It seems to me that a lot of comments on public library closures are about toilet facilities (example). Could more libraries be saved if they had better public toilet facilities and advertised their services to people waiting to go to the toilet or for others to return from there?
Of course there are many other things that could do with changing: seating areas, study spaces, stock, updated PCs, to name a few. But why not concentrate on toilets? Most buildings have them. Most of them work. Everybody needs the loo sometime and where do you go when you’re out shopping and there’s no public toilet around? I go to a department store. And once I’m happy again I have to walk through most of the store to get outside again. On my way I will see many shiny things and might even stop to buy something. Result.
Public libraries should use this user flow. Yes, it’s not great to be thought of as the place where to go to the toilet. But it must not stop there, you see. Once people are in your building you can hook them in – advertise your events on the back of the toilet door. They are a captive audience while they sit on the loo or use the urinal (advertise on the wall). Advertise something else above the wash basins – most people do wash their hands, I like to believe. Or at least check their hair in the mirror.
Advertise something outside the toilet area – many people will come with others who do not need the toilet at the same time. These toilet-non-users hang around for about five minutes. Show them that you have books, that you offer learning sessions, that you sell stuff. Have leaflets for them to take away, to read and show their friends. Give them a seating area and a newspaper if your toilets are in a good spot (not in the basement, for example).
I wonder if we could get issue figures up that way? I am sure you can at least get your visitor figures up by having clean, modern and attractive toilets. But make sure your toilet users leave knowing what else your library offers!