Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Laugh

As we all know, the library environment is Serious Business. Behind the hallowed walls of our various institutions lies a space for detailed research, scholarly pursuits, and quiet reflection.

And Gangnam Style, of course:

Humor can go a long way when you’re working to present your library to new audiences. How does it work? It’s all about the power of surprise.

Despite our efforts to counter the stereotype, the old dusting-and-shushing image of Marian the Librarian still persists in popular culture and lazy press coverage. (If I had a nickel for every time I read “this isn’t your grandma’s library” in an article, I could probably buy a soda. Maybe even two of them.) This gives us a distinct advantage when breaking out the jokes: No one expects it from the quiet ones.

The Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Facebook page is a great example of this. Marketing Coordinator Anthony McGinn has blended current events and pop-culture references with information about library programming and services, all filtered through his somewhat absurd sense of humor. And his readers love it! Posts rake in likes, and commenters often start conversations with McGinn, leading to further engagement. As he describes it:

I work very hard to create Facebook posts that are funny, unexpected, and spark curiosity about our library. I’m very blessed to have a Director, Dawn Bussey, who encourages me to use my creativity. So far, our new Facebook campaign (which I started October 1, 2012) has incredibly successful. In fact, our Facebook page had more activity during October 2012 than the previous six months combined!

Want to try it yourself? Perhaps choreographing your own library-themed version of “Call Me Maybe” might be too ambitious right out of the gate. But you can still have a lot of fun with still images.

Sites like Someecards and Memegenerator offer simple tools for creating your own pop-culture-themed in-jokes. You can also use a simple image editor like Microsoft Publisher to add captions to existing images. Inspiration can come from anywhere – Joe Biden laughing at things. Ryan Gosling and a “hey, girl” quote. Mckayla Maroney not being impressed with illiteracy. Take the existing joke, add a library spin to it, and hit publish.

As you release them on the web, there’s even a chance they can go viral, and be shared across multiple online platforms. If you can include your library’s name or URL on the image, you can increase your reach as the image spreads across Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and everywhere else.

What are your ideas for embracing humor as you promote the library? Please share in the comments.

Toby Greenwalt is Virtual Services Coordinator at Skokie Public Library, where he focuses on digital strategy and making the web more human. He blogs occasionally at theanalogdivide and tweets all too often as @theanalogdivide.

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5 Responses to Make ’em Laugh, Make ’em Laugh

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  2. Pingback: Are You Talking to Yourself? | Illinois Libraries Matter

  3. We just had a humorous promotion during Banned Books Week. We invited our faculty to be photographed as if they had been caught and then arrested reading a challenged book. We displayed these “mug shots” with our Banned Books Week book display, and also posted them around campus and on a Wall of Shame here in our library.Our students loved them! We had great response from the faculty both in terms of number participating, and in the ways they hammed it up during their photo shoots. You can see the mugshots here: http://libguides.aurora.edu/content.php?pid=63503&sid=3127226

  4. Teri says:

    Sorry Anthony…I always got you mixed up with Patrick A.

  5. Teri says:

    Great Andrew!

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