- crowdsource images of your library
- give you an idea of the spaces, services and features that your patrons value most
- create community
- generate traffic on your social media pages
If your response would be “sign me up!” then read on. At the College of DuPage, we launched an event called Picture Your Library, a photo-submission “contest” designed to encourage patrons to come to the library, take photos of themselves and their friends in their favorite library locations and then share those images with us. In return, we would upload those images to our Flickr page and make them available for everyone to see. Additionally, we received a wide and varied collections of images that we could use in blog posts, our Facebook page and other future marketing projects.A second Picture Your Library event was dubbed “PYL: The READ Poster Edition.” ALA had made a mini-READ poster generator available on their website and our contest asked patrons to create their own posters featuring a photo of themselves and their favorite books. All submissions would be shared on our Flickr page and the winning entry would have the opportunity to pose for a full-sized READ poster to be displayed in the Library.
Response to both Picture Your Library contests was enthusiastic. We received creative photos from students, faculty, staff and community members. Although both events had to be expanded beyond their initially short submission periods in order to gather more participation, marketing efforts such as blog posts and posters helped us collect a sizeable collection of images for our Picture Your Library gallery in Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/codlibrary/sets/72157603458541767/
Want to create your own Picture Your Library-style contest? Here are some steps to get you started.
- Draw up your rules and permissions. Let the participants know what you’ll be doing with the photos and inform them of their rights as content creators. We looked at several online photo contests and modeled our language after standard rules and permissions we came across.
- Create an easy way for patrons to upload images. Whether participants are emailing attachments to a librarian or uploading files to a form, make the instructions consistent and easy to follow. If there are file size limits, make sure you provide that information.
- Seed your picture sharing site. Are you using Flickr, Facebook, Picasa or a gallery on your own library’s website? However you plan to make your patron-generated images public, provide potential participants with some sample photos to inspire them. Library staff were our most enthusiastic entrants, uploading dozens of fun and creative images. Not only do these pictures spark interest in the promotion, but they give our patrons a glimpse into the library from our staff members’ perspectives.
- Encourage comments. If you’re sharing your images on a blog or social site that allows user comments, consider asking your patrons to weigh in with their votes or opinions. allowing responses and conversations can bring non-photographers into the event and generate additional traffic to your site or online gallery.
- Everyone’s a winner. Sure you can offer prize incentives and create “best of” categories for submissions, but you can also make this easy for yourself by understanding that for many people, the thrill of seeing their images on your library’s homepage is reward enough. If you want to celebrate a winning entry, consider a grand prize where one lucky photographer’s image will be featured on a future promotional item–a bookmark, button, flier or poster, for example.
Picture Your Library has proven to be a fun and relatively easy way to engage our patrons and get them to think of how they use our space and services. We were thrilled with the creative images that participants shared and came away with a great number of unique photos that we can dip into for blog posts, posters and fliers.
College of DuPage Library is currently in the first months of an a year and a half long renovation project. When Phase 1 is complete and the upper level of our newly redesigned library opens in the spring, we plan to launch another edition of our photo submission content– Picture Your (NEW!) Library. We hope the event will encourage patrons to explore our new space, discover new favorite places and share their enthusiasm with our library community.
Jennifer Kelley is a Reference Librarian at the College of DuPage.