Providing Services for Businesses

by Brock Peoples

Who are our patrons, and what are they doing in our libraries? It’s a common question to ask when initiating an environment scan, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), or other analysis. Answering it fully can go a long way towards informing planning processes and may produce a few surprises.

You may even be tempted to stop there and dive into planning around serving these (sometimes newly discovered) demographics. Stop for a moment. Examine your community as a whole. Who are they, and what are they doing?

Now, compare the two. If you’re the visual sort, make a Venn Diagram. It might look like this:


Intersection of Community and Users

Where the two groups overlap are your existing patrons who are in your community. Patrons that are not part of your community live in other service areas and happen to visit your library because … Why? (That’s another question you should look into, but not my current point.) People who are in your community and are not patrons are potential patrons, represent your predictable growth areas, and preset you with target demographics to market to.

Often, members of your local business community fall into this unserved category. They don’t come to story time, they don’t check out the newest Tom Clancy, and they probably don’t need your Internet connection to run their business (though some do). So, how do you serve them? What library services could the Antique Shop possibly want? The Drycleaner? The Bar?

Surprise! Business communities are often very open to continuing educational opportunities that will help make them more money. How do we, as libraries, fit in? Believe it or not, many small business owners are not as tech and marketing savvy as most librarians. Especially librarians who take the time to read a blog on marketing.

Programs that explain how to claim your business on Google, using social media for businesses, website creation and management, and data management are all good places to start. If you’re unsure, see what kinds of programs your local Chamber of Commerce hosts for its members; maybe even go to a few meetings and ask what people would like to see in the future.

There are many other directions you may wish to take your business services. Maybe you would like your library to serve as a Co-working location, maybe you want to become a start-up incubator, or maybe you want to loan out technology tools specifically for businesses. Find out what your community wants, where they are, and meet them there!

Attached is a presentation I gave to the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce at their February General Meeting, hosted by the Chillicothe Public Library. It is an introductory presentation on using social media for business promotion. Opinions are my own unless sources are given.

Facebook for businesses (PDF)

Brock Peoples is Director of Chillicothe Public Library District.

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Email Newsletters 101: Making the Most of Email

by Emily Glimco

Email newsletters are a simple yet important marketing tool for any library. Whether your library has experience with email newsletter or you’re just getting started, here are some basic tips to help you make the most of your library’s email newsletters.

Keep it Brief

As much as you may want to include a full two weeks of programming in your email newsletter, an email is not the place to do it. Our attention span is lower than ever, as this article suggests, which means to make the most of an email newsletter, you have to keep it skim-able.


One good rule to follow is to make the most important information the most obvious, such as the program title and the call to action (“Click here to learn more” ). Any other descriptions should be minimal but exciting.

Another thing to keep in mind is the number of features you have in your email newsletters. Prioritize your library’s upcoming programs (I know this can be tough!) and highlight the things you really want your community to know about.

Include Links

Looking at your newsletter’s open rate is important, but the best way to determine the effectiveness of your newsletter is to track what people are clicking. Think of it like this: if you send an email newsletter and 60% of your subscribers see your email, but you don’t provide them any links to find out more information about the programs you’re promoting, how can you really tell what interests your subscribers? All you can be sure of is that your email newsletter was opened, which doesn’t say much.

Any time you promote a library program or service in an email newsletter, there should be a link included so that people can register for the program or find out more details. By including links, you’ll be able to track the results and learn what your subscribers want to see. Additionally, including links to more information is a great way to cut down the amount of text you use, which will help keep your email newsletters short.

P.S.: Don’t get too hung up “low” numbers; industry standard email rates for nonprofits’ email newsletters is around a 25% open rate and a 3% click rate. You’ll be able to tell when your library’s newsletter numbers are low or high when you track opens and clicks consistently.

Split Test Your Newsletters

Split testing is are a great way to evaluate the effectiveness of your newsletters and determine what you can do to get your community engaged with your emails. If you want to boost your open rate, for example, give the A newsletter your standard subject line and try a new subject line with email B. By evaluating the percentage difference of the number of opens, you can see what works best.

No matter what you choose to test in your email newsletters, make sure you keep it simple; make sure you are only testing one aspect of your newsletter at a time. Then, run the test a number of times before you decide to make a permanent change.

Test on Mobile Devices


Are your email newsletters made with mobile devices in mind? According to a recent US Consumer Device Preference Report, 66% of emails were read on a mobile device.

While there are still a large number of people reading emails on their desktop computers, mobile users can’t be ignored. Some of your newsletter’s appearance will depend on the capabilities of your email newsletter provider (some have better responsive design templates than others; as you can see on the right, this Constant Contact email looks OK on a smartphone, but not perfect), but if you notice something simple to fix, like a too-small font size, go ahead and fix it before you hit the “schedule” button.

Email marketing is constantly evolving, so the conversation is far from over. Nonetheless, these basic tips should help give your library’s email newsletter the boost it needs to reach patrons effectively.

Emily Glimco is Marketing and Communications Associate at Northbrook Public Library.

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What better place to get gift suggestions?

Staff at Skokie Public Library came up with a last-minute idea to help people with last-minute holiday shopping, and the library launched GiftMatch earlier this week.

Skokie Public Library GiftMatch screenshot

“Fill out this short questionnaire and let us know a little about the person you’re shopping for.”

An extension of the library’s existing BookMatch readers’ advisory service, GiftMatch invites visitors to complete an online form with information about the intended gift recipient, and staff reply back with handpicked book and/or movie suggestions.

According to Readers Services Supervisor Kathy Sexton, the library publicized GiftMatch through an email blast, the library website, and social media (Twitter and Facebook).

Sexton said in the short time since the service was announced, the library has received several GiftMatch requests from cardholders, and got a glowing “Thank you!” from one user in response to the library’s suggestions.

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Marketing Manifesto for Libraries

Check out this excellent keynote talk from the Library and Information Association of New Zealand’s annual conference last week.

Ned Potter has posted the video and slides from his “A Library Marketing Manifesto” presentation on his blog:


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A beneficial side-effect of READ posters?

In a study published nine years ago, researchers reported that “an image of a pair of eyes appearing to observe behaviour dramatically increases contribution to a public good in a real-world context.”

The experimenters found that more money was collected at an honor-system coffee/tea station during weeks when the price sign included a photo of observant eyes, compared with the pictures of flowers used during alternating weeks.

Perhaps libraries could benefit from the strategic placement of READ posters (strategically selected for the celebrity’s gaze) in a number of contexts where contributions to the public good made outside of the staff’s line of sight are desirable:

  • Honor-system coffee counters
  • Honor-system printers
  • Public computers
  • Self-check stations
  • Summer reading log sheets
  • Etc.

The poster with Common might be twice as effective …

READ poster: Common with The Audacity of Hope
(Common poster, available from the ALA Shop)

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It Takes a Village to Create A Giant Floor Piano

Our goal was to create a setting where our community could feel a sense of pride in building an object related to our summer reading theme, Read to the Rhythm. A floor piano, like in the movie Big, seemed like an obvious fit, and with the many instructional videos online, we felt this could be accomplished with what we had on hand, and common household supplies.


You may wonder what this has to do with marketing.  Karen McBride, our Public Information Manager, created this brilliant slogan: It Takes a Village to Create a Giant Floor Piano. These words demonstrate that we can’t possibly do the work ourselves.  Secondly, the program itself was a marketing piece for our exciting MakerLab kits, developed by Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna. At the Barrington Area Library, you can check out MakerLab kits for 2 hours.  In this program, we used the MakeyMakey and Raspberry Pi Kits.


With our giant floor piano program just two weeks away–tinfoil, MakeyMakey, Raspberry Pi, and wire strippers in hand—we were ready to add the finishing touches on a program that had been in development since March.  While we had researched a number of piano methods, we had to alter the designs we found to create something both safe for a public entrance (no trip hazards), and inviting.

We found a great tutorial here.  While the article is beautifully written and explains how the piano works, we really wanted to design our piano to look like a real piano.  Before the program, our Digital Services Manager Michael Campagna set up Scratch on our Raspberry Pi, we printed an image of a basic keyboard, and began mapping out what piano keys would be assigned to different keys on the MakeyMakey.


We used the Scratch program to accomplish this, making the last key a cat’s meow for good measure!


On the actual night of the event, we hooked up the Raspberry Pi, running the Stratch program, to a monitor to show how we assigned the musical notes to each key on the MakeyMakey. The Makey Makey was hooked up to 8 bananas so that each participant could see how the technology worked on a smaller scale before venturing out to build a life-size model.  We showed this video on YouTube, and explained that ours would look a little different (no tinfoil in sight).

Next, we divided into 2 groups based on interest:  Lizzy’s group was the wire-stripping group, and Gwyn’s group was the art group.  After each group was done, we came together to build the inner workings of the piano.

The wire is the kind used for networking computers.  We took off the blue plastic outside, to reveal 8 wires inside.  We needed 2 wires for each key (a wire to attach to the MakeyMakey ground, and a wire to attach to the Makey Makey key).  With 8 keys, that meant 16 wires total.

For each key, 1 wire was laid down, with tinfoil on top to increase conductivity, a layer of duct tape, and then the next wire.  Lastly, a layer of tinfoil covered the duct tape.  When someone steps on it, the two wires and  pieces of tinfoil are table to pass a charge through the duct tape layer, thus completing the circuit.  It’s a lot like turning on a light switch: once a kid steps on it (or flips the switch), the circuit is complete.  We put the white tarp over it to hide these layers.


At the end of the program, participants were invited to take a group picture, sign their name on the poster, and at last, play the piano. The last step was to remove the computer monitor and the mouse from the Raspberry Pi, so that the computer itself and the MakeyMakey could be on display without them in the way.


At this time, from the reference desk upstairs, we can hear the piano being played in our Atrium.

The sweet sound of success.


  • Tinfoil
  • Wire Strippers
  • Wire
  • 4 Foam Tiles
  • MakeyMakey
  • Raspberry PI
  • Duct Tape
  • White Tarp
  • Speaker

Lizzy Klinnert and Gwyneth Stupar are Adult Services Librarians at Barrington Area Library.



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You’ve Got Questions About Friends Groups and We’ve Got Answers

RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Libraries) is the library system for northern Illinois.  It has a marketing networking group that meets every two months to discuss and share information about library marketing issues.

At the May 29 meeting, the agenda included how best to handle the issues that sometimes arise with Friends groups.  Since the last two posts on Illinois Libraries Matter were on Friends groups, I thought it might be helpful to those who are interested in learning more about how to start Friends groups and how to manage them to post this excerpt from the meeting minutes.

Friends Groups

The discussion began with Friends Groups and a number of issues were raised:

  • Exclusive focus is on the book sale
  • Small number of people involved
  • Struggle for control of Friends’ assets
  • Members dying off
  • Need to get new people in but unsure how to do this
  • Would a “junior” Friends group be a solution?
  • Friends viewing fundraising revenue as “their” money
  • Attitude that the Library doesn’t care about the Friends, so why should the Friends care about the library
  • Excessive restrictions on the use of funds raised by Friends
  • Can you have a Friends group and a Foundation?
  • Tension between the board and the library and the Friends group
  • What legal restrictions are there on funds from a book store that is open every day or a few days a week
  • Do we include Friends groups in Strategic Planning?
  • How do you fire a volunteer?


  • One library that had three fundraising groups brought in a consultant to study the situation and then consolidated the groups, bringing in “movers and shakers” from the community to provide leadership
  • Friends groups should manage themselves
  • By-laws should govern Friends groups and clarify that the Friends mission is to support the Library
  • People put off the “20-second conversation”:  a) Explain what is needed; 2) Say:  “You don’t seem to be able to do that now.  Take a week to think about it and then let me know what you decide to do.”
  • Library volunteers should be separate from Friends groups and should be managed by a dedicated volunteer coordinator
  • When it comes to Friends groups, you get what you get
  • There are some personalities that are difficult to work with
  • Have a strategy meeting: reinforce that their role is to support the library
  • Talk about needs and expectations
  • Have to have talking back and forth
  • Be political; schmooze your Friends; respect them; show appreciation for what they do; thank them, formally and informally
  • Your library director should be the formal liaison to the Friends group although other staff members may attend Friends meetings and an employee should be at every Friends meeting

At Huntley Area Public Library:

  • There are 250 Friends members; 80 are volunteers
  • They have a board; one of their board members attends meeting of the Library board

At Brookfield:

  • The Library Director is the liaison and there is a Board Member liaison and they attend every Friends meeting
  • People are more interested in volunteering when they know their role and mission
  • Saying “We want your opinion,” will make volunteers more receptive to getting involved
  • ILA (Illinois Library Association) can act as a vehicle for Friends revenues for the purpose of donating them to the Library

Elizabeth Neill is a member of the RAILS Marketing Group and lives in Elmhurst. 


Join the RAILS Marketing Group online on their Facebook page.

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