Community Engagement

Throughout the state, library stakeholders often reflect on the importance of sharing library resources with all members of the community and particularly underserved populations.  Through publicizing the library’s rich offerings, organized outreach efforts, and the extensive contributions of Volunteers/Friends of the Library, the library can further enrich the community, including as a driver of economic development.

Tab/Accordion Items

It is often surprising to learn that, throughout North Carolina, community members, including library neighbors, are sometimes unaware of the library's collections, programs, or services. To further knowledge of the library's treasure trove of resources, the library might strengthen its public relations efforts, utilizing traditional marketing methods and new, low-cost technological communications.

Outcome 10

The community understands the tremendous value of their library and the significant return on public investment in the library through multi-faceted marketing efforts, strengthening public support for library funding.


Number  Indicator
10.1 The library incorporates public feedback into a marketing plan as part of their public relations efforts and updates the plan at least every 3 years.
10.2 The library develops and includes a unique, recognizable logo on most publications and promotional materials.
10.3 The library communicates its Return on Investment (ROI) to the community, governing authority, funders, and other stakeholders.
10.4 The library develops a contact list of community leaders, schools, churches, organizations, and other agencies and communicates with them regularly through correspondence, promotional materials, or newsletters.
10.5 The library maintains a list of media contacts and regularly sends them information about library events, programs, and services.
10.6 The library participates in local events such as fairs, parades, festivals, and school events, including parents' nights, potentially signing people up for library cards.
10.7 The library uses at least six of the potential venues below to promote and publicize library services on a regular basis.
10.8 The library conducts a regular assessment of library facilities.
10.9 The library educates all staff on the library's practices and procedures for marketing and public relations.


Number Indicators
10.10 Incorporating public feedback, the library updates its marketing plan at least once every two years.
10.11 The library has staff members who belong to and represent the library in community groups such as business associations, local organizations, and focus/interest groups.
10.12 The library has staff members who meet with school librarians and school media specialists at least twice per year.
10.13 The library participates in regional, state, and national promotions such as National Library Week, Children's Book Week, and National Library Card Sign-up Month.
10.14 The library recognizes all contributions to the library by way of personalized letters/emails, Board resolutions, press releases, plaques, or receptions, as appropriate.
10.15 The library establishes community advisory groups, including teens.
10.16 The library uses at least eight of the potential venues below to promote and publicize library services on a regular basis.


Number Indicators
10.17 The library seeks input on community needs and priorities at least once every two years.
10.18 The library employs a staff member whose primary responsibility is to plan, develop, implement, and evaluate marketing activities. The staff member has access to continuing education and training in public/community relations and library marketing.
10.19 The library uses at least ten of the potential venues below to promote and publicize library services on a regular basis.

Potential Venues to Promote and Publicize Library Services

  • Advertising specialty items
  • Annual report (an edited report used for promotional material)
  • Promotional emails/mailings to targeted audiences
  • Displays, exhibits, bulletin boards, digital signage
  • Face-to-face promotion (person to person, door to door)
  • General information brochure
  • A user-friendly, accessible-to-all website which provides location(s), hours, and contact info
  • Newsletter/e-newsletter
  • Posters, flyers, bookmarks, brochures
  • Paid advertising (print, web, billboards, television, or radio)
  • Radio or television PSA and/or interviews
  • Social media (library blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
  • Bookmobile or outreach vehicle (such as parades, partnership events, special functions, etc.)
  • Community partners' websites, emails, etc.


Helpful Resources

  • Library Value Calculator: The Massachusetts Library Association and Chelmsford MA Library created a library value calculator, which offer a streamlined way to quantify the services offered by public libraries. Two adaptations are provided below:
  • True Value Calculator Syracuse University School of Information Studies created a library value calculator that includes quantifying the cost of library staff labor to learn the true value of public library visits.  

Community engagement and outreach function in two important ways: first, the library informs the broader community about collections, programs, and services available at the library; and second, the library brings those resources to people within the community who are challenged to come to the library. A key principle for doing so is meeting people where they are – in their language style, communication preferences, and their literal location. 

Outcome 11:

All community members, including current non-users and new residents, have knowledge of library programs and feel welcome to utilize library services.


Number Indicator

The library identifies underrepresented populations or non-users – including newcomers and non-English speakers -- and researches:

  • Their reasons for not utilizing the library and
  • Potential ways to reach them, including through partnerships with local agencies, faith communities, businesses, etc.
11.2 The library reaches out to underrepresented populations and non-users and promotes library offerings to them, including through partnerships.
11.3 The library places flyers throughout community gathering spaces to promote the library's offerings (in languages of community).


Number Indicator
11.4 The library brings "pop-up" or regular library services to underrepresented populations and non-users through outreach including participation in community events, school events, partnership arrangements with local organizations, social media, etc.
11.5 The library promotes "sensory-friendly" library programs/events for children, teens, or adults with special health care needs.


Number Indicator
11.6 The library works with community partners serving the non-English speaking community to educate and welcome people to the library.
11.7 The library promotes "sensory-friendly" spaces for children, teens, or adults with special health care needs.
11.8 The library provides regularly scheduled mobile service to underrepresented populations and non-users through offsite or community locations, such as pick up/drop off locations, including those of partners.
11.9 The library funds installation of reading materials along a marked path (e.g., StoryWalk®) on library grounds and/or in the community to promote reading as well as the library's offerings.
11.10 The library prepares and distributes packets such as "Welcome to the Library" for new residents and “Books for Babies” for new parents.

Helpful Notes

Some groups whom libraries might wish to target for outreach include:

  • People without computers or consistent internet access
  • Rural communities, especially people living far from a library branch
  • Low-income families
  • Children in day care facilities
  • Fragile elderly people, including those in congregate care facilities
  • Underrepresented communities
  • Non-English-speaking residents, including teens
  • LGBTQ+ community, including teens
  • People with disabilities, including children and teens
  • New residents
  • New parents


Helpful Resources

  • Books for Babies National literacy program supported by United for Libraries, division of the American Library Association.
  • Let's Move in Libraries UNC-Greensboro's "Let's Move in Libraries” initiative, inspired by Former First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, seeks to promote healthy eating and active living through library-based and outreach activities such as Storywalk®.

Many community members invest in their libraries through their volunteer efforts, including through participation as a Friend of the Library member or as a Library Foundation member. This support pays enormous dividends in supplementing staff efforts and, for Friends groups, in supplementing library budgets.

Outcome 12

Library patrons and the community benefit from the contributions of dedicated library volunteers, including Friends of the Library and/or Library Foundations.


Number Indicator
12.1 Written policies and procedures direct the work of volunteers (including academic interns and other non-employees) and establish a process for recruitment, orientation, assignment, training, evaluation, and recognition.
12.2 Volunteers support the work of library employees but do not substitute for the efforts of paid staff members.
12.3 The library provides orientation and training to volunteers.
12.4 The library develops and implements a volunteer recognition program.


Number Indicators
12.5 The library reviews and updates training and orientation regularly.
12.6 The library has a Friends of the Library (FOL) chapter or foundation, with which the library has a Memorandum of Understanding.
12.7 The library has a staff member to act as a liaison to the FOL group.
12.8 The FOL members are kept informed about library services and encouraged to promote them. (See Innovation through Collaboration, Advocacy)
12.9 The library staff promote FOL memberships and activities.
12.10 The library offers the FOL communication, organization, and storage space such as a bulletin board, shelves, or closet, based on availability.


Number Indicators
12.11 The library develops and maintains job descriptions for volunteers.
12.12 The library develops and maintains a volunteer manual.
12.13 The library includes representatives of the FOL in strategic, advocacy, and funding planning efforts.
12.14 The library encourages FOL members to participate in local, state, and national professional organizations.
12.15 The library invites an FOL representative to trustee meetings.

Helpful Resources

  • Friends of North Carolina Public Libraries Statewide organization providing network for sharing ideas and resources to strengthen Friends of Libraries in North Carolina.
  • Volunteer Match Learning Center This website offers webinars regarding best practices for engaging, training, and working with volunteers.
  • United for Libraries A division of the American Library Association, United for Libraries works to support those who govern, promote, advocate, and fundraise for all types of libraries.