February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Thinking Hyperlocal | Editorial

1604-Editorial-moleculeIt’s been in the air for a while now, but the concept of hyperlocal as it relates to libraries has been resonating with me recently. It is challenging me to think afresh about what a community is made of and how we approach service design when we can see what’s needed by unique parts of our traditional constituencies.

So, what are we talking about when we talk about hyperlocal? Is there really a difference between local and hyperlocal? I think so. We tend to think of local as being defined by governmental entities—towns, let’s say. With hyperlocal, think “my block” instead of “my neighborhood.” The word gives us a way to talk about the many smaller parts that make up what has always been considered the smallest unit of a community—kind of like subatomic particles. The term was coined in an effort to name news that, while not news for everyone, is of great interest to a small subgroup. It has been adopted by many disciplines since, including market research and increasingly librarianship.

I am such a fan of the concept that it’s the name of the project codeveloped with partner Toledo Lucas County Public Library and submitted to the Knight News Challenge on Libraries (check out “Hyperlocal”). The 600-plus submissions are exciting to explore for insight into what’s bubbling in libraries. I was pleased to see hyperlocal in other submissions. The term resonates with libraries, which are great at digging into the needs of whomever they serve, so getting a finer grain by thinking in a hyperlocal way probably happens easily, and where it’s a new concept will probably readily fit. The opportunity, and challenge, is to see and address the hyperlocal in the context of the whole.

One way to view a region anew is through data and market research. Several great examples of such insight in action for libraries appear in the recently released “Core Customer Intelligence: Public Library Reach, Relevance, and Resilience,” by Marc Futterman and Danielle Patrick Milam. (See sister publication Library Journal’s full coverage of the report.) The report details the findings of a study, supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, of the most avid users of 10 library systems and shares some of the ways that market research influenced decisions about library services.

In Skokie, IL, the public library has worked with market segmentation data since 2009. As the report illustrates, it enabled library leadership to see shifts in the demographic makeup of the city with the arrival of new immigrant groups, spurring the library to innovate on services. One result was deeper partnership with the Skokie school district to establish a “little learners” after-school program for kids and parents. The program has become so vital that it’s sustained by the school district.

In Pierce County, WA, the library saw the need to help support workforce development with new strategies, according to the report. Pierce County Library responded with initiatives to build skills aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards. The resulting STEM-related projects range from resources such as handy Science To Go backpacks for three age ranges to the communitywide DIYfest and MakerFest events now held each year.

Talk about innovation. That’s the impact of hyperlocal thinking.


Rebecca T. Miller

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Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.