Life Happens, Fines Don’t.

On September 15, 2014, Algonquin Area Public Library District (AAPLD) joined the ranks of a few trend-setting libraries and stopped charging their cardholders overdue fines. That same day, the Library also waived all overdue fines from AAPLD cardholder accounts, a fine forgiveness that applied only to materials checked out from AAPLD locations.

LifeHappens

Historically, AAPLD has worked with cardholders to ease the burden of fines, such as a semiannual “Food for Fines” event where cardholders brought items for the local food pantry and were rewarded with the removal of overdue fines from their account. During the 2009 recession, the Library wiped all overdue fines from cardholder accounts (a total of approximately $80,000), reduced daily overdue DVD fines from $1 to .50, and lowered the maximum fine to $5.00 per item.

In early 2014, then Library Director Lynn Elam approached Access Services Manager Gary Christopherson with the idea of eliminating fines for overdue materials. Many decisions were necessary on the ILS policy side, such as terms (i.e., should there be a limit on number of books overdue?) and the scope (should the Library try out a pilot program for one or two item types in the collection?).  The idea was presented during a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting for consideration while staff explored the policy’s feasibility. Trustees had a few questions:

  • Can the Library afford to do this?
  • What if cardholders go to another library to check out materials?
  • How will the Library get the materials back?

The no-fines policy was presented for approval at a subsequent meeting with answers to the questions. The Library could afford it: overdue fines historically contributed to less than 1% of the annual budget, and credit card fees and staff processing time reduced that amount considerably. The policy was defined so AAPLD cardholders would be subject to overdue fines at reciprocal libraries. As far as ensuring that materials were returned, the Library elected to issue a bill for items two weeks overdue and suspend borrowing privileges until the bill was addressed. It was also decided to make the policy applicable to the entire collection.

The Board approved the new policy and staff worked on its implementation. Christopherson estimates that ILS policy adjustments and additions/changes to the circulation map and the circulation rules required a full week. The Library began advertising the new policy about a month before its effective date, using Library signage, FAQ bookmarks, slides on Library monitors, and a notice on the Library web site.  A press release was issued and the news appeared in print and online editions of several local media outlets, such as Patch.com and the Northwest Herald. The Library also used Twitter and Facebook to get the word out, retweeting when the news was mentioned and interacting with cardholders who wrote on the Library’s timeline.

CustomerServiceDesk

Community reaction has been positive. Library Associate Mary Legg-Rains recalls one woman was moved to tears when she learned of the new policy—and how more than $80 in overdue fines were cleared from her account. “She was so grateful she could come back to the library again,” Legg-Rains says. “It’s been wonderful—positive feedback so far. I feel so fortunate to share in these happy times with our patrons.”

It’s too soon to tell if this new policy has impacted circulation numbers in a significant way. However, compared to AAPLD’s annual decline in circulation, which has hovered around 15%, the Library saw a 3% decline in circulation in the 30 days since the policy went into effect.

About two weeks after the policy went “live,” the Library was closed for a week due to parking lot renovation. Library staff marveled at the number of patrons who fought past construction machinery, knocked on the book return drive-thru window, or hailed staff out their car windows—all in the name of returning materials on time.  Staff patiently (and repeatedly) explained that cardholders didn’t have to worry about overdue fines anymore. Reactions ranged from disbelief to concern that some kind of trick was being played. It seems that the traditional equation of overdue materials = fine + shame is firmly entrenched in our (library) culture, but AAPLD is certain that cardholders will happily adjust.

Diane Strzelecki is the Marketing/Public Relations Associate at the Algonquin Area Public Library District.

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Reach Teens with Budget-Friendly Marketing Strategies

They say teens are the biggest challenge. How do you get them into the library? And once that magical feat is accomplished, how do you get them to use the resources and services that can help with homework, provide mind-expanding entertainment, or assist them with handling social and medical issues? Librarians and PR/marketing staff with limited funds, especially those at small libraries, may wonder if this can be done on a minimal budget.

The answer is a resounding “yes.” I’m employed at a fairly large library, but that doesn’t translate to unlimited funds. Our teen librarians have developed creative, inexpensive programs designed to interest teens, which accomplishes the first and most challenging step. But as the Public Relations Coordinator, I need to take that interest to the next level—getting them through the doors. No easy task in a world where libraries are competing with sports, unprecedented amounts of homework, volunteering, dating, jobs, etc.

As with marketing any product or service, word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising…and it’s free! That is why it’s imperative to develop programs teens will want to attend. One of the most successful strategies for accomplishing this is to give teens a voice in program development. Solicit and use their ideas, even if they need a bit of modification. The Schaumburg Township District Library’s teen staff began doing this more than a decade ago, with great success measured by an increase in program attendance and circulation. One way to receive consistent teen input is by establishing a Teen Advisory Board – a group that meets monthly to develop programs and community service projects. Provide affordable snacks as an incentive, but most importantly, let them know you value their input by following up with programs based on their suggestions. Not only will Teen Advisory Board members attend, they may also spread the word and bring friends.

Another way to reach the teen population is through an electronic newsletter. The newsletter should highlight upcoming teen programs, and possibly some resources or services. Develop an email list from addresses acquired at teen programs. You can also offer an incentive – maybe a candy bar or bag of chips – for providing an email address.

Press releases to the media tend to garner the attention of adults more than teens, but use them anyway. If you are responsible for promoting programs, but are not a public relations professional, keep in mind a press release contains just the facts and needs to lead with the “4 Ws” – what, when, where, why, in that order. Example: “Avatar” will be shown from 7-9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11 in the Teen Place of the Acme Library, 123 Acme Rd., Earthville. Teens ages 12-19 are invited to watch the movie and enjoy free popcorn. No registration required.” After that, you may want to add information about why the event is taking place, or if there is a presenter worth mentioning. The keys to getting it published are making it concise and submitting the release in a timely manner. Call the local papers to get the email addresses of appropriate reporters or editors, and create a list to use for future releases. Most

newspapers also have online versions to which you can upload a press release. Attaching a photo is a great way to capture more attention.

Using the information from the press release, you can create a simple sign in Word to send to the high schools, local YMCAs, youth centers, or other places frequented by teens. (Again, call to find the appropriate person and email address.) The sign should be written in bold, large letters, and contain just the “4 Ws” information. This way, the schools and other venues can print it out “as is” to post on bulletin boards.

If your library has the means to produce its own posters or signs, make sure they contain graphics geared toward teens (get input from teen staff) and minimal text that practically jumps off the paper. Use these posters or signs to highlight upcoming programs, events, resources and services. If the library is located near any fast food restaurants or other places frequented by teens, ask if you can place signs in their windows. Likewise, use them to draw attention to teen services, reference books, etc.

A library does not have to be large, or even well-funded, to promote its teen programs. By letting teens have input into programming, and using email, newspapers, the internet and signage to promote events, any library can increase teen attendance and circulation with minimal expense.

Susan Miura is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Schaumburg Township District Library.

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5 Steps to Refresh the Look of Your Library Newsletter

After a few years of using the same newsletter format, your library staff and patrons may be ready for a spruced-up, swept-clean look to the information you provide to your community.

In the last year, Elmhurst Public Library in Elmhurst, Illinois has done just that: revamped graphics standards, updated the appearance of the website, and refined the look and content of the community-wide newsletter. Here are the steps we took to make it happen.

Identify a vision: Our Library director had a vision to refresh the look of the newsletter by focusing on simple changes that would make a big impact. Our previous newsletters arrived in mailboxes folded in thirds. Not only did this limit the visual “pop” of the newsletter cover, but it also made it easier for residents to view the newsletter as junk mail. So, we increased the size of the newsletter from 8 ½ x 11 inches to 9 x 12 inches, and doubled its length from 8 pages to 16. This gave it more heft to make the newsletter appear more like a magazine than junk mail.

fine print

Give yourself wiggle room: Program listings are always the bread and butter of library newsletters, and will always take up the most space. However, we wanted white space and room for brief articles, book suggestions, and larger photos. The larger size and longer length of the newsletter helped provide this.

fine print2

Consider the budget: Even with the larger size and longer length of the newsletter, at EPL we were able to keep costs down by making the newsletter seasonal instead of bi-monthly. Postage costs went up very little even though we more than doubled the size and weight of the document.

This requires departments to submit program information earlier and for a three-month period of time; however, in the end it saves time and money.

Design the appearance: Working with the design and public information department to create a consistently branded appearance to your newsletter, website, and all signage can help to ensure a unified appearance to all library communications. At EPL, we worked with an outside design firm to create an updated logo, color swatches, and font selections to pull together this updated look. Then we made sure all of the various communications, including the community newsletter, matched these standards.

Add high-interest content: In addition to program notes, use extra space to promote upcoming changes at the library, new services or equipment, new releases, or patron spotlight articles. Give your community user stories by highlighting patrons who use various services or programs at the library that you want to feature. For example, we compiled user stories which highlight one patron’s attendance at new technology programs, another use of meeting rooms, and another accessing databases. This not only promotes services, but also gives a shout out to those in the community making good use of the Library’s services. At EPL, as we continue to settle into this new approach, we are now expanding our newsletter by four additional pages to allow for more space and program notes.

The response from the community about our new look? Overwhelmingly positive. One patron gushed, “Most people get excited when a new magazine or catalog gets delivered to their mailbox. For me it’s Fine Print, the newsletter from Elmhurst Public Library. …I can’t wait to open it to see what’s happening and what’s new!” This is the sort of feedback coming from our community members, showing their pride in their Library, and their appreciation for the new look, the new information, and the products and services featured in the newsletter.

It’s always nice to shake things up by changing the color palette, the font choices, and the overall design of your brochures, signage, and newsletter. By following these steps you can create a unified, refined, and freshened-up appearance to all of your library communications.

Julie Stiegemeyer is the Public Relations Assistant at the Elmhurst Public Library.

 

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ILA Pub Stroll 2014

Come network and hang out with your fellow library lovers during this year’s ILA_Pub_Stroll_2014. The Marketing Committee will be hosting a night of conversation, drinks, and  appetizers on Wednesday, October 15 from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. at the Celtic Mist Pub. Outsource Solution Groups, Inc. is sponsoring the event and we hope to see many of you there.

Here are all the details! See attached for other stops in the Pub Stroll.

Celtic Mist Pub
117 S. 7th Street

The atmosphere has a touch of nostalgia, including walls lined with photos of Irish authors from time past, including Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. Enjoy a pint, while sharing mighty good craic (conversation). It’s a place where a librarian is a stranger only once.

Hosted by: Marketing Committee
Sponsored by: Outsource Solutions Group, Inc.

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Amazing ‘Study Like a Scholar’ Marketing Video

Great video promoting the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University. It would be fun to adapt this to public libraries!

 

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“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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