Teri Silver is a journalist, commercial copywriter, editor, broadcast anchor, and Public Relations Specialist.
Today’s libraries are not just about loaning out books and providing reference information; they’re a community connection. Among fiction, nonfiction, biographies, reference, and other types of books (in paper, audio, and digital formats), libraries provide movies, music, computer access, classes, book clubs, adults and children’s programs, and special community events. Library staff members—and the general public—can promote these many services in traditional and socially-engaging ways.
What’s in a Library?
"What's in a library?" Paperback and hardback books come to mind, of course, but that’s not all. Depending on its size, your local library may have magazines, newspapers, ebooks, audiobooks, large print books, board games, movies, music, community rooms for private or public meetings, quiet study rooms, art displays, job-hunting assistance, computers with Wi-Fi access, and computer and mobile phone usage classes.
Services may include writing, ESOL and other kinds of classes, tax information and filing assistance, book/media delivery services, teacher resources, book clubs and book-related discussions, author appearances, voter registration, local history and genealogy references, children’s toys and educational products, storytimes, item lending, talking book machines, and access to other library databases within your region.
Many facilities offer online reference chat where professional librarians can provide information and answer questions within minutes. With online access to a library’s catalog, you can search and reserve titles for pickup, find government and business information, view (adult and family) events calendars, and more . . . even a coffee shop!
Maybe the question should be, “what can’t you find in a library?”
Traditional Promotion of Library Services
Advertise your library’s events and services in newspapers, on radio stations, online and with fliers, displays, and giveaways. Find out what people want! Start with:
- Surveys: Ask patrons what kinds of books, games, movies, and audiobooks they would like to see added to the library’s collection. Also, ask them what kinds of events and programs for adults and children (that are not already being offered) would entice them to attend. People love to be asked for their opinion! Include surveys in checked-out materials, advertise them in the local newspaper and list them on your website.
Don’t forget to ask the patron where he or she gets his news and information . . . today’s Social Media provides many outlets.
- Giveaways: What are good, useful items that can promote your library? Along with some creative artwork, put the library’s name and web address on things like Frisbees, chip bag clips, book bags, postcards, bookmarks, and paperweights. What do we use day-to-day?
Here are a few more suggestions: T-shirts; notebooks; pens and pencils; key chains; tote bags; pencil and coin cases; stickers and more. Note the specifications for font type and size, word count, and spacing when choosing items on which to place your library’s name, website, and contact information. Promotions companies can offer a lot of suggestions but for specific “library” things, check out Demco (Demco, Highsmith & Upstart), The Library Store, or the American Library Association.
- Posters, Displays, Fliers, and Newsletters: Promote your library’s catalog and services with paper! Create eye-catching displays with colorful artwork, newsletters, book lists, event calendars, fliers, bookmarks, and things that can be stuffed into a book bag as the patron browses through the selling floor. Provide “teen favorites” lists of books and movies in the young adult section. Place display racks throughout the library.
- Media: Advertise everything on websites; the libraries and those that provide community events. Develop radio and television announcements and newspaper articles. If your area has a local magazine, use it!
Today’s Communicative World
Social Media is a great way to promote . . . everything. Email, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Foursquare, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, RSS, Tumblr, Flickr, and the like are great ways to stay connected—there are new sites popping up all the time, so stay on top of what has people interested! What are your patrons using most? Create a library app for mobile phones and provide text and tweets about programs and services.
Public Relations Team
Volunteers and collaborative efforts shine a light on community libraries. For example, groups such as “Friends of the Library” can help get the word out about programs and services. Schools can work with the public library to create educational themes within their syllabi. Provide space for community organizations to use; be sure the room contains promotional materials. Place events calendars, posters and fliers on bulletin boards, and sign windows in local businesses and doctors’ offices. Social Media . . . ask your friends and library staff members to share, share, share!
Entice and Engage
Here are some ideas for your library:
- Book Bundles: In both children’s and adult sections, develop bundles of five or more books on a particular subject
- Community Genealogy Project: Help patrons built their family tree and then use applicable information to create a history of families and individuals in the area
- Connect: Invite editors and publishers to visit with would-be authors; help new writers understand today’s self-publishing and marketing world. Create book clubs and discussion groups, children’s programming and storytimes, classes and exhibits. Hold community-wide reading programs and events that coincide with the chosen title
- Contests: Hold library card application drives, reading contests and spelling bees
- Programming: In addition to family nights geared for children of different ages, plan adult-focused programming that will introduce new subjects and interests to your audiences. Ask community members or library staff to share their passions by teaching a class or two. Create book and DVD displays on the topic(s). History? Ceramics? Woodworking? Antique collections? The ideas are endless!
- Promote the “Smile” Factor: Eliminate late fees on books, magazines, and audiobooks (but not necessarily DVDs) that are not on a “new features” list. Face-to-face contact is always welcome; ask patrons if they need help and suggest books to them. Listen to their needs, concerns, problems, and suggestions. Each library patron is your best customer!
- Special Collections: Bring in various exhibits and visiting collections to your library and tie them to particular events. Place book and media displays nearby to promote and satisfy interest in the topic
- Teach: classes on web design, graphic arts, and ever-changing technology
- Travel: Bring, not just books and DVDs, but reading events to patrons who have no form of transportation to library locations. Hold programs at churches, community centers and other areas that are within walking distance for participants
- Webcasts: Create programs for use inside and outside library doors that will expand learning opportunities
“Sell” to your customers just as if your public library is a money-making entity—the basics of marketing are the same. Libraries are a public service and for many people, they are lifelines into a world of decent, everyday living. Your library brings education, social interaction, and human contact with an outside world; it is, indeed, more than just books and computers. Every way that you and your library staff promote circulated items and services is a step toward helping your customers live a better life. Library is community!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2015 Teri Silver