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Libraries Without Borders

The Connecticut State Library partnered with Libraries Without Borders US to build deeper and more authentic connections between libraries and community.

Project in Review: Willimantic Public Library

Photo of Willimantic Public Library Community Access Hub within a school setting consisting of a bulletin board and tables full or library information, resources, and books.Like many a public library, the Willimantic Public Library is a central community hub for resources within and beyond the library. Organization on the inside yields informed communications on the outside. WPL staff brushed up on their social media production, implementing a calendar for scheduling and skilling up on best practices and content creation. WPL staff now share a community asset map, a detailed tool that lets them track and expand strategic partnerships with peer community stakeholders. With their knowledge of community assets, WPL created a digital and physical database to connect community members with the resources and services across their hometown.

Data Sources

  • 27 community stakeholder interviews, in-depth interviews with library staff, and community canvassing
  • Communications analysis of all social media platforms
  • Infrastructure mapping of stakeholders, organizations, meeting places, and pillars of the Willimantic community
  • Library data and community demographic information via CT State Library data, American Community Survey Census data, Advance CT reports, and CT Data Collaborative
  • Willimantic Public Library staff capacity analysis

Key Findings

  1. Willimantic community members generally lack awareness of what the library has to offer. Most know about the library’s most “traditional” services but are unaware of specific program offerings and some of the more unique (and potentially more enticing) library resources. Community members tend to use social media as a way to gather information about local events, yet WPL’s social media platforms perform considerably below industry standards for reach and engagement, indicating a gap in community awareness and connection.
  2. In 2021-22, circulation, program attendance, and overall library usage data for WPL significantly lagged behind state averages. In addition to a lack of awareness of offerings, community members name transportation as a significant barrier for Willimantic residents accessing necessary resources.
  3. An analysis of the allocation of WPL’s staff time reveals that time is minimally spent on outreach and external communications. In recent months, staff time has been focused on day-to-day operational needs necessary to keep the library open despite an interest and desire to focus on outreach in order to reach non-library users.
  4. Community members describe Willimantic as a place where basic needs often go unmet. Many look to the library as a central location to find critical resources and services. There are many organizations with the capacity to support these essential needs. Library staff identify not having the tools or database to direct patrons to the appropriate locations.

Outreach Strategies

  • Library Promotion through Community Access Hubs, Community Partner Expansion, & Social Media
  • Creation of Resource Hub


Increased Social Media Engagement and Reach

The library implemented a strategic content calendar and social media best practices that improved the consistency and intentionality of posts on Facebook and Instagram. This greatly increased the number of engagements across both platforms. The engagement rate grew 75% for Facebook and 94% for Instagram. The reach (i.e. the number of people that saw a unique piece of media content) grew 21% for Facebook and 178% for Instagram, an important metric indicating an increase in community members’ awareness of library content, resources, and services.

WPL established a social media team that meets regularly, which has improved both the content itself and the consistency of posting. A staff member describes a growing comfort with implementing this social media strategy: “the tools we have learned over the past couple of months have been super helpful to creating more thoughtful and meaningful content. We are becoming more comfortable with scheduling our posts, creating reels and using apps such as CapCut to edit and refine our skills.” Maintaining this intentional library promotion will continue to build community awareness over time.

With Implementation of Social Media Strategy

Avg. Engagements per Facebook Post 15.9 +75.3%
Avg. Reach per Facebook Post 785.2 +21.1%
Avg. Engagements per Instagram Post 20.4 +94.3%
Avg. Reach per Instagram Post 175.5 +178%

Expanded Access to Community Resources

The creation of a digital and physical resource database allows WPL to connect community members to a wide range of services and resources across Willimantic. Living up to its vision is to be a central hub for the community, this generates greater awareness of and access to organizations meeting essential community needs.

Increased Intentional Community Partnerships & Points of Access within the Community

WPL has organized 33 community relationships and all library events into a detailed tracking tool that allows them to: 1) identify opportunities for increased outreach as well as new or expanded community partnerships and 2) ensure library events are shared with and promoted by relevant community stakeholders.

The process has already yielded expanded relationships with area ECEs, an after-school program for teens, and a local school; seven other organizations have expressed interest in expanding their relationship with the library.

The newly established access hub at the Natchaug Elementary School brings library resources directly to families within the school’s existing resource room. This allows the library to introduce new users to WPL offerings in a space where they already spend time and feel comfortable. WPL staff have the ability to replicate additional points of access within the community and to utilize Natchaug and other future hubs to move beyond promotion to engage community members with library services. This could include hosting language classes, offering legal services or tax support, or bringing other library programs to community locations that reach new people.

Next Steps for Sustainable Implementation

  • Regularly track the relationship status of local partners
  • Identify opportunities for new relationships, expanded partnerships and strategic outreach; keep access points and access hubs up to date and relevant
  • Continue implementation of social media tools and strategies
  • Utilize resource hub to direct community to relevant services


This project is funded by the State of Connecticut and the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library. 

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