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How 6 libraries did everything from de-stressing students to saving the library with innovative marketing

(This is Part 1 of a two-part series on innovative marketing. This first post will focus on some intriguing ways libraries reach out to clients and the innovative programming they’re offering. Part 2 will dive deeper into selected marketing techniques and provide resources that can help you get your own marketing plan rolling.)---------------------------

“Marketing your library.”

For those of you who wince at those words, help is on the way.

Even if you like marketing, you might find it challenging to devote a lot of time to it. The thing is, you can’t afford NOT to. Even if the size of your service population is stable or decreasing; even if your funding is stable or growing; and even if you already do the most creative outreach on the planet—and that’s a lot of “ifs”—your clients and their needs are constantly evolving. You have to reach them personally, digitally, and in any other way you can engage them.

• The Topeka & Shawnee (KS) County Public Library website is bursting with opportunities for patrons to interact with the library, from a podcast series and a collaboratively written community novel project, to wedding workshops and video book reviews. The video series, called “All Booked Up,” features library personnel discussing books they’ve read, including some that, very frankly, they didn’t like! The library also has a presence on every social media outlet you can imagine.

• The Lafayette College Library in Easton, PA needed to publicize their Personalized Research Assistance (PRA) program. They came up with the idea to send humorous postcards featuring librarians’ faces superimposed on still shots from movies and TV shows (who says librarians are serious and stuffy?!), and text that includes slogans and references to the shows. The cards are mailed to students a few weeks into each semester. Prior to the postcard campaign, appointments with research librarians were rare. After the initial mailing, appointment requests surged, and over the years the PRA program has become better known and integrated on campus. The cards themselves have become a type of collectible, and students have been known to display them in their dorm rooms.

• The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Cofrin Library also uses postcards, but rather than focusing on a specific service, the cards allow the library to entertain students, connect with parents, and generally promote its brand and its status as Wisconsin Library of the Year. Students are provided with “fill in the blank” postcards to send to parents during finals week, saying “Don’t worry, I’m in the library!”

• Postcards aren’t the only innovative outreach done by UW-Green Bay. Once a year during finals week, therapy dogs are brought into the library for two hours to provide an unusual and welcome de-stressing experience for students; in other words, a nice “paws” in their busy schedules.

• Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Public Library’s award-winning “Welcome to the Library” video is available in 18 languages, including American Sign Language. And the library also created a 30-second video commercial that uniquely showcases the breadth and diversity of its offerings. CPL found that innovative marketing not only better serves their library clients, but also boosts the morale and retention of employees.

• Herrick Memorial Library in Wellington, OH, sponsors a game called “Eye Spy Wellington.” Participants register and pick up photo packets at the library, then test their powers of observation by trying to locate objects around town that are featured in the photos. Answer sheets are returned the library personally for a chance to win prizes.

• And in case you’re questioning whether all this marketing is worth the effort, watch this jaw-dropping video about how a reverse psychology marketing campaign saved the Troy (MI) Public Library from closure—by promoting a book burning party!

“Great,” you’re thinking. “These are all good ideas, but I have no idea where to begin.”

Don’t worry. In the next post—Part 2—we’ll provide suggestions for how to get started, and plenty of resources to help you ramp up your innovative outreach.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear about unique ideas you have already implemented. Leave us a reply at the bottom of this post!

12 Aug 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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