Making connections: creative marketing and networking for new librarians

By Maureen Barry

Marketing is often a challenge for librarians. How many times have you hung signs, sent mass emails or posted
brochures and fliers, yet no one seems to know the worth of the library resources or the librarians? One of the
most meaningful ways a librarian can market himself or herself and library resources is by making personal contact with all populations: patrons, vendors, administrators, donors and the like. All of the relationships we build with these
populations are strengthened – for both parties - through a little face time. There’s nothing like a little personal attention to make them aware of how valuable libraries and librarians are.

I’ve just returned from a statewide academic library association conference at which the keynote speaker, one of my former library school professors, Dr. David Carr, reminded me that I am a connection. We [librarians] are all connections. Without us, our resources may remain on the shelves (or online), unused. Possibilities may be left unexplored. Although technology is often a part of what librarians do, our work is most meaningful because of the personal connections we make as we help patrons.

All of these thoughts about connections have caused me to reflect on the many ways I network with others at my institution. Some of my ideas and experiences may set off a light bulb for you. Although they have happened within an academic library setting, the same concepts can be applied to all types of libraries – academic, public, school, or special.

  • Attend classes and workshops. I attend lectures, workshops and book discussions sponsored by my campus Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). This provided the opportunity not only for me to learn, but also to network with faculty and staff. I attend any book discussions or workshops given by faculty and staff with whom I work. As a result of attending a CTL workshop, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of students with whom I had not yet worked. Showing an interest in someone’s work can really make an impression.
  • Attend orientation events for new or prospective students on campus. My library has a table at every campus open house, information fair and orientation event for prospective, undergraduate, transfer and graduate students. At these events, we talk with students, parents, university staff and faculty. We offer friendly faces to connect to the library. If you work in a public library, perhaps you can attend community events to offer your friendly face.
  • Talk to people about what they do. After asking a career services staff member at a campus open house about what she did every day, I discovered that our Learning Express Library database might be useful for her and her staff. They had no idea that they had access to this database, and I had no idea prior to that conversation that they would find this particular resource useful.
  • Volunteer and make yourself visible in the community or on your campus. Work with your campus United Way campaign or volunteer at community festivals and the like to meet as many people as you can. You never know what kind of relationships might be forged or what opportunities can come from them.
  • Serve on committees. I was recently invited to serve on my institution’s Wellness and Recreation committee; I got to know the chair by attending wellness and health lectures on campus and working out at the campus facility. As a result, I taught the fitness center staff what resources we have to support their work. The committee recently decided to link to the libraries’ electronic subscriptions of several online health and fitness magazine from the University’s Wellness Web site. Thus, another creative connection was made
    between resource and patron.

Of course, you can follow-up on these face-to-face connections with email, a Facebook or MySpace message, an old-fashioned written note. Other ideas include:

  • Send holiday cards to people with whom you have collaborated or with whom you wish to collaborate. No matter what one celebrates, the holidays are a time of year during which people reflect on the previous year and think about the future. If you have forged a new partnership this year, send a card to that person or department to remind them that you enjoyed working with them and offer them future assistance.
  • Write newsletter articles. Everyone these days has a newsletter (or a blog)! Write articles promoting library resources and services in your neighborhood newsletter, your campus newsletter, or your club’s newsletter. This might be particularly appropriate during National Library Week, for example. One of my colleagues contributes to our University Writing Center’s blog.

After reflecting on all of these personal connections I’ve made, I realize that the relationships are mutually beneficial. I begin to learn what resources patrons, students, administrators, faculty, staff and donors use or need, while they, in turn, realize that the library and librarians support them in their jobs and their personal lives. Go forth. Connect. Remind people how valuable libraries and librarians are.