Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Successfully Reaching Out to Families

As Family Engagement Specialist for my library system, I spend a lot of time considering how best to keep families notified of upcoming events. 

Droid Apps Cell Phone” by GoodNCrazy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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.  


  1. rockinlibrarian

    This is interesting to know! We’ve just been wrestling with this question. Someone in another department had created our storytime sign-up google form and included “text” in a “preferred contact method” question and it got highest response; but the other person who actually DOES storytimes and I had no idea how we would actually SEND texts for library events. We’d decided we’d just rather not include the “text” option on future sign-up forms, but if this does indeed seem to be the best contact method, maybe we do need to look into it. I wish there was a free and easy way to set it up for official library use. Maybe resources for such things could be a topic for future blog posts?

  2. Maria Trivisonno

    So interesting to me that families DID choose texting more than other forms of communication. It really does mirror what we’ve seen, with the most dramatic results in lower income areas, as I mentioned above. One of our branches had full registration with a waiting list (15 families were allotted) for a five-week program, and only had 23 people TOTAL attend over the five weeks (yes, that’s counting repeat visits). That was spring. In fall, they had 12 families registered, but I texted. This time, their total attendance over the five weeks was 86. That’s almost a 400% increase (I think, lol–I’m a librarian, not a mathematician.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *