Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

A woman in a blue shirt walks dejectedly through the library, head down, shoulders hunched.

She waves at patrons coming in and out of the building, but no one notices.

She places one lonely hand on the window to the world outside as the sound of melancholy music plays in the background.

Soon the music swells, and the woman walks through the front doors of the library, skipping across the lawn as she makes her way to the parking lot. Why is she so happy?

The woman represents public Wi-Fi, and the video is her library’s creative, engaging announcement that Wi-Fi is now available outside of the library building and in the parking lots.

It is this kind of out-of-the-ordinary yet effective video that first drew my attention to Prince William Public Libraries. The library serves a population of about 437,000 residents and has 12 locations.

This video, and dozens more like it, are the work of the library’s Office of Communications and Marketing. The creators not only work at a library but also have a deep and lifelong connection to libraries.

“My grandma worked at Mountain View Public Library,” remembered Emily Bickers, Media Specialist. “I loved to bother her after story times as a toddler. We would get frozen yogurt and I would babble about the book to her. It was my first book club!”

Communications and Marketing Director Rachel Johnson grew up north of Baltimore. “Going to the library was a regular trip for me as a kid,” she recalled. “I remember what the old library looked like so vividly, and then the library was renovated with completely new construction on the same land when I was in my late teens. I have no idea why the renovation stands out in my mind more than the many visits, but that’s what I remember most!”

And Michaela Hamiary Janotova, who serves as the library’s Public and Media Relations Specialist,  grew up in Slovakia, in Central Europe. “As a child, I enjoyed school and loved reading and writing,” she said. “But I think my favorite memories involving libraries are being created now.”

The marketing team at Prince William Public Libraries includes writing, graphic design, media relations, digital communications and social media, and videography professionals.  

The library uses video for many library promotions. “We mainly rely on YouTube to be our video repository,” explained Rachel. “But our statistics show that utilizing other social media – like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – helps us to further amplify our messaging to reach more audiences.”

Continued Rachel, “When asked what my favorite video is, it’s so hard to choose a favorite. There’s a special place in my heart for our 2021 Summer Reading Promotional video. While it’s nothing ‘special,’ the story behind it is.”

“Emily produced this video less than one week after starting with Prince William Public Libraries. We were deep into the pandemic – I hadn’t even met her in person yet – and she came along and produced this fun, engaging video that aligned so much with our mission and values. Her skills and expertise made me really excited for the future of video production and what we could do to reach even more people in our community through digital storytelling.”

“My favorite is PWPL’s Wi-Fi Has Left the Building!,” added Emily. We created that shortly after I joined PWPL and it showed me that my boss, Rachel, was not only down to have some fun with silly ideas, but willing to star in them!”

“My favorite video is RELIC: Don’t Be Left in the Dark,” said Michaela. “It’s very different from all the other videos. It’s special, like the service it promotes. “

Many libraries are intimidated by the thought of video marketing. Videos feel difficult to produce; they’re perceived as expensive to create and time-consuming. But Emily wants librarians to know that there are a lot of tools out there that can make video creation much easier, faster, and cheaper than in years past.

“Most computers and many social media apps now come with built-in video editing tools,” she pointed out. “Also, do not be afraid to use templates or stock footage to make your vision a reality even if you are pressed for time or funding.”

Last year, the library organized a Staff Day. It was a big deal. “After three years of overcoming challenges, adapting, and finding new ways of serving the community, staff deserved recognition and an opportunity to meet in person and socialize,” explained Michaela.

“One drawback of having a large library system is that staff does not get a lot of chances to get to know each other or what each department does – a fact that was exacerbated during COVID,” said Emily. “We wanted to create a video that would highlight what each department does and how they all work together.”

And so, they did. The library’s video was so incredible that Prince William Public Library won a Gold Viddy Award in the category Non-Broadcast Short Form Videos. The Viddy Awards is an international competition recognizing excellence in creating, producing, and delivering videos. It’s put on by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP). 

The marketing team at Prince William Public Libraries has won a host of other awards in the past two years for other videos, a strategic marketing campaign, and a magazine. They admit they have a lot of rich fodder for great promotions. But the team does have a secret ingredient to creating campaigns that resonate with audiences… fun!

“The Office of Communications and Marketing has the expertise and resources to create fun, engaging campaigns because there are always exciting, positive efforts happening in our libraries,” said Rachel.

The marketing team looks to their fellow library staff and the outside world for inspiration. “Our evolving community and creative librarians are a great source of inspiration,” said Michaela. “There is so much going on to draw ideas from, and we ensure that we find the most effective ways of reaching the target audience.”

For Rachel, it’s… “Social media! There are so many clever librarians and library staff throughout the country – it’s inspirational. We also closely follow other trends in social media and create our messaging based on those trends.”

More Advice

5 Easy and Surefire Ways To Decide What Videos You Should Create for Your Library’s YouTube Channel

Was It a Fluke? What a Viral Instagram Video Can Teach You About Library Social Media Promotions

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email whenever I post. To do that, enter your email address and click on the “Follow” button in the lower left-hand corner of the page. You can also follow me on the following social media platforms: