“Steal” This Seminar: Marketing Advice That Comes to You

You know the benefits of meeting your marketing colleagues in person at workshops and annual meetings. However, your schedule might not always agree. Many of us are not full-time library marketers, either because we do other jobs or because we are simply part-time employees. This is not to say full-timers enjoy the freedom to take off to another library for the afternoon – “full-time” for a marketer can mean “full of tasks that no one else can/will do and therefore very little time.”

All of this means that getting together with other marketers to share strategies and insights can be difficult. I have discovered a way to steal (excuse me – “appropriate”) great ideas without leaving my desk. Webinars and archived videos are great for the busy marketer looking for the inspiration we get from each other when we meet in person, without having to fill out a mileage report.

We see emails and other notices for webinars all the time, and I know we all wonder the same thing. Will it be worth my time? This is where you can get your in-person attendance at conferences to work double-time for you. When you receive notice of a marketing webinar, always check the name of the presenter. You may already know him or her, or have always wanted to see this person speak. The star of the webinar may even be someone you had a great conversation with over lunch one time.

I recently viewed a webinar featuring Christine Ciglar, the Manager of Public Relations and Outreach at Fox River Valley Public Library District, called Marketing Plans for the Faint of Heart.  Christine’s talk featured information on defining the differences between PR, publicity, marketing, branding, advertising, and advocacy; using your library’s Strategic and Operations Plan; research; defining your target audience; stating your goal; outlining your strategies; and defining how you will evaluate your success.

I knew that Christine is an expert in creating marketing plans, and I also knew that creating one for my library was one of my goals for 2014 (which is flying by, in case you haven’t noticed).  This webinar was hosted and broadcast by the Public Library Association, and is now available on demand (for purchase – so no stealing involved!).

Another chance to sit and my desk and learn from a colleague came via the RAILS marketing email listserv. The Illinois State Library offered videos from its recent “On the Front Lines” conference, including a seminar featuring Ben Bizzle, Director of Technology at the Crowley Ridge Regional Library of the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library in Arkansas. I saw Ben speak about his library’s famous marketing campaign featuring billboards (Remember “Spoiler Alert! Dumbledore dies on page 596?”) at an ALA meeting in Chicago. I was curious to see how his library had followed up on that social-media friendly push.

His ISL program focused on words librarians often don’t like to use (Business, Advertising, Promotion, and ROI) and sought to help library marketers steal (there’s that word again!) ideas that are common in the for-profit world, but in a way that is comfortable for us. If you have seen Ben talk, you know that he is not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. You may also know that he always offers multiple examples of how his library advertises and promotes and assesses the return on their investment. I was thrilled to be able to hear him talk again without having to take time away from the office.

One more plus to watching webinars and other video-based presentation is that if the scheduled time does not work with your schedule, you can often go back and view it later on demand.  Speakers also often make their presentations available. These are just a few of the ways that our regional, state, and national organizations try to make it easy for us to learn from each other.

Professional development and training are often on our annual reviews, but are usually the near the bottom of our to-do lists because of time and the multi-faceted nature of our jobs. Taking advantage of training that comes to your desk is one way to step away from the everyday and learn something new without actually having to leave your chair.

Carol Morency manages the marketing and public relations department at Mount Prospect Public Library.

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So you want to host an author!

When Jane Hamilton visited the Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee in 1998, she began a long tradition of author appearances that now number close to 150. Tawni O’Dell went from winning the Friends of the Library creative writing contest to being one of the first authors featured on Oprah’s book club. We marked her third visit here on August 19.

WNPL reader’s advisory librarian Debbie Hoffman has been booking authors ever since: Elizabeth Berg, Lawrence Block, Jeffrey Deaver, Sara Gruen, Matthew Stover, Rhys Bowen, Adriana Trigiani, Lisa See, Lee Child, Erik Larson, Dorothea Benton Frank, James Rollins, Max Allan Collins, Sean Chercover, Steve Berry, Jamie Freveletti, Brad Thor, Kate Jacobs, Russell Banks, Sara Paretsky, Jennifer Chiaverini, Ann Packer, Mary Kay Andrews, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Lutz, Scott W. Berg, Melanie Benjamin, Lisa Gardner, Larry Watson, Rebecca Makkai, Anne Perry, Ridley Pearson, Marilu Henner, Joan Collins, Ellen Hopkins.

How does she do it? Here are Debbie’s tips:

  • Know your audience. What kind of author do your patrons want to see – suspense, thriller, mystery, non-fiction?
  • Reach out to publicists. Find out when authors are touring and contact the author’s publicist or write the author directly. (Go for it!) Author websites usually list tour schedules.
  • Make contacts at conferences like ILA, PLA, ALA, RWA, Bouchercon, Sisters in Crime.
  • Establish a strong partnership with your local bookseller. Lake Forest Book Store brings many authors to libraries around Lake County.
  • Sell your library. What is the size of your community? Are you easy to get to? What authors have you had in the past? How many can your room accommodate?
  • Set your budget. Can you afford an author’s fee? (Touring authors rarely charge a fee, in our experience.) Can you cover transportation costs for a driver? Can you place an ad?

Ok, you got ‘em! Congrats! Now, logistics.

  • How is the author getting to you? Do they have clear directions and a good grasp of how long it will take to reach you in traffic from another event?
  • Does the author prefer to use a microphone, podium, be seated, standing?
  • Can the bookseller sell at the event? Plan a table for them inside the room.
  • Confirm arrangements the day before. Make sure the driver has your address, name and contact number. Check to make sure that the event is listed on the author’s tour schedule.
  • If parking is an issue, consider asking staff to park off site, and tell attendees in advance through social media to plan extra time for parking.
  • Set a format, e.g., author speaking or reading for 30-45 minutes followed by questions for 15-20 minutes and a signing. We generally let the authors decide what they want to talk about. Find out if they need to leave at a certain time.

Author in the house!

  • Plan for them to arrive early for photos. (Pose with the book for a READ poster.) Consider bringing them in through the staff entrance.
  • Offer a library tour. Give them time and space to collect themselves in a green room, if possible; provide restroom, water, coffee, pen or marker. (Good time for a photo with the director.) Offer to lock up their bag.
  • Do your homework. Take the time to write a brief introduction and thank any sponsors (such as Friends of the Library).
  • Watch as the author casts a spell. Keep an eye on the clock and moderate the Q & A. Explain how the signing will take place. Promote the next author appearance.
  • Have a table for signing books. If you have more than one author, set up a table for each. If you expect a long line, hand out sticky notes so each fan can write in advance to whom they want the autograph dedicated.
  • Have a small gift for the author and a check, if needed, for the driver. We give the author a leather portfolio embossed with our name and logo.

Try to get a mailing address from the author or publicist to send a handwritten thank you note and a copy of their READ poster.

Finally, support local writers! Who knows when they might hit the NYT bestseller list and come back to see you? Good luck!

Debbie Hoffman is reader’s advisory librarian at Warren-Newport Public Library in Gurnee. Debbie served as a judge in the first annual Soon to Be Famous Illinois Author project. Janice Marsh is head of communications at Warren-Newport Public Library.


Editor’s Note:  Soon-To-Be-Famous Illinois Author Project winner Joanne Zienty is available to speak to writer’s groups evenings and weekends.  Contact her through her Linkedin page or by emailing her at jezienty@joannezienty.com.

Please help us continue to the Soon-To-Be-Famous Illinois Author Project momentum by purchasing The Things We Save and promoting it to your patrons.

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Creative Marketing Videos #2 (and 3 & 4)

Research Rescue | Episode 1 “Stuck”

This entertaining first episode of a multi-part series from the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has plot, drama, and, best of all, librarians as actors.


Research Rescue | Episode  “Book Fort”


Research Rescue | Episode 3 “And We’re Done”

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Creative Marketing Videos #1

Librarians are becoming known for ease and love with technology. Many libraries are taking advantage of easy-to-use video editing apps and software to making creative marketing videos. I’ll be posting one video a week. Enjoy!

The Research Games — Part One: You Learn or Die

This parody of the Hunger Games from Texas A & M Libraries draws you in immediately with its high production value and professional narrator. Throughout the story different aspects of the library are marketed, such as the reference librarians, the text-a-librarian service, the library’s holdings and the cafe.

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Business Outreach: A Few Tips and Some “How-to”

Public librarians must show a long-term commitment to developing relationships with the business community in order to keep the momentum of business outreach flowing. Before launching a business outreach strategy, librarians need to identify existing community connections already established with key staff at their respective libraries.  Approach senior managers within the library and learn who they know; become familiar with the longevity of the ties they have, the background and tone of the relationships.

As public librarians, we carry the image of the library with us, so we must engage in an authentic manner. Cultivate genuine and professional friendships, and be prepared to stay involved at a steady pace with ongoing projects and community plans. Invite the local chamber, village departments, municipal authority, business decision-makers, or nonprofit organizations to a tour of library facilities, give special attention to your business collection, and host meetings at the library, if space allows.

Business decision makers should expect to see their public librarians at community meetings. Go confident with the gifts and talents you bear, and be prepared for lively discussion at the table. The business community and commerce development leaders should know that public librarians are exceptional listeners. We are not passive, nor too meek to be heard in a strategic discussion; however we also don’t come with a pressured Glengarry Glen Ross sales pitch.  We tilt conversations to what we can offer and come with a key contributor’s approach. We share knowledgeable and relevant options with demonstrated uses of our sources to find concrete answers.

Move forward to rally community leaders and emphasize the benefits of our involvement, not because it’s a feather in our caps, but because we share the common ground of investment in our neighborhoods. The attraction and retention of residents, patrons, shoppers, business owners, and commuters sustains and supports economic development, and boosts residential and commercial community pride.

Some recommendations:

Become familiar with chamber events and make every effort to attend after hour events, grand openings, and outings. Even better, offer to assist chamber staff with setup or prep work, especially to offset a registration fee if there is an event cost that the library can’t afford.

Check the SBA/Small Business Development Center site to locate the nearest center to assist small businesses. Enroll in one of the free workshops and gauge interest with SBDC instructors in working together on a co-presentation.

Host a table or booth at the farmer’s market, concerts, expos, festivals, mayoral breakfasts, etc.

Attend open village meetings for business plan development; if they’re not open, ask to be included.

Express interest in plans for economic growth. Stay in the minds of decision makers so they remember what the library has to offer.

Include a library promo piece in village welcome packets to new businesses. Attend or initiate a monthly welcome meeting for businesses with multiple community organizations.

Ask the village to share which businesses received new licenses (make it on ongoing monthly practice). Reach out to entrepreneurs and introduce the library to them when their schedules allow. Be patient and understanding if they’re not able to receive you in their early stages of opening because it’s an incredibly hectic time for them. They’ll likely welcome a visit from you soon after, and will appreciate your patronage and interest in their success.

Prepare sessions on business services related to solve specific owner or manager problems.

Highlight library services and call upon local businesses, banks, and agencies to explain what you can deliver.

Pair up with a colleague and bring just a few promo library pieces to nearby transit or high traffic areas. Don’t bombard passersby with information; be visible and ready to answer “what do you do?”

Partner with a business, organization, and local community college extension or business division to attract interest in shared community events.

Listen carefully to the struggles of small business managers. In these conversations you may find how an existing source may help alleviate this problem, or how a new resource should be added to the library’s collection.  Pairing a resource with an expressed patron need lends itself to a warranted budget item. Also, some keen program ideas come from maintaining a pulse on business obstacles and hurdles.

Public library business outreach doesn’t necessarily require a high budget allowance, but is dependent on senior management support. Administration needs to see results to recognize the value. Be prepared to explain the tangibles for your efforts (i.e. increased interest, visits, circulation to business stats/collection). Document outcomes of outreach events attended and comments received. We need to be consistent with our community presence so we’re not just occasionally visible, but actually woven into the cooperative fabric.

Patricia Smolin is the Business Liaison Librarian at Schaumburg Township District Library.

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The Benefits of Library Marketing Collaborations

At a recent RAILS Marketing Group meeting, the group discussed the types of partnerships that libraries have established and why. While many mentioned some of the typical partnerships that libraries have with local businesses and schools, the La Grange, La Grange Park and Thomas Ford Memorial Libraries, which are all within a two-mile radius, did something more innovative. These three libraries have been collaborated with each other, as well as with libraries in nearby communities.

In addition, the La Grange Park, Thomas Ford and Lisle Libraries shared my marketing consulting services during a period when they did not have dedicated marketing staff members. Since much of what libraries do is similar from community to community, some of the ideas and materials I developed for one library fit well for the others. For instance, a Library Editorial Style Guide that I initially developed for La Grange Park needed very minimal revision to be personalized for the other two libraries, and they shared the cost. Similarly, as I worked with each library to create their marketing plans, some ideas worked well for them all, and we were able to identify possible opportunities for collaboration.

One collaboration was among the Children’s Departments of the libraries. They were each using Every Child Ready to Read and were interested in promoting the ways that libraries support educational learning standards. The three department heads and I met to discuss marketing strategies, and were able to share some of the materials we developed.

Another area where collaboration made sense was related to teen engagement. Rather than continue individual teen advisory boards that had few members, the youth librarians at La Grange Park, La Grange and Thomas Ford consolidated them into one area-wide group. The three libraries also provide space in their newsletters for the others to promote one program in each issue that does not duplicate their own.  The result of these collaborations is saved staff time, broader promotional opportunities, improved idea generation and, ultimately, enhanced services and patron engagement.

While not all libraries have potential collaborators next door, or don’t share a marketing specialist, nearby libraries may still find collaborative marketing to be of benefit. To get started.

  1. Identify libraries of similar size or in communities within a nearby radius.
  2. Invite them to a meeting, with a facilitator, to identify common goals and marketing strategies, and possible areas for collaboration. You may consider planning separate meetings by department, or start with just the marketing staff.
  3. Actively share your ideas and materials with your collaborative group. Consider planning regularly scheduled meetings to continue sharing.

Tari Marshall is a communications specialist who has worked with the American Library Association and a number of public libraries. She was awarded a Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of American for a marketing program for the American Library Association.






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Kick-Starting Community Partnerships

In October 2013 I had the opportunity to meet with other marketing folks from around the country at the annual ALCOP (Association of Library Communications & Outreach Professionals) conference in Pennsylvania. During one of the workshop sessions, I presented information on the importance of community partnerships. Whether you work in a small community library or a multi-branch system, forging relationships with local organizations and businesses can be mutually beneficial.

Where do I start?

Participate in community planning! Attend meetings, participate in focus groups for local organizations, go to board meetings, and volunteer for committees. Find out how you can help move their event forward and spread awareness of the library at the same time. The Westmont Public Library serves hot cocoa to participants of the annual holiday parade every year and allows the use of our parking lot for the parade line-up after we close for the day. This is a simple and inexpensive way to improve the experience of all the organizations marching in the parade and to show our willingness to help in any way we can.

Partner with local organizations

Other government and non-profit agencies like the park district, village, and fire & police, are the easiest partners to gain. They already are invested in seeing the community grow and thrive and are usually open to working side by side with the library. Some of the ways we have partnered with these groups are by having a table with free crafts and library information at the town farmers’ market, car shows, and carnivals. We’ve given book discussions at several senior centers and retirement communities. Our space is shared with literacy center volunteers who teach ESL in our study rooms. We collect donations for food pantries and pet supplies for humane societies. All of this promotes goodwill and allows us to interact with people who may not ever step foot in our physical building.

Partner with businesses

The library may not be the most convenient location for residents, so consider running book discussions, meetings, and focus groups in local restaurants or coffee shops. Invite business owners to present special events in the library, like dance classes, workshops on financial planning, tea tastings or whatever else you can showcase using your local shop owners! Become a member of your chamber of commerce and go to their events or host them at the library! My library hosts an after- hours event every couple years that brings in dozens of business owners just looking for a way to support us!

Partner with schools

Many youth departments already have great rapport with schools. If you don’t, schedule classroom visits and encourage field trips to the library! Work with the junior high and high school to start an ongoing teen volunteer program. Attend annual open houses and curriculum nights for a chance to talk with parents and teachers about the library’s fantastic services and collections. And of course, make use of the excellent community colleges and universities near you. They have wonderful resources you can use and will often offer to teach workshops on choosing a college or adult education.

What can we gain from partnerships?

We are always looking for people to help spread the message about library resources and services and local organizations can be some of your biggest supporters and advocates for library use. Not only do you gain supporters, you increase your visibility in the community and have a chance to talk with residents in settings outside the library walls.

What can we offer local organizations?

When a business wants to know what they receive in exchange for their support, it is always nice to remind them of the library resources at their disposal. Additionally, offer to promote them in print and digital publications. Offer your space for special events like recitals, classes, or business meetings. Offering to do a good thing for an organization, even without their official support, is part of what makes the library so special. Sometimes we make partners who can never reciprocate the goodwill be offer them, and that is alright. Helping our community is part of what we do, even if we get nothing in return.

Who does the work?

Finding someone to represent the library in the community can be difficult for smaller libraries, but there are options! Ask board members to attend meetings and events when staff is unable. Designate several staff members as the “face” of the library at local events, but encourage all staff to be involved in the community when possible. Every summer the Westmont Public Library has a table at the weekly street fair and a booth at the big summer festival, Taste of Westmont. Staffing those events can be a challenge, but the response from the community is priceless. Finally, consider asking administration to include “outreach coordination” in the job of at least one staff member or consider hiring a new position to meet outreach goals.

 Kate Buckson is the Marketing Coordinator at the Westmont Public Library.

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