In 2020, we explored the London Library’s acquisition challenges.
2 years on, in the summer of 2022, the London Library’s membership base was continuing to grow. Around 1,200 new Members now join each year, up from 750-800 in 2020. Renewal rates were also fairly strong in 2022, between 86% and 89%.
However, the Library noticed that renewal rates were significantly lower for those in their first year of membership. This is not uncommon – we know from experience that satisfaction and a sense of belonging in the first year of membership at any organisation is crucial to securing a long-term relationship, and the London Library is no exception to this. But the Library were keen to understand what was happening and how they might influence this.
To explore what was happening with new members, MHM carried out focus groups with new and lapsed Members. We also ran our third iteration of a full survey of London Library members, to ensure a comprehensive multi-method approach to understanding the Library’s challenges.
Our research found there has been a marked shift in the onsite profile at the Library. Post-pandemic, younger Members have been using the Library as a creative and inspiring full-time space to work and study, looking for an alternative to the usual homeworking set up. Older Members by contrast are hesitant to return in person and are using remote resources (such as the postal service and online collection) more often. The groups visiting less frequently than they had pre-pandemic saw the most significant decrease in satisfaction.
There is also a clear difference in the factors which motivated Members to join. Older and longer tenure Members often join through a sense of connection to a prestigious and historical organisation. Younger and newer Members by contrast are more likely simply to want a quiet place to work and are less likely to have the same strength of connection to the Library.
Armed with this information, the Library was able to adjust their focus – building relationships with these new, transactional Members to improve retention rates, without alienating long term supporters.
There is a precise balance to maintain – the Library must ensure that desk space does not become scarce in order to fulfil the needs of younger Members, while also making sure that older Members are not put off by the influx of people joining in search of a place to work.
“The insights gained from this research have been vital in shaping our marketing and communications plans, particularly around retention. We plan to focus on tailored engagement communications and activities that build connection with newer members and encourage the whole membership back into the Library building.”
Josephine Noti, Head of Marketing and Communications, The London Library
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