for some time, library staff have had to rethink every part of their jobs. My social media feeds are filled with posts from library staff working out the details of book returns, filling holds, rearranging furniture to account for social distancing, and other new issues and procedures. 

For a successful and safe building reopening, libraries will need to communicate new protocol and service changes to staff, the community, and stakeholders. How do you do that in a short amount of time and in a world that’s suffering from information overload? Here are three big things to keep in mind as you share the news of your library building’s reopening. 

Enlist the help of staff. Just as everyone in the library can recommend books and services to customers, everyone on staff can share key messages about the library building’s reopening. Your staff will do the most interacting with the community, and their help will go a long way in making sure your messages get to patrons. Empower them with the information they need to help you communicate your reopening, and they’ll be able to do so with confidence. 

Boil it down to a few talking points. Include those in your staff newsletter, on your staff intranet homepage, and on signs in staff work areas. Leave a copy of your talking points at the reference desk so staff can easily answer questions from the community.  

Pro Tip: LibraryAware customers can send staff newsletters using our specially made e-blast template. Just go to the homepage and type “internal” into the search bar. We recently added a COVID-themed internal newsletter. Customize it and send it to your employees. 

Put ALL your communication channels to work.  Don’t worry about saying the same thing on your webpage, social media, and emails. Your community is spread across your channels and you’ll need to use them all to make sure everyone hears your news. If your library has accounts on multiple social media platforms, use all of them to tell people about your plans. You can post one talking point each day in a rotating schedule.  Send emails to your community and patrons.  And pitch your building reopening as a story to your local media. Coverage by a news organization will get your reopening message to people who don’t frequently interact with your library’s physical building and those who are not online. 

Pro tip: LibraryAware users can use ready-to-go templates on a variety of digital platforms. You can create widgets to suit a variety of COVID-related customer service issues. Just type “Covid” into the LibraryAware homepage search bar to see all your options. 

Keep the message simple. I received a reopening email from a library that included 18 calls to action! It was overwhelming. It’s better to send one email once a week, with a few of your key message points. Always drive your readers to your library website for more information. Try to target your message to a specific audience if you can. Your community will be better able to digest and retain the information if you give it to them in small batches. 

Bonus: LibraryAware customers are invited to get more tips and access to an exclusive Reopening Your Library Campaign Guide at a free microtraining session on Thursday, June 11 at 2:30 p.m. ET.  LibraryAware customers can sign up for this training by going to the "help" page of LibraryAware and clicking on "Sharpen Your Skills."   

Angela Hursh is Senior Engagement Consultant for NoveList. She is currently listening to The Familiars by Stacey Halls.  


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