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Humanities Society

Durham County Library

Problem Statement

Durham County Library’s adult programs had poor attendance. An endowment from the Durham Library Foundation paid for a part-time Humanities and Adult Programming Coordinator, but the library needed to build a brand and a reputation for quality, interesting programs. The library also needed to find a reliable way to reach customers who are interested in attending humanities and adult programs.


In January of 2010, the Humanities Coordinator worked with the Development Officer to create the Humanities Society. Customers are offered membership in the Humanities Society as they pass the information table at each humanities event. Those who join fill out a brief form that asks for their address, phone number and email information. New members receive a card that gets punched each time the customer attends an event. With a minimum number of punches, customers are invited to complimentary, private, offsite venues with interesting guest speakers, performers, adult beverages and refreshments. The offsite events are paid for by the Foundation, but a library system without a Foundation could include these events in the programming budget. The Humanities Coordinator now sends regular email updates and mailers to a growing target market, at their request.


Attendance at humanities programs increased almost 28% in 2010 over 2009 figures – from 3092 to 3932. Membership in the Humanities Society has grown to 446 members in 15 months. Friends encourage their guests to join the Society, and Society members often provide feedback about programs in response to the email updates or even without prompting. These customers have built a relationship with library staff. This feedback has been invaluable in creating high quality, popular programs that are well attended. Average attendance of humanities programs is 35-40 customers; the more popular programs are attended by well over 100 people.