February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Getting the Word Out: Publicity That Works | Fresh Paint

I work for an eight-branch library system that hosts popular authors, organizes nationwide short story and film contests, and distributes thousands of copies of our annual 1Book 1Community title. We host dozens of programs each day which welcome over 160,000 attendees each year. Suffice it to say that we are a busy, booming library system.

But none of this would be successful without promotion, without talking about ourselves, without turning nearly every conversation we have into one about a library program, or a great book.

My sister has long said that I can turn any conversation into one about libraries, a book, or a “cool thing” my own library is supporting. Although my teenaged self would disown me for doing so, I completely agree with my sister’s appraisal. I don’t just tout the library’s programs during a lull in conversation, though. I simply see a connection between person and program. I find myself incapable of staying quiet when a teen patron is searching for nonfiction books on bullying and we are hosting a series of speakers under the theme, Be Kind; attending one of the presentations and discussions might make a nice addition to her research. I cannot remain silent when I see a young woman with doodles all over her hand, because I’m betting she would find our No Talent Required Art Club or monthly Crafternoon programs enjoyable. And when I meet a mother who loves reading YA fiction just as much as her daughter, I have to tell her about the Young Adult Literature adult book club.

Flier displayFinding the connection between patron and program takes effort. It is not as easy as handing someone a flyer when they check out, hoping that they read it instead of using it as an oversize bookmark. It requires patience and preparedness. Patience, because oftentimes a patron will offer an excuse as to why they cannot attend, and leave empty-handed. Preparedness, because you must know what is going on at your library if you want to make a meaningful connection.

Knowing your library’s program calendar is especially critical for the front-line staff—particularly the circulation staff—as they tend to see more patrons than the other desks, particularly if your departments are scattered throughout the building. In fact, the check-out desk is the perfect place to inform patrons about programs because you can see what they are interested in as you check out their materials for them. The effectiveness of this is stymied by those libraries that rely heavily on self-check, but there are still plenty of opportunities for engagement if you create them. If you are walking to the break room and notice someone checking out the book display highlighting local authors, wouldn’t it just make sense to pause and politely inform the patron of your upcoming Local Authors NANoWriMo writing workshop? Or if  you are walking a patron back to the 600s to find books on resumes, why not tell them about the “Back to Work” job search and resume-writing workshops your colleague is hosting next month?

Front-line staff can make effective connections when inside the branch, but what about outside? Other than posting program fliers on community boards at your local coffee shops, cafes, and community gathering spaces, your website is an effective method of communicating about the programs you host. Having permanent links for your annual programs (summer reading program, Teen Read Week, NaNoWriMo, etc.) is an easy way to maintain interest in your programs year-round, even when the program is on hiatus. Even though summer reading won’t begin for another seven months, you could post a countdown, compile a reading list with appropriate titles for the next summer’s theme, or have pictures from the previous summer’s festivities. For Teen Read Week, post links to the YALSA’s Teens Top Ten page, or host a poll asking teens which craft from a TRW Pinterest board they would like to try. Any way to keep your patrons thinking about the program is effective.

How have you effectively publicized a program? How does your library maintain interest year-round? Share your suggestions with SLJTeen readers in the comments section.

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April Layne Shroeder About April Layne Shroeder

April Layne Shroeder is a Teen Services Librarian in a Northern Virginia public library system, and loves it! One of her favorite job duties is reading/being knowledgeable about YA literature, and discussing/recommending it to young people (and open-minded adults).

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