What makes students stop by an information table at a new student orientation event? Candy? Post-it notes? A friendly smile? DePaul University Libraries felt we had all of those things, but too many students continued to pass us by, and miss out on the library information they’d need once school started. We knew we needed to come up with something fun, and while it didn’t have to scream “library!”, we still wanted there to be some connection—we knew the athletic department’s arcade-style free-throw game wasn’t really our best option.
Late last spring, after a marketing meeting in which we all agreed to brainstorm some new ideas, we recalled an article from the April 2008 ACRL News. The University of Vermont Libraries developed a unique (and successful!) campaign to promote their reference service. Basing their efforts on the premise that Millenials enjoy social networking and having an audience for their photos (“to see and be seen,” as they put it) they set up a “photo-booth” on campus and invited students to pose for photos holding a sign that said “Ask”. They explained these photos would be used to promote the library and got students to sign a release. Students’ names weren’t necessarily linked to the photos. The photos were posted on Flickr and used to create bookmarks (in the style of old photo-booth strips) and postcards promoting the library. Students also integrated them into Facebook. Genius! We emailed them asking for permission to adapt their idea for our orientation event tables, and they generously agreed.
Adapting Vermont’s “Ask” campaign really generated a lot of buzz and traffic to our table. Students posed solo or formed groups with other new students. While students were signing release forms and were waiting to get their photo taken by a librarian or student worker, another librarian had a chance to explain why we were running this campaign: we wanted to students to know that the library is staffed with friendly people who can answer questions and help them find what they need to complete their papers and assignments—all they have to do is ask. Students also walked away with a small bag filled with candy, post-it notes and information about library services.
Photos were posted to Flickr, and while we had hoped to be able to use them for a related print and web campaign, we found that the lack of a photo-booth type background and poor lighting caused them to look a bit dreary, causing us to scrap that aspect of the campaign. However, even without being able to make further use of the photos, we felt the campaign was a success. It created a bit of a party atmosphere at our information table, and students actually lined up to get their photo taken—which gave us an opportunity to talk to more students than ever about the library.
We plan to repeat this campaign this summer. This time, we’ll bring along a portable backdrop to create more of a photo-booth effect, and we are experimenting with ways to create some sort immediate takeaway, like photo stickers.
More information about the Vermont’s Ask campaign is available at:
Instruction and Outreach librarian
DePaul University Libraries