The Vanishing Male: Guy Stuff that Lures and Hooks

Nancy Davis of the Ivy Group began her investigation of why men don’t use libraries and strategies to increase use with a caveat that she would be making gender generalizations and that some of the points raised were based on an overall view of what the research indicates, the majority of library users are women. Davis stressed that increasing male usage is an opportunity to boost card registration and circulation, increase program attendance and financial support and to connect with more community organizations. She raised an interesting point in regard to increasing financial support by stating that promoting library services, programs and collections to men would result in more men willing to vote in favor of libraries and to think of their local library as a recipient of financial donations when thinking about their family finances or estate planning.

Davis recommends giving your library the Male Appeal Test. Is your marketing material full of pictures of moms and kids? Do you have pictures of men using the library on your web site? Is your non-fiction collection outdated? What about staffing in this predominantly female profession? Do your library displays feature quilting and basketry and nothing on fishing, car repair and features on business publications? Additional suggestions include revamping programs to appeal to males such as history, world affairs and politics; scheduling storytimes for dads on nights and weekends, gaming (she cautions against writing gaming off as a teen-only activity), books clubs for men and mentoring programs. Davis’ suggestions for a plan of attack include targeting fathers, she compared men’s use of library with their approach to shopping–men don’t browse–if they aren’t going to ask for directions, we need to make sure signage is informative. Eliminate the emphasis on reading and market the full menu of library services including online resources and non-print resources and position the library as a source of information and solutions to problems, particularly in this economic climate we are in a powerful position to do so. She emphasized marketing e-resources and remote access. We now have the first generation of kids who have grown up with the internet and several generations of men who are computer savvy who would be willing to use library resources if it didn’t mean going to the library.

The presentation was followed by a discussion of what libraries are doing to lure males to their library. Some suggestions included circulating tools, posting library info at the town dump and hardware store, programs on the history of brewing, giong green and an entrepreneurial career series. One male librarian noted that libraries are stacked against men and that having males on the staff helps to bring men in.

The handout for this presentation is available on the NELA website

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