Anatomy of An Ad Campaign – Des Plaines Public Library

Daily Herald Print Campaign Ad

Daily Herald Print Campaign Ad

Things are a-changing in libraryland, especially on the marketing front.  Just seven years ago when I began at the Des Plaines Public Library, my position (head of public information services) was a rare one.

All too many public libraries had no staff dedicated full-time to marketing library offerings. Fast-forward t0 2014 and, well, here you all are:  marketing pros who know the impact of a well-coordinated and funded multichannel marketing campaign on library resource awareness and use.

For the second year in a row, Des Plaines Public Library is running a $19K consumer advertising campaign with the tag line “Your DPPL Library Card: the most valuable card in your wallet”.   It includes print, digital and email components and was paid for with State of Illinois per capita grant funds.

Daily Herald Email Campaign

Daily Herald Email Campaign


The campaign began in mid-November and runs through the end of the year. It is timed to coincide with the holiday season when patrons are shopping for digital devices and looking to save money.


The campaign includes:

  • Twelve 4-color ¼ page print ads in the Daily Herald ($7.2K)
  • Two ¼ page Spanish language ads in Reflejos ($780)
  • 375,000 keyword-driven digital ad impressions over 6 weeks on  ($2.25K)
  • Three emails over 14 days to 30K emails from a Daily Herald database, targeting women 18 – 40 interested in music and film within a 10 mile radius of DPPL. ($2.8K)
  • Eight 8 ½” x 11” inserts into Des Plaines Journal and Topics (40K pieces total), zoned to our community ($4k)
  • Other miscellaneous community based advertising (chamber of commerce map, etc.) ($2k)
  • DPPL website, Facebook, Twitter and in-house display system. (Free!)


I developed the concept for the campaign and wrote the content. The ads were designed in-house by our manager of creative services Kelly Maron Horvath.  DPPL’s manager of web services Ali Van Doren created custom URLs embedded into each of the pieces to track traffic to the resources so that we can accurately track and report our ROI. Because all was done in-house, there were no outside production or design costs.


Relejos Ad

Relejos Ad

Members of our library board have asked over the years that we reach non-DPPL users with information about the library and all we have to offer.  Their first thought was mailings, but I convinced them that an advertising campaign would better penetrate the market we are hoping to reach, especially in a town as large as Des Plaines where mailing is expensive and response is difficult to track.

From staff perspective, we want to see the usage of the digital products we have invested  in grow.  In late 2015, we are installing a new digital device eBar and a Digital Learning Center. These two spaces will allow DPPL to teach patrons to both use their devices AND use our “e” on their devices.  The baseline usage established by this ad campaign will allow us to easily compare the growth in usage after the installation, and help us to cost-justify our expansion in digital offerings for years to come.

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert - Front

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert – Front


Hard to pick, right? EVERYONE is a possible user of these products.  But in marketing, to be effective  you need to focus. We chose to target our images, message and ad placement to women 18-40 interested in music, film, magazines and downloadable books, at a time when they are shopping and needing to save money.  This is the demographic hoopla – a key product featured in the campaign – tells us is a main user group for their product.  Secondarily, the ads are designed to appeal to new mobile device owners and anyone with a familiarity with digital resources and a desire to save money.


Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert - back

Des Plaines Journal & Topics Insert – back

The campaign is still running and we have yet to tally final numbers, but the initial numbers look promising. The 60K dedicated emails alone had 10 – 12% open rates (9,580 opens) and 1,340 clicks to the featured links in the first 2 weeks.


  • Focus your target and message:  The most effective campaigns market one kind of product and service, sending one specific massage to one specific group of people. Will the message of our ads reach those outside reach those outside of the ‘target’ group too? Sure. You notice and respond to ads all the time, despite not being the key demographic target, right? The same applies here.
  • digital ad digital ad

    Lobby for the money:  In advertising, it is all about the number of impressions. More money = more impressions = (hopefully) more usage of your resources.   My budget to advertise hasn’t always been $19K. My piece of our library’s Per Capita Grant “pie” has increased over the past several years.  Each year, I’m able to justify asking for more dollars because the money I have spent the previous year yielded results backed up with usage increases.

  • You don’t need to be a media buying expert:  Especially at the local level, trust your local media sales reps to steer you in the right direction. I was a little skeptical about the email campaign recommended by my Daily Herald rep, but it’s turning out to be fantastic.
  • Good design matters:  I’m lucky. I have an incredibly talented and experienced commercial graphic designer on my staff. If you do not, PLEASE consider hiring a well-vetted freelancer to do your ad design. Nothing distracts more from a message than a poorly designed ad.

 Heather Imhoff  is the  Head of Public Information Services at the Des Plaines Public Library. Reach her at

Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce Community Map Banner Ad

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Reaching Out to Underserved Teens in Your Community

A May 2013 Pew Study showed a majority of parents appreciate libraries as a resource for their children.  If you have ever been involved in a Library’s Summer Reading program you are keenly aware of how much families benefit and appreciate the literacy skill enrichment offered by their libraries.

Another national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and reported at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in January, 2014, reinforced the opinion that libraries’ interactions with communities should extend outside of its walls through community outreach partnerships.  The participants were equally adamant about the need for their public libraries to be involved in supplying resources to their communities’ schools to help supplement the consistently dwindling school districts’ budgets.  Those same respondents also mandated libraries to provide free early literacy programs for children.

These surveys, taken during our country’s continuing economic recovery, provide us with a resounding answer to the question of where libraries need to focus if we are to remain viable and valuable members of our communities.  As our patrons and community members mature and bring new generations of youth into our libraries we must focus on offering resources to the adults while focusing even more strongly on enriching the experiences of their children.

A library that provides services to everyone ensures its position in the community as a center of the resource wheel instead of a spoke that is important but not vital to the patrons who support it with their taxes.  The future of our libraries depends on the building blocks that we lay with our families today.  In the movie, “Field of Dreams”, the protagonist is assured that “if you build it, they will come”.  I wouldn’t want a group of deceased baseball players walking into our library, but I am thrilled when a family with kids comes into the library to see a story teller recount the history of the Negro Baseball League during the first month of a new baseball season.

An underserved group may be residing in your community’s juvenile court system.  Students who have been sent to a county juvenile detention center are often desperate for reading materials and are captive audiences for book talks and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) education presentations.  Building a bridge with uncooked spaghetti and miniature marshmallows takes on a new importance when you compare the cooperation and planning that is required to design and build a new bridge to span a river.  We conducted that presentation with a local juvenile detention center’s students at the same time the new Stan Musial Bridge was being opened in St. Louis, MO.  The session was more meaningful because the students could compare their efforts to real engineers and bridge builders.  The sense of cooperation and achievement at that STEAM session was positive in an environment that can sometimes be dampened by the need for structure and solitary coexistence.   If you can establish a positive relationship with the management and staff of a detention center you can become mentors to students and other underserved youth in your area.  Scary, maybe a little, but the outcome is worth the temporary discomfort to you.

Yes, it’s safe inside your library kingdom, but there’s a world of new friends you can make for your library and services you can provide, if you can reach out to the right groups.  “If you build it, they will come” can be paraphrased just a little.  If you reach out into your community you can build a bridge that will bring more people and public awareness to your library.  The library of the future may not have any walls, so isn’t it time we start opening up our doors and windows and stepping out into a world where the library is the community?

Magi Henderson is the Youth Services Director at Glen Carbon Centennial Library and a past recipient of the ILA Golden Ticket Award for Youth Services.  Her library was named the 2010 Best Small Library in America by Library Journal and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

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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.


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 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.


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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