Libraries Nationwide Adopt Data-driven Strategic, Marketing, and Facilities Planning to Better Connect with Community Needs
March 10th, 2014
Marc Futterman, president and CEO of CIVICTechnologies, says that 2013 may well turn out to have been the “tipping point” for libraries recognizing that the old methods of assessing community needs are no longer good enough predictors of what people want from their public libraries. According to Futterman, public libraries of widely differing sizes and types of service areas from urban and suburban to rural are becoming customer-driven by using market research and mapping technology to integrate community, patron, usage and market segmentation data to visualize, quantify and qualify who they serve now, who they aren’t serving, and what the served, underserved and un-served need and expect from their library.
CIVICTechnologies is the leading national provider of tools for libraries to visualize data and relate that data to library service, and the developer of CommunityConnect. CommunityConnect helps public libraries knowledgeably allocate resources by predicting people’s needs and interests, neighborhood by neighborhood. More than thirty library systems now use CommunityConnect to understand community needs and develop the right services to meet those needs (see list below).
“Libraries large and small realize the need to be much more strategic in the way they approach library service to ensure relevancy and sustainability,” says Futterman. “With CommunityConnect’s market segmentation system they can look at their service area and understand at a very detailed geographic area—down to the census block group level—who uses the library, who doesn’t, and how to reach each segment with services, communication channels and messages that will resonate with them. For libraries that have in the past looked at markets very broadly—seniors, young families, urbanites, suburbanites, etc.—it is an eye-opening experience to drill down into these markets and discover how different they are.”
As an example Futterman points to two couples, married with two children, same household income, both parents working outside the home. In broad terms, these two families look alike with similar demographic and lifestage conditions. But in reality, they are quite different in their needs and attitudes. This approach applied to library services helps librarians understand the different needs that people have and serve them accordingly. This is where data-driven customer service comes into play, he says.
The value CommunityConnect data brings to a library cuts across all aspects of library service, he says. Through the use of CommunityConnect libraries home in on the characteristics of their neighborhoods and community to undertake cardholder development campaigns; develop collections; determine the need for additional locations; plan programs and services; align staff to meet community needs; plan facility improvements; develop consumer technologies; and invest in effective marketing and communications campaigns.
“In-depth analysis of who uses our libraries, how they use them, what they would use if we delivered it is no longer a ‘nice to have’ by a few early adopter libraries,” says Shirley Amore, Director, Denver Public Library. “Libraries today can’t afford to operate on the ‘field of dreams’ premise, that if we build it they will come. In Denver, using market segmentation we understand who our constituents are and are building collections, programs and services that speak directly to their needs. CommunityConnect is our tool to manage our business in a customer-driven way that relies on real data to point the way.”
According to Jeanne Goodrich, Executive Director, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, “CommunityConnect gives the branch and outreach services staff the ability to look at the use patterns of existing customers and to try to expand their use based on what we know about those customers. The maps help staff target their marketing efforts to potential new cardholders based on who they are and what they are likely to value. In the past library goals didn’t drill down to the local level, but now we have the tools to help branch managers achieve those goals. They have the responsibility and the means to be successful.”
Sally Porter Smith, Customer Experience Director, Pierce County Library System in Washington, views CommunityConnect as the tool for generating discussion and change. “The advantage of CommunityConnect is helping us round out our vision of who lives in our communities, their needs and their preferences. With this information we can create a welcoming environment in the library for all our diverse segments. Using CommunityConnect has changed the conversation for our staff and broadened our perspective of our constituents.”
Futterman sees CommunityConnect as a critical budget management support tool. “In these post-recession times it is more important than ever to ensure library resources are being utilized effectively and strategically. CommunityConnect helps our customers pinpoint precisely who to serve and how to serve them. This investment yields an immediate ROI in better attended programs, increased collection usage, more cardholders, and better use of library space.”