As Family Engagement Specialist for my library system, I spend a lot of time considering how best to keep families notified of upcoming events.
My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time at community events recruiting people who are not already library goers to come to our early literacy programs. We take names and contact information of interested families; however, sometimes the program is at a location convenient to these families in a few months…not right away. We’ve learned, overtime, that automated email messages or even phone calls tend to not bring these families to the programs.
This was most evident as we worked with a contracted school psychologist to train our librarians in our Baby Club program. The program was getting great numbers, even in lower income branches that traditionally had low attendance in early childhood programming.
Then our contractor moved on to other branches…and we saw attendance dip, sometimes rather dramatically. We learned that she had been texting families personalized reminders the day before and the morning of the program. Once we realized that, several of the already-trained branches asked if she would text their list. Attendance went up again.
Now, I don’t have proof, per se, that texting is the best way to keep in touch with families…but the anecdotal evidence I have seen is strong. Families have commented that they appreciate the texts. Our contractor said not one family has ever asked her to stop.
Obviously, it’s not a best practice for librarians to text from a personal cell phone and for customers to have our private information. We have been considering Google Voice, which allows you to connect a free Gmail account to a new, unidentifiable phone number and send text messages from a computer screen. Results so far have been positive.
How do you engage with your library families? Do you know of a service or practice that works for you?
This post addresses the core competencies of I. Commitment to Client Group and V. Outreach and Advocacy.