Publicity, programming & promotion - What works: good ideas from ALSC members

kids! campaign logo

 Helping Parents Help Their Kids | Helping Homeschoolers |  Enriching After School Time |  Promoting Books & Reading |  Making Time for Families |  Making Learning Fun |  More Ideas

The “Kids! @ your library®” campaign spotlights the many ways that libraries help children to read, learn and have fun. The following are just a few examples. Our thanks to all who shared their programs and ideas.

   Helping Parents Help Their Kids

The Helmerick Library in Tulsa, Okla., offers a monthly program titled “Catalog Searching for Moms and Dads.”  The program, held in the evening, teaches parents how to help find homework materials both online and in print, also “tips and tricks” to help them find the right books for their child's homework assignment or reading interests.
—Darla L'Allier, Youth Services Librarian, Tulsa City-County (Okla.) Library System

I have found that a "Read Aloud Workshop" for parents works best to get children to attend programs at the library. Parents receive helpful hints about reading to their children, reading and discussing books with them. They also can sign up their children for library programs.
—Lydia Kugel, Youth Services Supervisor, Imperial Point Branch, Broward County (Fla.) Library

   Helping Homeschoolers

The Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) Public Library holds a quarterly lunch program for parents of homeschool children. The program helps parents learn more about what the library has to offer, including previews of new materials. The library also offers special programs for homeschool children to help them use the library.
—Marcia Nelson, Children's Librarian, Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) Public Library

Our library offers a once-a-month program called "Just for homeschoolers."  We focus primarily on online resources and activities that they can use in their schooling. I have made up a flyer listing some general resources that the library provides online and how to get to them. Topics have included science fair resources and Women's History Month Resources. The program is promoted in the county library's monthly magazine of events and on our library's website. I also email information to my contacts for local homeschool groups, so they forward the information to their mailing lists.
—Beth Blankley, Youth Services Librarian, Public Library Services, Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center, Nova Southeastern University (Fla.)


Enriching After School Time

We have a great program called "The 6-11 Club."  Six- to 11-year-olds meet the second Monday of each month from 4-5 p.m. for snacks, crafts, games, movies and more—all tied to the theme of the day. Themes include "The Olympics", "Kites and Other Fun Paper Crafts” and “Earth Day." For "The Olympics," kids performed a variety of feats, including completing an obstacle course and seeing how many times you could bop a balloon in the air without it touching the ground. It's been easy to sell and turnout has been good. As part of the event, kids created a mural, which served as additional in-house promotion. For the Olympics, everyone drew their favorite sport and, at the end, attached their nametags to the mural.
—Shawn Personke, Community Relations & Development Coordinator, Chelsea (Mich.) District Library

We have an afterschool program on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:30. Activities include game shows, talent shows, bingo nights and special programs like a tea party for girls or a miniature farm toys show for boys. We break it up for K-2nd grade and 3-6th grades and have around 25 kids at each session. We have NO activity room. We hold the programs at the back of the juvenile room. School buses drop kids off. We distribute flyers to teachers to help publicize the program. We also have various contests or guessing games with small prizes to help attract kids.
—Sue Schaffner, Director, Normal Memorial Library, Fayette, Ohio

We gave an afterschool program for 1st-6th graders similar to homework help. Called Book Buddies, it pairs an older kid with a younger one. They alternate reading, reading games, listening to books on tape and book art. For each 15-minute activity, they earn a star in their Book Buddies booklet. Every time they earn 15 stars, they win a prize. The program is about 1/3 homeschoolers, 1/3 middle-class kids, and 1/3 poor neighborhood kids. It meets from 3:30-4:30 on Tuesday and Wednesday from late January to mid-May with an average turnout of 10 kids each session.

We actively solicit visits from schools.  Our presentation includes tips on using the library, a scavenger hunt and “Library Jeopardy.” Kids choose from various categories—Children's Literature, Spine Labels, Library Procedures—and get very involved in the game. Finally, they check out a book and go back to school.
—David Moorhead, Children’s Librarian, Lewiston (Maine) Public Library

Our Homework Club has been a great way to get to know children and parents. It was promoted through schools and opened to grades 1st through 6th. Parents must come to the library to register their kids. There is a core group that comes to every meeting. These kids now attend other programs on weekends and bring their friends.  We have volunteer tutors from the community and from a local school tutoring program. I also tutor many of the children. It is a fun and great way to get to know children and parents.
—Jennifer Pickle, Children’s Librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Penn.), Homewood Branch

   Promoting Books and Reading

Citywide participation in summer reading jumped by almost a third last year thanks to a new cooperative program implemented by the Queens Library, New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library in cooperation with the NYC Board of Education. Publicity materials were developed jointly and distributed through schools. A central website allowed children to sign up online and submit their comments about books they read. Some teens started a blog. The libraries are cooperating again this year. The program is part of the Learning in Libraries initiative sponsored by the Wallace Foundation and administered by the Urban Libraries Council.
—Kathy Degyansky, Assistant Director, Programs & Services, Queens (N.Y.) Public Library

The Arrowhead Library System in Minnesota participated in the R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs)program last year, offering kids a chance to read to dogs. It’s a wonderful program. Not only does it help kids with their reading, it brings in new library users that might never have come in. R.E.A.D. is sponsored by the InterMontain Therapy Animal group based in Utah.
—MaryBeth Kafut, Director, Eveleth (Minn.) Public Library

We have a special reading program during the school year called the Voice of Youth Award. Students in 3rd and 4th grades, as well as 5th-8th graders, read books selected by our youth librarians. We do booktalks in schools about books on the lists. During National Library Week, students vote for their favorite books. We then ask the favorite author to visit the public library AND two schools, in the next school year. We have had Kate DiCamillo, Bruce Coville and Megan McDonald among others. Another popular is Jr. Great Books for 2nd-4th graders.
—Jan Watkins, Head of Youth Services, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library

   Making Time for Families

Our "Family" programs have been extremely well received in our community (pop. 15,000). The programs run library-wide for several hours. Families like the flexibility of the "drop-in" themed program and children of all ages have a great time. These programs are flexible and accommodate interests from many age levels. The youngest participants can do the basic easy crafts while older children and even teens can have fun with the more complex activities such as knot tying. For “Wild West Day,” we had craft activities for all ages (i.e. make a wanted poster), games (lasso the cow-cow constructed from an old gateway box), snacks, a chili cook-off, coloring pages and more. We encourage families to dress the part. We also display books on the topic. Other programs have included Beach Day, Beat the Winter Blues and Renaissance Fair.
—Deanna Gouzie, Youth Services Librarian, Baxter Memorial Library, Gorham, Maine

   Making Learning Fun

When I first began working in the school library, I noticed that it was rarely used during the lunch periods. Our solution is called "Reading Recess."  Each teacher schedules two students to go to the library instead of regular recess. We get eight to 10 students from each grade level, K-6th. Students rotate so that at the end of two weeks every student has attended Reading Recess at least once. Grade levels overlap about 10 minutes, but are still manageable. Students are able to read library books, magazines, work on research projects using the Internet, take AR quizzes, help as library aides, and read my collection of newspaper comics. We now have many students who use the library during lunch periods, including students who normally would not visit the library.
—Lupita Muñoz, Librarian, Estevan Salinas, Jr. Elementary School, Mission, Texas

Our library’s mascot is a wizard named Libris Reademoor (read more books, get it?). He looks a lot like Merlin with white hair, beard and a purple gown and hat. Libris was the brainchild of a committee of staff members who not only brought Libris to life, but also gave us a new motto: "Discover the Magic." Our town’s nickname is the "Magic City," so the wizard ties in with the theme. We have a costume we purchased online and it fits some of the taller staff members. The wizard makes appearances at library events. He even has a business card! At our festivities, the wizard makes balloon animals and hands out purple and gold Hershey kisses (the colors of the wizard). Libris also appears on our website and is featured on a lot of our handouts and publicity materials.
—Mary Kay Ball, Reference Librarian, Barberton (Ohio) Public Library

Our small branch library offers many programs to attract kids. On Thursdays we have Chess Club and volunteers play chess with the kids. On Friday we have Art Class. We sponsor a monthly Young Author’s Short Story Contest and award a certificate and $25 to the winner. We also submit a picture of the winner in the community newsletter.
—Teresa Lane, Librarian, Davis-Homes Public Library, Morristown, Tenn.

Programs inspired by books work well for us. These include sleepovers (one for boys and one for girls), inviting the community police to create a CSI crime scene and movie days with Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the kids were eating or reacting to the screen at appropriate times or Spaghetti Day where we enjoy a meal and a story such as Strega Nona or Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti .
—A. McNeill, Children's Librarian, C.C. Mellor Memorial Library, Edgewood, Penn.

Our library's initial Clifford Party drew some 500 people for bilingual stories, crafts and a visit from "Clifford." Parents were encouraged to bring cameras and take pictures of their children with the costumed character. All of the library's storyhours during the week of El día de los libros/El día de los niños are bilingual. The library also sponsors a bilingual book club for 3rd-6th graders. My advice for reaching out: Attend Latino events. Commit to spreading the word. Meet and greet Latino business owners. Print all flyers in Spanish. Be patient—it takes time for the word to get out.
—Ruth Rose Hennessey, Youth Services Librarian, Corvallis-Benton County (Ore.) Public Library

Our library had a Treasure Hunt lock-in. Our schedule looked something like this:

6:00 -  Pizza Party
7:00 -  Instructions and ground rules for treasure hunt
7:30 -  Treasure Hunt
(The kids had to use library skills, but it was so much fun, they   didn't think a thing of it. We had a room where they could go when they finished and eat ice cream and brownies. They could also play limbo.)
8:30 -  Magic Show with the Magic Guy
9:00 -  Parents pick up their kids.

We required registration and limited it to 40 kids in grades 2-5. We placed the kids on teams beforehand so we could ensure a good mix of kids on each team. We began by announcing three short ground rules. We had to turn away 175 kids and plan to repeat the program.
—Kelly Loftis, Children's Coordinator, Mandan (N.D.) Public Library

Until this year I was an elementary school teacher. My first task as children’s librarian was to contact our town elementary school schedule a meeting with school staff to share ideas about collaboration. I also established a "steering committee" to help me plan programs for kids and to help pick library books. There are six kids from grades 2-5 on the committee. Since then I have established a homework club for kids in grades 3-5 and began publishing an e-magazine on our website.
—Martha Gordon, Youth Services Librarian, Wellfleet (Mass.) Public Library

Our partnership with the Girl Scouts brings girls and parents into the library who have never been here before. We provide two workshops. Junior Girl Scouts (grades 4-6) earn the CyberGirlScout badge and Brownie Girl Scouts (grades 1-3) earn the Computer Smarts Try-It. We follow their badge/try-it requirements and add material that we want to be sure the girls know about. In the Brownie workshop, we focus strongly on Internet safety. During the Junior workshop, we discuss evaluating a website and show safe places to go to find information. We have 15 computers in a computer lab that we reserve when a Girl Scout leader calls. The publicity is in the Girl Scout Council's program guide.
—Jennifer Dalton, Youth Service Librarian, Topeka and Shawnee County (Kans.) Public Library

   More ideas

Network with the public and private schools in your library's neighborhood by:
· Visiting the schools' librarians to introduce yourself.
· Sending e-mails to the school librarians updating them on programs and new books.
School librarians are great partners for public library staff and can help promote library programs to teachers.
—Joyce Logan, Youth Services Librarian, Juan Tabo Branch Public Library, Albuquerque, N.M.

· Underpants @ your library®!  Hold a party featuring Captain Underpants. Dav Pilkey is a HUGE advocate of boys reading, and would surely be all about this. After all, many, many libraries have "American Girl" parties. Isn't it time we do something for the fellas?
· Snot Funny @ your library® —Boogers, and other foul things. After all, Grossology is a HUGE hit with the little guys. Science, non-fiction, and anatomy could easily be worked in.
· Comics @ your library®—There are TONS of great graphic novels out there - many are suitable for the smallest, and useful as a bridge from picture books to chapter books.
Are some of these shocking?  Yep. But if you're trying to get boys back into libraries, this needs to grab the attention. Moreover, good libraries have been a source of controversy—if we show we're willing to cater to a variety of ages and interests, how could this be bad?
—Maggie Ahrens, Virtual Library Coordinator, York County (Penn.) Library System

Hold a poster contest. Kids can enter their own activity @ your library®—a particular program they attended, curling up with a book, meet Harry Potter @ your library®, etc. Display poster entries in public places throughout the library and have an open house reception, inviting all the artists & their families (and the general public) to the cookies and punch event.

Make up a poster wall with photographs you take of children in the library with a caption "Caught Reading @ your library®” Have permission forms for parents to sign on the spot so you can safely display the photos—also use only first name & age for safety.
—Jeri Kladder, Retired Children's Librarian, Columbus, Ohio

· Have a library blank sticker booklet that children may fill up by giving them a sticker every time they read a book at the library. Children love stickers!
· Have library paper money. When children read a book, they get $1 library paper money. There can be a window counter or box displayed that shows all the prizes you get with a certain amount of money. The prizes could be whistles, toy balls, pencils, rulers, toy insects.
—Blanca Avila, Early Literacy Specialist, Houston (Texas) Public Library

Researching the needs of the ethnic groups in the community, and designing programs that will meet this need is a great challenge. However, if you plan programs and you want to focus on the people of Africa, keep in mind that there are thousands of tribes in Africa and it will be almost impossible to design a program that will meet everybody's need. One thing is common though, and that is the way that they tell their stories. You can tell stories that have songs that go with it in which the children can repeat some phrases while you sing or recite the song.
—Theodora Muokebe, Children’s Librarian, Houston (Texas) Public Library, Frank Branch