Getting Started: Case Histories
The following articles offer ideas and insights into developing a marketing communication program for your library:
American University Library
Carlson Library, Clarion University
Milner Library, Illinois State University
Russell Library, Georgia College and State University
University of Nevada--Las Vegas
American University Library:
By Helen R. Goldstein
On Monday, April 2, 2001, American University Library users took a step back in time. As users entered a specially decorated lobby they were greeted by Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Louisa May Alcott, Angela Davis, a Civil War Soldier, and other costumed figures on hand to promote the library’s new self-check system.
Planning for the award-winning promotion began early in February 2001 when a group of staff volunteers met to consider participating in the 3M ™ Library Systems’ Check-It-Out Yourself Day promotion. A very motivating grand prize of $5,000 was offered. Questions and ideas flew around the table. What benefits does the SelfCheck ä library system provide for our users? They can save time by checking books out any time the library is open. How could we link literature, history, and other information in the library to the promotion? Why not have costumed literary and historical figures make a visit? How would these characters travel to the library? In a time machine, of course! Our message for the day: “Save Time, Any Time with the 3M Self-Check ‘Time Machine’”
Members of the planning team left with assignments to complete and more questions to ponder. Who would build the time machine? How? What historical characters would be best to highlight? Could we really inspire 100 library users (the minimum required to enter the contest) to borrow material on the 3M ™ SelfCheck ™ System in a single day?
Marketing and Promotion
The team decided to use all of the American University communications channels to promote the event. These included the official campus publication, American Weekly, and the student paper, The Eagle; a campus-wide e-mail broadcast; an announcement on the university’s voice-mail Telecommunications Bulletin Board; and flyers around campus. 3M provided a dozen four-color Check-It-Out Yourself posters, which we customized with details about our promotion.
Campus vendors joined the celebration by donating door prizes for individuals. To encourage a heavy turnout from students living in campus residence halls, the library offered a free coffee and donut breakfast during final exams to the hall floor with the most residents who tried the SelfCheck ™ on April 2. Overall, we awarded more than 25 prizes, including five $100 dollar savings bonds, a $100 dollar gift certificate, copy cards, fax cards and travel guides, all donated by campus merchants.
Variations on a Theme
Monday, April 2, 2001 arrived. Overnight, the library entry had been transformed by volunteers from a typical library lobby into a “ time warp.” Fancifully decorated paper clocks hung from the ceiling surrounding a lighted disco ball. A seven-foot tall, chrome spray-painted paper mache “time machine” stood jauntily abreast of the security gate. Inspired by stills from 1950’s sci-fi films, it featured odd knobs and contraptions sculpted from wire, burnt-out computer circuit boards, and other “found objects.” Anyone bold enough to peak behind the machine’s red shower curtain door discovered the whole thing to be cobbled together from cardboard. That the time machine was a work of art was no surprise, since it was created by two supervisors on the library’s stacks and monitors staff–––both college art majors.
But the 3M ™ SelfCheck ™ machine––located at the Information Desk in the library lobby—was the true center of the day’s events. Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Onassis, Angela Davis, Frida Kahlo, Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, and Maenad, Priestess of Dionysus, were among those attesting to the many advantages of SelfCheck ™, and borrowers literally lined up in anticipation of using this 21 st century technology—and winning a prize.
A Winning Combination
Self-check users were eligible for prizes based on a predetermined number assigned to the signature sheets, or in a second-chance drawing at the end of the promotion. Library staff rang a bell and applauded as each winner was announced in the lobby. All day, the area was abuzz.
“I’ve already been using this machine,” said one student, as he waited to charge a stack of books. “It’s great.”
“It’s easy to use,” said another. “I didn’t realize we had this. This is fantastic.”
As the day progressed, the planning team knew the event was a huge success. More than 250 library users charged material out with SelfCheck ™. Another 42 library staff members tried out the machine without the encouragement of being able to win a prize. A total of 513 items were charged on the machine from 12:01 a.m. until midnight of April 2, 2001—approximately five times the usual number.
Not only did we far surpass our goal of 100 documented users; we offered the campus and library a much-appreciated theatrical distraction from more serious studies for a few hours. We also won the grand prize in the 3M ™ SelfCheck ™ promotion contest.
As for our team, in a few short—and very intense—weeks, our planning had transformed the library into a living theater of learning and fun. We learned that an investment in careful planning and a thoughtful marketing effort could pay big dividends. We also came to discover and appreciate each other’s creativity, persistence, and hidden talents. Our library is stronger and richer in many ways because of our Check-It-Out Yourself Day experience.
Helen Goldstein is Access Services Librarian at the American University Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Carlson Library, Clarion University:
Marketing Academic Libraries
By Howard F. McGinn
The academic library, like most libraries, has a self-imposed image problem. The library, tradition says, must be perceived as a center for serious thought and contemplation, a place where a person acquires knowledge in order to develop her or his mind. The librarians and staff who work in the libraries must be perceived as serious scholars who are making significant contributions to rigorous research. And herein lies the problem for a marketing person: how to bring customers into an environment that often chooses to present itself as a place where even life insurance salesmen would look like party animals. The good news is that the image can easily be changed. Marketing an academic library can be successful.
The Clarion Case Study
I was appointed dean of university libraries at Clarion University, a state university in Pennsylvania, three years ago. I came out of worlds different from the academic library: corporate sales and management and public libraries. When I arrived on campus to begin work I discovered that, over the years, a serious disconnect between the library and the rest of the campus had been occurring. There was no one reason for the disconnect. It had just happened as it does so often in institutions that are over 130 years old.
But the groundwork for a library-centered renaissance was already being laid when I arrived. The president of the university had fought hard over a period of years to obtain funding for a new, technologically state-of-the-art library, and she succeeded. When I arrived on campus, the architectural planning for a new $15 million facility had been completed and demolition of the old facility was ready to begin. There was a new provost. He was the former dean of Clarion’s AACSB accredited College of Business. His area was marketing. His marching orders for me: Build the building and bring in customers. The building was completed. The customers have been pouring into the building. The library’s budget has been increasing substantially. Most importantly, the staff has been revitalized. What did we do?
The Plan—or Lack of Plan
New buildings, of course, bring in new customers. The challenge for a library staff is to keep these customers coming back once the novelty of a new facility has worn off. Our marketing effort had to be constructed in a manner that brought faculty and students into the building while creating a foundation that would make them want to return. I use the term “effort” and not “plan” deliberately. It has been my experience that formal marketing plans are most useful when the products or services are established and significant sums of money are involved or when new products are being introduced at a significant expense. Marketing plans for libraries often introduce a needless layer of bureaucracy that most often gives administrators reasons NOT to do something. Management and staff must have flexibility in forming marketing efforts in order to respond quickly to opportunities and/or problems that require a marketing solution.
So with no plan in place, we initiated the marketing effort. In fact the effort started before the demolition of the old building started. The move into the new facility was two years in the future. Instead of a plan, the following “guidelines” are being used:
- Everyone Is a Salesperson. All library staff must be selling the library all of the time.
- Get Out Of The Office. Personal selling is important. It is especially important that library management spend time walking through the building and around campus selling the library and its services to students and faculty.
- Programming Works. Programming is an essential component of public library services. In an academic library, programming succeeds when the programs are tied into the curriculum and library services. Examples of programming are listed below.
- Make the Library a Destination. Fashion a library image that makes students and faculty want to enter the building. I sell the library as the “The Academic Center of the Campus.” Programming, selling, and other efforts revolve around this concept.
- Stop using the term Public Relations. Marketing is much more than public relations. Craft your marketing effort around different components of marketing, e.g. product development, customer service, advertising, sales, programming, promotional gimmicks, etc. It will help create a different mindset for employees.
- Know your product. You are not selling the library as a fun place to be. You are selling the library as a crucial component in the educational process. You are selling information products and services. You are selling instruction. And you are selling an experience - the library as a comfortable, welcoming, enjoyable environment.
- Form Marketing Partnerships. Segment the market. Treat each academic department as a separate market for services and as a partner in creating services. At the present time, for example, I have cooperative ventures underway with the Honors Program, the Athletic Department, Mathematics, Small Business Development Center, Theatre, Nursing, Biology, Music, Women’s Studies, Philosophy, Special Education, Computer Center and Computer Science. I work closely with the Faculty Senate in developing services.
- Model Wal-Mart. Library marketing is, essentially, retail marketing. In describing marketing projects with the staff, I use Wal-Mart as a model. Americans have an instinctive understanding of marketing because of their lifetime exposure to advertising, store displays, and so forth. I have found that the use of a retailing model in developing marketing efforts for a library enables library staff to more easily buy into projects.
The Dancing Bear Fair-- Clarion is a member of the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. (PALCI). In early 2000 PALCI introduced its URSA program that offers user-generated interlibrary loan requests from academic libraries throughout the state. We launched this program by holding an outdoor Dancing Bear Fair. The Fair featured a ringmaster (English Professor), fortune teller (Graduate Dean), card dealer (English Professor), jugglers, mimes, street actors, an Elvis impersonator, and a dancing bear. (We contacted an animal trainer who worked with bears but decided to go with a student in a bear suit.) We handed out the usual trinkets—pens and plastic paper clips with the library’s home page listed. Financial support and door prizes were donated by businesses in the community.
The WIZ and The DigiWIZ-- We inaugurated our advertising effort by introducing The WIZ. The WIZ was an irreverent one-page library newsletter that was pasted above every urinal and on the back of every bathroom stall door on campus. The WIZ listed great web sites, puzzles, search strategies, and general information about the library. There were occasional theme issues. For example there was an edition devoted to mathematics with copy submitted by the math faculty. The WIZ has been replaced by the digiWIZ. Check it out at www.clarion.edu/library/digiWIZ.html.
The Center for Academic Excellence -- The Center for Academic Excellence is a joint program of the library and the university’s Honors Program. It is designed to celebrate Clarion University’s rich heritage of excellent teaching and learning. In a deliberate mimicking of athletic department trophy cases, the Center has a display area for academic trophies and plaques. When completed it will list faculty and student honors such as Fulbright Fellow or Goldwater Fellows, faculty publications, and so forth. The Center, which adjoins the new university art gallery located in the new library, has a vital programming component. Examples of events held: statewide women’s studies conference, poetry slams, Rotary lunches, continuing education programs, new student orientation programs, Honors classes, intercollegiate debates, football and swimming team study halls, and political debates. Coming in the Spring 2003 semester: brown bag lunch concerts and one act plays.
Women’s Health Fair -- In collaboration with the Women’s Studies Program and the School of Nursing, a three-day Woman’s Health Fair was held for students and faculty. Services offered were breast exams (actual exams and instructions on how to self-exam), sexual counseling, counseling to help stop smoking, nutritional counseling, and so forth. This program will be expanded in the Spring 2003 semester to include prostate exams for men and calcium level checks for women.
In a very short period of time the goal of establishing the library as the academic center of campus has been achieved.
- Attendance increased 50 percent over the last year of full operations in the old library. Clarion’s full time enrollment is approx. 5,900 students. Door count from July 2002 through December 2002 was 171,337 people. During final exam week, over 3,500 students entered the library each night for three consecutive nights.
- There has been a 50% budget increase for books, databases, and technology.
- Collaboration by faculty and administration with the library has increased substantially.
Why It Worked
Clarion's marketing program has succeeded rapidly in establishing the library as the academic center of the campus for four main reasons:
Leveraging of existing university resources. The only costs incurred
that were not covered by existing university funds were for food, prizes, and decorations for projects. These items were donated by local businesses. When academic colleges and departments collaborated with the library they brought their sources of funds to the projects.
Retail mindset. Though the staff felt uneasy with my use of the term “customer” instead of the more traditional term “patron,” they quickly began to understand how to apply retail philosophy to library services. The staff training curve was short. Today all library employees, library faculty, and staff have a new sense of pride and energy and are contributing terrific ideas to market the library.
Collaboration. Many faculty members became advocates for the library when they began to see that partnering with the library could assist their teaching and research. Younger faculty quickly saw that involvement in the very visible library projects helped them gain the notice needed to help in their tenure quest. It is important to make sure that the departments that are collaborating get substantial publicity. One rule of thumb I use is that all marketing projects must have a curricular tie-in or offer an essential information service, e.g. health care.
Selling. Management got out of their offices and sold library services. No amount of brochures or pamphlets can substitute for face-to-face selling. When managers “walk the floors and the campus,” they also learn first-hand what the needs of the customers are. First hand understanding of the problems can result in quick solving of problems. Face-to-face contact also produces marketing opportunities.
Creative marketing. Exhibits, book talks, lecture series, and other cultural programming are valuable components of a marketing effort but they tend to be predictable and dull. A marketing effort must infuse excitement. A marketing effort must incorporate humor.
Academic libraries tend to be perceived as dull because librarians have made substantial efforts in making them dull. The image of our libraries will change when we do.
Howard F. McGinn is Dean of University Libraries at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. He holds an M.B.A. from Campbell University and is completing his Ph.D. in Information Management in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Milner Library, Illinois State University:
Exciting things happen @ your library™
By Toni Tucker
Milner Library at Illinois State University created a public relations campaign incorporating the American Library Association’s @ your library TM brand to kick off our library’s first formal marketing effort. The goal: to create a consistent and memorable message about Milner Library.
This initiative was a direct result of a campus survey designed to measure both overall satisfaction with library services and awareness of services offered by Milner Library. All faculty and a random sampling of students were surveyed. The survey findings showed that many faculty and students did not recognize services currently being offered. Up to this point public relations had been done on an “as needed” basis by whoever thought to do it. The survey results made it evident that Milner Library needed a formal public relations program.
In April 2001 the dean of the library appointed a librarian to head up a public relations program. In July 2001 the public relations position was made official with the title of Assistant to the Dean for Grant Writing and Public Relations—recognition that having a public relations representative was important and valued in an academic library. The next step was to form a Public Relations Team, headed by the newly appointed Assistant to the Dean for Grant Writing and Public Relations, to address the need to market or publicize library services. In April 2001 the head of the PR Team attended an Alliance Library System meeting introducing the American Library Association's @ your library campaign. The PR Team enthusiastically resolved to plan Milner's marketing initiative around the ALA theme with the following goals and objectives:
Goal: Create a consistent message about Milner Library.
Objective: Students and faculty will think of Milner Library Illinois State University as their library whenever they see the @ your library brand throughout the American Library's Association’s (ALA) multi-year campaign.
Goal: Convey the services provided by Milner Library.
Objective: Milner Library will repeat the user survey in 2003—50 percent of students and faculty surveyed will have a better awareness of services provided by the library.
Goal: Make the Milner Library a vital part of everyday campus life.
Objective: The Library will become more active and visible in the life of the university by having speakers in the library and having the library participate in campus activities such as homecoming, festivals etc. Milner will be thought of as an integral part of the campus community.
National Library Week 2001 was selected for the launch of the library’s marketing campaign. Prior to National Library Week, a contest was held to select a message for Milner Library based on ALA’s @ your library brand. Students, faculty, and staff participated by submitting theme lines and voting for their favorite. More than 60 theme lines were received with “Power Up @ your library” receiving the most votes. The theme was used throughout the year on library promotional materials and giveaways. Post-it-notes and pencils were passed out at the library reference desk and student activities around the campus, including the Spring Fling held on the campus quad. Other activities included colorful banners hung around the library and ads placed in the student newspaper, faculty newsletter, student planners, and poster-size calendars.
As part of their planning, the PR Team looked at ways for the library to expand its presence in campus activities. For example, in fall of 2001, library staff members formed a drill team and marched in the parade as the “Milner Library Bookends and Bookettes.” The library dean and associate dean marched along with the drill team passing out red plastic bookmarks in the shape of the @ sign that corresponded with the homecoming theme “A redbird celebration @ your library.” Our 2002 theme “Catch the Redbird Spirit @ your library” appeared on red Frisbees given away during the homecoming parade in October through the streets of downtown Normal. Coincidental or not, the library has taken first place in the homecoming parade in the two years since we adopted the ALA theme.
“Information - Knowledge @ your library” was selected as the theme for Passages 2001, a four-day orientation program for freshmen and transfer students held prior to the fall semester. Incoming freshmen receive a calendar poster highlighting activities on campus during the school year. Milner Library purchased an ad on the calendar. Freshmen also receive a Passages Planner. Milner Library placed the same ad in the planner. An ad was also placed in the welcome back edition of the campus newspaper The Daily Vidette. The goal of using the same ad was to have students connect the message to the library. The library also had several booths around campus during orientation highlighting library services. A special giveaway was a penlight with the “Power up @ your library” theme. One student said, “This is the most useful item I have received during orientation.”
The PR Team also decided to have speakers in the library instead of sponsoring speakers and having them present in the student center. The goal was for students and faculty to connect the speaker to library sponsorship and promote the library as part of the intellectual center of the campus. Richard Preston, author of The Cobra Event and The Hot Zone, spoke in the library on November 13, 2001. His presentation was publicized as part of our @ your library campaign.
Coincidentally, Illinois State University launched its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign in 2001. Each college, including Milner Library, was directed to develop a campaign brochure, paid for by the university, to raise funds to support the college's goals, which included $3 million for the library. The theme for the library’s brochure combined the university’s campaign theme “Refining ‘normal’” with @ your library. Again, the goal was to integrate the @ your library theme into all aspects of library activities.
In 2002, the Milner Library continued to use the @ your library theme, one example being the 1.5 millionth volume added to its collection, a milestone that we proactively used to promote awareness of the library. To highlight this event, the Dean of the Library asked a number of local, state, and national dignitaries to nominate a book, collection, or artifact that they thought Illinois State University should honor as its 1.5 millionth volume. Nominations included contemporary, historical, print, and electronic formats. When all the nominations were in, a ballot was prepared both in paper and electronic format. Students, faculty, staff, alums, Friends of Milner Library, and community members were encouraged to vote by paper ballot or electronically from the library’s home page. The campaign slogan “1.5 million volumes @ your library was used on magnets, posters, electronic message boards across campus, local newspapers, campus newspapers, and at voting booths. The promotion served to increase awareness of the library on campus, in the community, among alumni and legislators, also potential funders who were asked to nominate a title.
Other activities included a handsome new series of brochures aimed at students, transfer students, parents, and faculty. A Friends of Milner Library brochure is the newest brochure in the series identifying the benefits of being a friend.
Having ALA’s theme to work with gave the library PR Committee a place to start when looking at marketing services and activities. It made the task of deciding how to market services a little less stressful and helped the library to do a better job.
No formal evaluation has been done of our marketing program; however, there have been several indications of success. One informal survey found that 37 out of 50 students thought of the Milner Library when they saw the message “Power up @ your library.” In December 2001 the Office of Student Life chose Milner as the Office of the Month for the campus. Milner was cited for its helpfulness, to go the extra distance, and participation in Quad Fest, Passages, Homecoming, and other activities. Attendance at activities such as author events has increased. And we at the Milner Library have learned some important lessons:
Having a point person in charge of marketing and public relations ensures a consistent message to the target audience will be communicated.
It’s OK to have fun. Each year during the homecoming parade the library receives loud cheers “Go Milner.” The library staff is getting the reputation of being a fun group who is not afraid to let their hair down and show support for campus activities.
Even an academic library needs to market services to those it serves.
Whether it is because of the consistent theme or the fact that with the theme we are doing a better job of marketing, I’m not sure. But, Milner Library is getting the word out that “Exciting things happen @ your library.”
Toni Tucker is assistant to the Dean for Grant Writing and Public Relations at Illinois State. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russell Library, Georgia College and State University:
Turning Ideas Into Action
By Kimberley Barker
Academic libraries today have only recently begun to realize what public libraries have long known: patrons do not have to use our services. The proliferation of information on and ease of access to the Internet have many convinced that they are skilled researchers and need no training or assistance from librarians. This is a gross misconception, but the way to convince our various publics—students, faculty and administrators—is NOT to directly confront them, but rather to reach out to them—through exhibits, programs, and promotions—and let them see for themselves what they’ve been missing.
As with instruction in the 1980’s, public relations/outreach is just now beginning to receive validation. Its fruition will change the face of academic librarianship, just as instruction did. In the past year, both Libjobs and The Chronicle of Higher Education have posted several announcements for academic library positions that included some component of outreach responsibilities. Though different institutions define “outreach” in different ways (including work with underserved populations and multicultural involvement, in addition to marketing and public relations), a growing number agree that it is a concept important to their continued growth.
In my own case, I embrace a broad definition of outreach, so that I don’t define myself out of any opportunity. For instance, I was approached by two other campus offices about working with them to establish a SCALE (Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education) program on our campus. The SCALE program will be geared towards paraprofessionals and community members, who would like to become literate or improve their literacy skills. If my campus colleagues thought that I defined “outreach” as only work with faculty and students, I would have missed the chance to involve my library in a very natural partnership based around literacy and giving back to our university family.
Having begun my career in an academic outreach position four years ago, and having continued to work in this niche, I’ve had the opportunity to make history and to meet others who are doing the same. In this case study, I share ideas and concepts based on my own experiences, and encourage readers to extrapolate these to their own situations.
First step: Take stock of what you have.
Though creating an outreach program may seem like a daunting task, it might help to realize that libraries, by their very nature, conduct outreach activities every day. Each class that is taught, each hour spent on the reference desk, each individual research session with graduate students, each exhibit mounted in the library—all of these are outreach activities. However, they might not be part of an overall, cohesive effort and, as such, may not be perceived as “outreach” by the university community or even librarians themselves. An important first step in planning is taking stock of your collections, services, programs, and promotional activities and then using them as a foundation for developing your outreach program. Consider which programs and promotional strategies have been effective and why. You may also want to research other campus activities that have been successful, and ask yourself what made them so. What was the focus of the event? Was there a special occasion? Who was the target audience? What was the format of the event? These questions are a useful way to begin gathering information.
Second step: Determine who your target audience is.
Once you’ve inventoried what you have in regard to programs and materials, consider who might be most interested in and benefit from them, also strategies for how to reach them. Is there a new database around which you could create a “lunch & learn” for busy faculty? Is it possible for you to speak briefly at the orientation for graduate students and tell them about your Student Thesis Assistance Program? Any opportunity, no matter how small, should be seized. Perhaps a good tip is to consider the schedules of your target audience: What are particularly busy times for them? Do they have a lounge of their own where they take breaks and study, and in which you might post flyers advertising events geared toward them, or even show up with a laptop in order to demonstrate resources helpful to them?
If your library is looking for inspiration for an outreach/promotion activity, look no further than your calendar. In addition to National Library Week and Banned Books Week, there are many holidays and other observances than lend themselves to library promotion. For instance, last year I planned my library’s first-ever “Your Library Loves You Day,” an event held on Valentine’s Day. I positioned myself at a busy area on campus with romance and relationship-themed items from our collection, Valentine’s Day candy, pencils, and free print coupons for the library computers (where a fee is usually charged). To add a faculty outreach component, I created “valentines” that were sent to teaching faculty in the name of their library liaison. The response from both students and faculty was overwhelming. Students expressed amazement over materials they never knew we owned and thanked us for the printing coupons. The university president came by and said that she loved what the library was doing in terms of outreach. Faculty called or e-mailed their liaison to request assistance with research and library instruction. All the feedback indicated that while the library did indeed love its users, the library was loved in return. After identifying events you’d like to host, search past university calendars to see if another campus office hosts a similar event near that same time. If they are related, perhaps that office and your library can collaborate and create an even better event.
Third Step: Determine what sort of “style” is appropriate for your university.
When you think about your university, what sort of image comes to mind? A majestic tower on a hill, glowing with the accumulated knowledge of years? A kaleidoscope of bold colors and the voices of students involved in the latest political protest? The roar of the school’s theme song as sung by football fans?
When planning an event, consideration of the culture, the mindset, the shared values of the university is crucial. An event that jars against the “feel” of the university will not draw an audience and might possibly alienate you from those you’re trying to attract. Consider university events that have been successful in the past and think about what made them so. Is basketball huge at your school? Why not set up a table at the homecoming game and showcase not only sports resources from the collection, but also basketball memorabilia from the library archives? The saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a useful motto. That isn’t to say that you should be afraid to take risks and try new programs, simply that you should consider how to better integrate those programs with the culture of your particular university, and give yourself every chance for success.
In speaking of “style,” there is an important tool which academic librarians are often afraid to employ when planning programs: humor. Many librarians might not agree, and to them I say that there are as many different styles of humor as there are libraries. From Three Stooges-slapstick to a Dorothy Parker-like wit, I would argue that there is a humor style for everyone . . . or every library. Humor, when used correctly, is a powerful tool and can accomplish much in terms of helping shape your library’s image; it makes us more approachable, not ridiculous. I assure you: it is possible to be humorous and still maintain one’s academic dignity.
My library uses humorous signage around the building to encourage patrons to ask for help. For example, one sign has a picture of a skeleton reading a book with the words “Just one more library user who waited too long to ask for help. Please ask before it's too late!” Another sign features the cast of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000”. Below their picture are the words: “Need help mocking a movie? Ask these guys! Need help with your research? Ask your librarian!” Patrons often comment that the signs encouraged them to ask the reference librarian for help, as they assumed we must truly want them to approach us if we’d gone to the trouble to hang signs. In this case, humor certainly equals an increase in reference statistics, as well as a higher comfort level for our users.
Fourth Step: Promote, promote, promote!
You’ve identified an exciting collection and found the perfect target audience. You’ve arranged to bring the two together in a meaningful, fun, educational way. You’ve ordered refreshments. You have, in fact, covered all the bases except for publicity. Think of it this way: if you decide to host a party and spend days getting the food and music ready but forget to send out invitations, you have only yourself to blame if you’re sitting alone on the day of the party. Publicity may seem like a huge and unfamiliar task, but most campuses have an office for University Relations or similar department staffed by communication professionals whose job it is to help promote events such as yours. They will generally be glad to send announcements about your exhibit/gallery talk/ Friends of the Library event to the campus information Web page, area newspapers, and metro magazines, thus garnering more than local attention for your event. You also should consider establishing a library newsletter if you don’t already have one, and shamelessly use it to promote, inform, and educate your community about the great things happening at your library.
We are fortunate to live in an age when communication is so abundant, effortless, and effective. Besides the time-honored college tradition of plastering every campus building with colorful posters, mass mailings through the campus post office, and relying on word of mouth, we also have the technology to create Web pages, and send e-mail, thereby vastly increasing the number of people we can reach instantaneously. Taking the time to establish a standard set of publicity guidelines will create a huge payoff in terms of those you are able to reach, who will attend your events, and who will ultimately become avid library users and supporters.
Fifth Step: Make a timetable.
For that you need another kind of plan—a calendar/timetable with key dates for implementation of your outreach program. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can share is to plan ahead. You will greatly reduce your stress and the stress of those around you if you allow plenty of time for planning. Plus, this time allows more in-depth, detail-oriented planning. To this end, two of the best tools you can have are a calendar and a red pen. Go through the calendar month-by-month for the entire year, identifying key dates for your programs and promotions. Though it’s the first step, it isn’t enough simply to mark the actual day or week of the event: You must also mark off the planning steps.
For instance, if you are having speakers you need to make a notation to invite them in plenty of time before the event. “Plenty of time” might mean a month or six months depending on the speaker and nature of the event. You will also want to mark a confirmation date closer to the event. Are you having refreshments? If so, make a notation on your calendar about contacting campus catering or whoever will be providing the food. Again, the more notice you can give, the better for them, and definitely the better for you as you’ll be booked first in case they get too busy. Are you ordering programs, stickers, bookmarks, anything that requires printing? If so, contact your on-campus print shop immediately and tell them what you need. If they can’t fulfill your order for whatever reason, you have plenty of time to find a business that can. Plus, you’ll need time to describe what you need, for the graphic artist to present you with a proof, for you to make changes to the proof and send it back, for you to approve the final design, etc. Another aspect of creating an outreach/promotion plan is budget. While an outreach line item may not be in your immediate future, there are other options such as: foundation money, dues collected from Friends’ memberships (often earmarked for special events, but double check your Friends’ literature just to be safe), food donations from local bakeries for your events, etc. Check with the student services office and ask their advice. This should buy you some time until you can convince The Powers That Be that outreach is important and deserves its own budget. Most colleges and universities are keenly aware of its value these days and tend to be supportive of efforts that will enhance their image both to internal and external audiences.
Besides planning up to a year in advance, I suggest you utilize both your creativity and your common sense in developing an outreach program. The “two C’s” are great companions for one another as creativity tells you anything can be done, and common sense helps figure out practical solutions for making it happen. These two, along with professional courtesy, your calendar and red pen, and a budget are your main tools. Use them fearlessly, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your outreach program will begin to grow.
Kimberley R. Barker is assistant professor and coordinator of programs and promotions for the Russell Library at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Ga. She can be reached at 478-445-0981 or email@example.com.
Making Promotion a Priority
By Kristan Runyan
Since its inception in 1992, OhioLINK (Ohio Library and Information Network), a consortium of Ohio's college and university libraries and the State Library of Ohio, has been committed to promoting its services to students and faculty. Over time, we have produced a variety of printed publications reflecting the development and addition of new institutions and services. These include traditional print items like posters, bookmarks, and a newsletter provided to participating institutions for their use. In 2001, the OhioLINK community made promotion of library services a priority as participating libraries realized they were competing directly with other information providers. A Promotions Task Force of the User Services Committee was charged with developing an annual plan of promotion to students and faculty. This plan (following) incorporated existing promotional strategies and tools and introduced new ones.
OhioLINK publishes several publications on a regular basis. These include the OhioLINK Update , a twice-yearly newsletter directed at faculty and legislators. The four-page newsletter reports on the OhioLINK program, its services and new improvements. The core message is one of progress. More than 30,000 copies are distributed to all OhioLINK-affiliated campuses and to all Ohio legislators, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the executive branch officers.
A second major publication is the OhioLINK Snapshot, a 12-16 page document published and mailed each March. The Snapsho t, which serves as our annual report, gives the big picture of the program’s growth. Filled with colorful graphs and short blurbs of text, it is a quick read that provides a basic understanding of the program’s success. The document is sent to the same mailing list as the Update. OhioLINK also mails copies of the Snapshot to the presidents, provosts, and chief instruction officers at all affiliated institutions.
The OhioLINK Update and Snapshot may be viewed online at www.ohiolink.edu/about/. Other historically printed items include the OhioLINK brochure, a basic introductory three-fold brochure that highlights services and participants, also a variety of bookmarks highlighting remote access and new services.
Based on their own and their colleagues’ observations and experiences, the Promotions Task Force determined that many faculty members were not aware of the diverse resources available from their library and OhioLINK. To reach faculty, OhioLINK created a series of “teaser” postcards followed by a single “benefit” sheet. The postcards had eye-catching phrases such as “Bad Bibliographies” and encouraged faculty to work with librarians and instruct their students to take advantage of OhioLINK and other library resources. The postcards were printed four per sheet on laser printer-compatible stock and were pre-perforated. This allowed individual libraries to print their own URLs and local information and drop them in their campus mail. The benefit sheet highlighted actual services using real examples, such as how a faculty member might bookmark an article in the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center.
The task force wanted students to know that library resources were readily available online, just like the dot-com competitors. They also wanted to communicate the message that the library is a destination as much as the trendy bookstores. A primary strategy was to develop a series of RESEARCH posters featuring celebrity graduates of Ohio colleges and universities and local campus “celebrities”. The posters were modeled after the popular ALA READ campaign posters. OhioLINK chose RESEARCH as the theme for both its simplicity and appropriateness for an academic audience.
The first RESEARCH poster did not feature a celebrity. Instead, it used the graphic design of the RESEARCH poster in conjunction with the @ your library ™ logo from ALA. This poster is a glossy eye-catching piece. Each campus received between 6 and 40 posters, based on size.
Our attempts to reach the Ohio-graduated celebrities first went through our OhioLINK member library directors and alumni relation’s offices. This was not a successful approach – the alumni offices were very protective of their relationships. The individual campus celebrity posters were more successful. Using an OhioLINK-created template, several campuses created posters featuring faculty and others. Cleveland State University contacted Meet the Press Moderator Tim Russert, a graduate of the Cleveland State Law School, and he agreed to be featured both at Cleveland State and across Ohio. Edison State Community College featured four prominent faculty with backgrounds and books associated with each one’s academic discipline.
To support the RESEARCH message, OhioLINK produced a variety of promotional items for individual libraries to purchase. These included travel mugs, mini-dry marker memo boards, two types of pens, Post-Its, pencils, and ID/Keyholders. Again, the goal was to further the two key messages of readily available resources and the library as a destination.
An online catalog featuring the items and suggestions for using them is available at www.ohiolink.edu/ostaff/promo/promo.html . Libraries were encouraged to use these items to get the word out by purchasing them in large quantities for distribution such as to all new students, or, in the case of larger, more expensive items like mugs and memo boards, giving them to the first 100 visitors to the library, participants in library tours, or questioners at the reference desk.
Over the last two years, participating institutions have discovered a number of creative uses for these items. Cleveland State University invested in Post-Its for its library staff. Rather than use these like ordinary Post-Its, they were used as a promotional tool—anything sent to faculty went out with a note from the librarian on a RESEARCH Post-It.
Other campuses used promotional items to implement new library policies. For example, many academic libraries have developed a user-friendly drink policy. The catch—a drink must be in a sealed, reusable container. At Ohio University, the librarians worked to develop better relationships with their students while introducing their new policy. When they saw a student with a throwaway cup, they offered the student a RESEARCH travel mug while explaining the need for a sealed, reusable cup.
While it is difficult to measure the direct impact of the campaign, the User Services Committee has concluded that the plan’s techniques were successful based on positive feedback from the target audiences. The 2002 faculty materials were revised to incorporate feedback received by members of the Promotions Task Force and the User Services Committee. Formal assessment was contemplated but was foregone because of the broad implementation of the spring 2002 LibQUAL survey (www.arl.org/libqual/geninfo/faqgen.html). We did not think that we could field an additional survey and did not want to draw away any potential respondents to the 2002 LibQUALsurvey. The LibQUAL survey does provide a broad baseline measure of users satisfaction with our communication techniques. Future LibQUAL surveys will help to measure changes in perception of satisfaction with our communication techniques. More detailed assessment of our promotional activities also will need to be considered.
Our electronic resource usage trends are quite strong this year. It would be a stretch to attribute that growth or some portion of it directly to these activities. But we believe these promotional activities are essential contributors and will continue to explore new strategies for delivering our message.
OhioLINK is a consortium of 17 public universities, 23 community/technical colleges, 42 private colleges and the State Library of Ohio. Kristan Runyan served as OhioLINK communications manager through December 2002. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
OhioLINK Annual Promotion Plan
Fall 2001 (and Beyond)
Objective: To have faculty and students think of OhioLINK and their local library's web sites as the portals of choice for research.
Tools: A series of two teaser postcards and one “benefit” sheet. Postcards will be printed four to an 8.5 X 11 sheet and perforated. Following info printed on one side. Other side is blank for you to personalize. Benefit sheet will 8.5 X 11 printed on one side. Numbers shipped to individual campuses will be equal to the counts used for the OhioLINK Update. OhioLINK will cover the cost of all three pieces of the faculty promotion.
First postcard – Tired of bad bibliographies? Visit OhioLINK and your librarians.
Second postcard – 24/7 – Bookmark it! OhioLINK and your library ( www.ohiolink.edu )
Benefit sheet – More than a library tour…
Will be a 2-column sheet listing faculty benefits of OhioLINK on one-side and student benefits on the other. Examples – faculty can save a search for their favorite journal and be notified when a new copy arrives in the EJC. Students can log on and read an assigned article from ProQuest by using the assigned URL.
Yearlong goal: develop a series of RESEARCH posters using Ohio celebrities. This campaign will look like the ALA READ campaign. We plan to approach Ohio celebrities (either born here or graduated from Ohio college) that have completed a Bachelor’s degree (supporting the validity of the Research message). OhioLINK will provide each campus with a set of these posters.
A kick-off poster for fall: Research @ your library. Again, this plays off of ALA’s national (@ your library ™ brand. Also, it is something we can have printed and on campus for the fall. OhioLINK will provide each campus with a set of these posters.
Research poster template: A Pagemaker (or similar) file containing the RESEARCH poster template will be available to each campus for the fall. This template can be used by the individual campus to create a local poster. Possibilities to consider: a local basketball star, a favorite faculty member, or the Student Senate president. This poster will be developed, printed, and distributed wholly by the individual campus. OhioLINK is providing the template.
Promotional items with RESEARCH and a short tag line. Tag lines include:
- Start at your library.
- Don't do a paper without it.
- Ask the people who know... your librarians.
- Visit the site with the answers . . . www.ohiolink.edu
Large quantity distribution items. These very inexpensive items could be placed in bags at the campus book store, handed out on the college green, used at a library open house, distributed to all freshmen, or any other high volume distribution method.
Pencils – could be as cheap as 6/$1
Sticky-note pads (25 sheets) – could be as cheap as 3/$1
Highlighters – could be as cheap as 2/$1
Limited quantity distribution items. These could be handed out to “the first 100 visitors to the library” completing a library tour, asking a question at the reference desk, etc.
Message memo boards with erasable pen – could be as cheap as 60 cents/each
ID holder/key ring – could be as cheap as 75/cents each
“Two-sider” pen and highlighter combo – could be as cheap as $1.25/each
Multi-message barrel pens (would have all RESEARCH tag lines) – could be as cheap as $2/each
Basic 16 oz. Coffee mugs – could be as cheap as $2/each
Sleek 16 oz. Coffee mugs – could be as cheap as $4/each
Promotional items would be ordered and paid for by an individual campus/institution. The benefit would be the quantity discount available to OhioLINK for high volume. The downside to ordering through OhioLINK is that the default URL would have to be the OhioLINK URL. There is a small possibility that the prices could be even less, if extremely large quantities are ordered. If sufficient quantities are not ordered, prices could also be higher.
Other items planned for the year will include the regular fall and spring OhioLINK Update, an expanded OhioLINK Snapshot, and a revised OhioLINK brochure. These are part of the regular OhioLINK printing cycle and will be provided for the campuses.
Also under consideration: banners for the libraries. The Promotion Task Force is still investigating the cost of building banners. These would most likely be an individual campus purchase.
University of Nevada-Las Vegas Libraries:
By Ken Marks
Like many academic libraries the University of Nevada -- Las Vegas (UNLV) Libraries had a haphazard history of marketing their collections and services. This fact was brought into focus with the opening of a new main library in early January 2001. The days and weeks leading to the opening of the new library were filled with myriad problems and details so no one thought about marketing except to address the dedication of the facility.
The design of the new library and the overwhelming response of the campus to the new facility had two results. First, the university adopted the building as a new symbol for the academic face of the campus. Second, the library had to introduce the entire campus community to the building and the new services offered.
Our efforts focused on three areas: publications, a greeter program, and tours. Library staff produced and distributed thousands of new brochures, guides, pamphlets, and flyers. As part of an effort to make visitors to the building more comfortable, a greeter program was begun. Library staff took one- or two- hour periods to welcome people to the building and answer questions as soon as they entered the library. This program continues although in reduced form at the beginning of each semester. Tours became, and remain, an important way to introduce people to the libraries and market our services. Classes, prospective students and their parents, athletic recruits, possible donors, new student, and faculty receive orientation tours.
By mid-2001 the need for a libraries' marketing and publicity committee was apparent. The Dean established a committee of six staff to create a marketing and publicity program. After a new libraries’ development officer was hired, she joined the committee. A key component of this effort was the development of a marketing plan. As preliminary drafts of the marketing plan were prepared, the budget implications of the proposals were reviewed and decisions made on the final allocation of funds for marketing and publicity.
As 2001 came to a close, the libraries benefited from the work of two other campus units: Reprographics and Campus Marketing and Community Relations. Establishing good working relationships with campus marketing and public relations departments is a wise investment of time and energy for any librarian. Reprographics, in an effort to create saleable products, created a number of products with the image of the new library featured prominently. A calendar, poster, note cards, and bookmarks made up the set. When we purchased several thousand of each item we asked that the @ your library logo and the libraries’ URL be added to the one-word statement “Enlightenment” that was featured on the items. The calendars, posters, and bookmarks were given away to all persons entering the libraries at the beginning of spring semester 2002.
The director of Campus Marketing arranged for the new library and its services to be featured in a 30 second TV promotional that was done to inform the Las Vegas community about university resources. Additionally, the director arranged for a number of radio spots for all academic colleges on the local public radio station. The libraries were able to take advantage of this opportunity. The cost of these marketing efforts would have been beyond the libraries’ budget and ability to gain access to the media outlets.
Throughout the past two years opportunities to speak to civic and service groups have been actively sought for the library dean, director of Special Collections, and other library staff. While the early focus was on marketing the libraries to students, faculty, and staff, the range of emphasis has widened. Marketing to the campus community continues, but these efforts now include catalysts and influencers as we work to inform the larger community of the importance of the UNLV Libraries. Marketing to major sectors of the business community and prospective donors will take a larger portion of the libraries resources.
The University of Nevada -- Las Vegas has several publications that are targeted for the campus community. Every month there is an opportunity to report on services, collections, and activities that we want to keep in front of faculty and staff.
The libraries participated in the LibQual+ survey of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty administered during spring 2002 to gauge perceptions of and satisfaction with library services, collections, and staff. The results confirmed that UNLV Libraries needed to improve its marketing efforts to inform the campus community about services and resources. A number of focus groups were also held with randomly selected groups of graduate students to gain additional information about the results that came from the survey. A major outcome of these focus groups is the development of much more persistent communication with the graduate student community. Similar focus groups will be held with faculty following up on the LibQual+ survey in spring 2003. It is evident already the sustained marketing of collections, services must be instituted.
How do you measure the success of a marketing program? UNLV Libraries staff did not identify or establish a set of metrics that might confirm whether the efforts had been successful. Looking at the traditional indicators of library activity there is evidence that the primary customer groups are increasing their use of library facilities, collections, and services. Visits to the libraries have increased 26.9% in the first four months of FY03 and out of building circulation has increased 41.5% in the same period. These increases have come at the same time that remote access to library resources has experienced double digit increases.
We have had our successes in marketing the UNLV Libraries, but we have not done nearly enough. While we must expand our efforts with undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty, we must extend our activities to include those influencers that can affect our future.
Ken Marks is dean of University Libraries at the University of Nevada -- Las Vegas and chair of the ACRL @ your library Task Force. He can be reached at 702-895-2286 or email@example.com.