Getting the Word Out, Part 1

Dawn Bussey, the director of the Glen Ellyn Public Library originally published this piece in the January/February 2009 issue of Public Libraries. We’re reprinting it here in two parts, with her permission.

The days of promoting a new library service or material formats by placing it in the library newsletter, hanging up some posters in the library, putting out a few fliers and sending a press release to the local newspaper are long gone. It’s time that we get outside of our brick and mortar institutions and spread the word about the fabulous materials, programs, and service our libraries have to offer.

Public libraries are no longer the only place to go to fulfill the informational needs in our communities. There’s competition – the Internet, search engines, bookstores, and more. Yes, we can debate the issue that these competitors are not as good at providing high quality information and reading materials as those of us who staff our libraries, but at the end of the day these other resources still exist and our patrons are using them. If we do not get the word out to the people we serve and keep them in touch with our services, we won’t even have a chance to debate information literacy. We have to make our presence known not only to our users but also to the nonusers.

At the Glen Ellyn Public Library (GEPL) in west suburban Chicago, we incorporated the idea into our strategic plan. We stated a goal to develop and implement marketing to our current and future constituencies and a commitment that library staff will be highly visible in the community. In order to accomplish this goal and its objectives, we work to take our message out into the community.

One way we have spread the word is by having different staff from different departments take turns displaying our tabletop backboard and fliers at community events. For example, one Saturday last spring the local Wal-Mart held a health fair. We took our display board and information about library resources and the upcoming summer reading program.

We also take our booth to the farmer’s market once a month and participate in the annual downtown sidewalk sale. This past year, we also had a booth during the Taste of Glen Ellyn and the chamber of commerce technology fair.

Each time we got to one of these events we highlight a particular message dependent upon upcoming events and activities at the library.

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