Responding to community needs is a cornerstone of Richmond Public Library’s mission, and social media is an important part of the Library’s toolkit. In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Richmond Public Library (RPL) uses WeChat to raise awareness of library services and programs in the Chinese community.
WeChat is the largest multi-purpose messaging and social media platform in China. In Richmond, WeChat is used by people with different backgrounds and ages, from teenagers to seniors. Richmond is home to the highest number of immigrants in Canada (60%), with 54 percent of residents being of Chinese origin (2016 Census).
The Library registered a WeChat account in 2015, and started using it on a daily basis in 2018. There were 1,734 followers on RPL WeChat as of January 1st, 2018. By October, that number had risen to 3,792 (an increase of 2,058 new followers in nine months). To promote our WeChat, we hung posters with the QR code for WeChat in various locations in the library, including the Chinese collection and self-checkout counters. In-person promotions at RPL’s Chinese programs, as well as outreach into local community gathering places also helped spread the word. We also collaboratively work with the local Chinese media (including Chinese websites and TV) to promote RPL WeChat to the Chinese community.
Providing resources and services in multiple languages reflects the culturally diverse nature of our community. As many newcomers are looking for information on learning English, Canadian culture and employment, using WeChat has boosted registration for the library’s programs. For instance, there were only two registrants for a Workplace English program that had been posted on the library’s website for weeks. Within 24 hours of a single post on WeChat, the program was nearly full (24 registrants, only 1 space left).
RPL’s WeChat page is also valuable for raising awareness of city-wide events, such as the 2018 World Festival and the 2018 election, as well as connecting the public to other community services. This year, RPL also used WeChat to engage community members in the development of the library’s strategic plan and to promote new English learning programs.
Through RPL’s WeChat messaging feature, bilingual library staff are able to help users with a wide range of library-related questions. Borrowing, volunteering and digital resources, such as Tumblebooks, PressReader and Pronunciator, are just a few examples of the question topics received.
WeChat is an effective tool to build and maintain a good relationship with the community. With WeChat, language and technology barriers to accessing the library’s services and resources have been reduced. A compliment from an RPL WeChat follower demonstrates this: “Thank you for your most prompt response. Appreciate your efforts to make our community friendly and joyful.”
Lee Anne Smith is the Coordinator of Programming & Information Services at Richmond Public Library.