Post 6: Getting the Word Out

Introduction

Libraries have a lot to offer their communities beyond books. But, like any organization competing for people’s attention, libraries have to find new ways of letting the public know about the many technological resources and programs they offer. One way to do this is to work with other people and groups to highlight the library both as an institution with technology and as a space to learn about and utilize that technology.
On any given day, a public library can have 2 to 6 different events, workshops, speakers, or classes going on, often related to the internet, computers, or other technological areas of interest. Some of these will be put on by the library itself while others will be at the library but put on by outside organizations.  Libraries are great places for people to hold meetings and seminars because they are often centrally located, have technology (computers, projectors, etc.) available, and renting space is often more affordable. But, despite all of these positives, it can be difficult to not only establish good working relationships with external groups and presenters but also to get people to attend events.

How to form Partnerships

Article VI of the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics explains that libraries should not advance private interests at the expense of library users, colleagues, or our employing institutions. This means that every library needs to have a procedure for working with outside groups who may be using the library for an event. The best way to avoid problems is to have a contract that defines what can and cannot be done at the library. This contract should take into account what resources are available. Will the library be helping promote the event? What compensation is needed, either to the library, or if the library is hiring a speaker? These questions and concerns should all be addressed in the contract.
Once a good working relationship is established, where do you go from there?  The next step is marketing. In today’s technological landscape this can take many forms. But, before you hit up Facebook and Twitter there are a few steps one needs to complete first. The most important thing is to choose a target audience, who will you market to? This will affect who you work with and how you advertise. Do not put the event before the audience.

Choose a segment of people, Build a Relationship

So, once you found the target audience and you know the ins and outs of the event, how will you get people to come? By forming partnerships you have a ready group of people who may be interested, and ways of contacting them.

Another thing you need is time. Many people do not realize all that libraries do. By some estimates, the public’s perception of libraries is 15 years behind (Potter, 2013). So, to convince people that there are things at their library such as events or makerspaces you need to have a timely marketing campaign so that it sinks in with the public that there is something they want or need at their library.

Most marketing works over a long period of time.

Okay, you have an audience, you’ve planned the event far enough in advance for the advertising to take effect, how do you actually advertise the event? Traditional methods such as listing it on the calendar, posting flyers, and putting it in newsletters or the newspaper is fine, but this is where the technology and your partnerships really come into play. Using Email blasts, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media is a way of reaching out to as many people as possible. You will capture the regular visitors of the library and older patrons with traditional flyers, you will engage with your partner group’s members with emails and newsletter announcements, and social media is most likely to engage younger patrons and a greater number of people in the community at large.

This is where knowing your target audience is important.  Even though you want to advertise to as many people as possible you also want to focus your efforts on specific areas and tailor the different marketing campaigns to match the particular medium.

Positives and Pitfalls of Social Media and Libraries

While we have another post on this blog specifically about social media, I wanted to take a moment to speak specifically about libraries using social media for advertising purposes. Before you pass this activity off to your youngest employee, be sure to develop an internal set of guidelines so everyone is clear about what should and should not be said or done on social media and who is in charge of what. Article III of the ALA Code of Ethics explains that librarians need to protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted. This directly applies to interactions on Social Media. Once an internal protocol has been established you can move on to set up schedules of when things should be posted, ensure everyone knows the positives and negatives of each platform, and again, place the audience first when constructing what to say. At the end of the day, you want to entice people to come to the library. Please click here to see our other blog post for further advice on how to use social media.

Conclusion

Libraries have a lot of technology and programs to offer from maker-spaces to art exhibits, guest speakers and classes to general computer and printer use. But, these don’t serve the community unless people know about them. The public have preconceived notions about librarians and libraries just dealing with books but in reality librarians as information specialists are often the the most excited and knowledgeable people dealing with cutting edge technology from apps and games to 3D printers. We need to embrace the old and the new to get the word out about the technology and activities available to the public at the library.  All of the above advice can be applied to singular events or larger library initiatives.

Citations

American Library Association. (2017). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.  Accessed February 21, 2017 from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics

Dowd, N. (2016, Dec. 19).  Choosing a target audience first [Web log comment]. Retrieved Feb. 17, 2017 from http://themwordblog.blogspot.com

Potter, N. (2013, April 18). Marketing libraries is like marketing mayonnaise. The Library Journal. Retrieved Feb. 15, 2017 from       http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/advocates-corner/marketing-libraries-is-like-marketing-mayonnaise/

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