Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Tamara Murray moved around a lot as a kid. But her family settled in Westerville, Ohio when she was 11 years old. She’s lived there ever since and now works for the library she used as a youngster.

“The Westerville Public Library was the first place I went after getting my driver’s license to return my (ahem, overdue) library books and pick up the newest Steven King novel,” recalled Tamara. “I still remember the glorious sense of freedom I had on that warm spring day, driving down the road towards the library.”

Tamara graduated in 2001 from Miami University (Ohio) with a degree in Creative Writing.  While struggling to find a full-time job, a friend suggested she look into librarianship.

“I kind of hated the idea at first,” admitted Tamara. “I was worried it would be boring. But I took her advice to apply as a volunteer, just to get a sense of what it was like. And when an opening came up in the Outreach Department where I was volunteering, I was encouraged to apply.”

“From there, I earned my MLIS from Kent State University and have now held numerous positions at the Westerville Public Library – Outreach Associate, Adult Services Librarian, Web Content Librarian, and now as Marketing Manager.” 

The Westerville Library marketing staff consists of Tamara and two staff members. They’re extremely agile. Projects, services, and other initiatives are often conceived of and implemented on short timelines. They are always experimenting with new things.

One day, Tamara spotted a Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) digital billboard while driving. It was positioned on the border of where CML and Westerville’s library district meet. Tamara mentioned it to her Executive Director, Erin Francoeur.

The two hatched a plan to create a friendly rivalry piece about CML encroaching on Westerville’s “home turf”. They approached CML to brainstorm the idea.

“Our initial thoughts were that we could pretend to hack or graffiti the CML billboard,” recalled Tamara. “Then we also considered filming a guard whose job it is to ‘patrol’ the border between our two districts and creating a fictional history around that idea.” 

“After we realized that the billboard was only scheduled to be live for a short time, we brainstormed other ways we could represent a rivalry using our current spaces. It occurred to me that a simple ‘apples to apples’ comparison would allow us to highlight our differences and similarities in a way that would be a win-win for both libraries.”

The group decided to create a video using library cards as the main characters, fighting over which library was cooler. They added googly eyes to the library cards to give them personality and made them seem more like real characters in the story. 

“The hardest part was figuring out how to add the googly eyes to the library cards in a way that wouldn’t look messy,” laughed Tamara. “I’m always thankful for the ingenuity of our children’s librarians who suggested sticky tack.” 

The actual filming took less than an hour. Connor Dunwoodie, Digital Storyteller Specialist at CML, visited each highlighted location and filmed clips with a helper to model the library cards. 

“Connor previously worked as a news reporter and anchor and has a gift for visualizing the space and getting the shot on the first try,” said Tamara. “Connor then took the video footage, edited it together, added sound and text, and made it live within 48 hours.” 

Tamara and her counterparts at CML were hoping the promotion would spark engagement from those who already know and love both libraries. They also wanted to reach new potential patrons who live near the border of the two districts, an area that both systems refer to as a “library desert.”   

As a single branch medium-sized suburban library, we don’t think of ourselves as direct competition with the 22-branch Columbus metropolitan system,” explained Tamara. “We both are amazing in very similar and very different ways. In Ohio, we are lucky to share state funding for public libraries, which creates some built-in camaraderie since we’re not competing with each other for basic funding.”  

Tamara and her team continue to do great work, creating fun promotions and highlighting how the library helps patrons (more on that in a future post!). Tamara says she finds inspiration for her library marketing campaigns nearly everywhere she looks.

“We’re marketed to almost everywhere we go, and I try to take note of what marketing is effective with me personally, as well as what’s effective with my friends and family members,” she shared.

“I ask a lot of questions. ‘Where did you hear about that?’ ‘Why did you buy this product instead of this product?’ It helps to understand what channels, graphics, and calls to action are the most effective.”   

More Advice

There’s New Advice for Libraries About Posting to Social Media but… Should You Actually Take It?

“Pure Chaos”: A Library Marketer Reveals How She Turned a Scavenger Hunt for Six Baby Dinosaurs Into a Promotional Win

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