How-To Market a How-To Fest

The library is always a place of learning and discovery, but even more so during Glenside Public Library District’s annual How-To Fest each fall. Inspired by the How-To Festival at the Louisville Public Library (http://www.lfpl.org/how-to/), GPLD hosted its first event in September 2013. Our first attempt was successful, but we learned a lot of things that would have made it better for both patrons and presenters. Since staff spend months preparing for this one day event, we knew that marketing would be integral to its success. We concentrated hard on that effort in September 2014 and felt we were a lot more successful by expanding our PR on many levels. Let’s take a look at some of successes, failures as well as what we learned from them.

Social Media:

We didn’t harness our social media outlets properly leading up to our inaugural event and, as a result, attendance suffered.

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In 2014, thanks to a coordinated effort between staff, the library posted teaser information about topics leading up to the event and an album afterwards. Having our full lineup planned out and scheduled throughout the building in advance for the day helped us organize our posts as well as include links to our complete schedule and photos to gain attention.

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Newsletter: The How-To Fest has always been front page news in GPLD’s newsletter. In 2013 we published a brief and purposefully vague description due to time constraints. That all changed in 2014. Thanks to a longer lead time, we were able to promote high interest presenters and encourage registration for the lectures.

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Word of Mouth: Again the first year we didn’t do very well in this aspect, but we utilized this strategy to an extreme in 2014. When helping patrons up and until the event we were able to “sell” our fest by reminding them that the day would feature someone to work on resumes (for job-seekers) or crafters (for those checking out books from the 700’s) etc. This built up a buzz with no cost, and inspired people to save the date and time for their favorite happenings.

Our Programming Coordinator also shared information about the event with fellow programming librarians. Thanks to her efforts, we had several libraries send out delegates to check out what we were doing. This was a boon for us: it helped us get presenters at a free or reduced rate since they knew there would be opportunities to get their contact information out to other potential employers.

Large Format Signage: In 2014 we purchased a large colorful banner that we hung on the front of the building approximately a month before the fest. The sign increased awareness of those entering the building and staff saw an increase in requests for further information. We also secured space on Glendale Height’s Village Marquee. This electronic sign is located at a busy intersection in our small village. These two opportunities opened up our event to the outside world and brought us participants who lived outside of our service areas.

Promotions: As a way to encourage attendance, we created a punch card. Everyone who visited a booth or lecture was invited to have the presenter initial their card. If they attended five different events, they were put into a drawing to win one of several prizes. We bought or solicited items that the instructors made for prizes to tie the reward back to our event.

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Marketing Library Resources: The How-To Fest is a fantastic opportunity to market library resources! Staff pulled materials related to the topics at the fest and displayed them at the tables and lectures. For 2015, we plan to have a staff member demonstrating library databases and offering giveaways to attendees.

Looking ahead to 2015: As with any project, we knew to meet and discuss to plan for changes and improvements to make 2015’s event even better. We also solicited feedback from presenters as well attendees to give us ideas on how to host an event that is relevant to the wants and needs of our community, but also make it a rewarding experience to those giving us their valuable time. As a result, major changes in scheduling demonstrations, staffing, and marketing are in the works.

Karen Luster is the Adult Services Manager and  Jane Hebert is the Adult Programming Librarian at Glenside Public Library District.

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