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Super Library Marketing: Practical Tips and Ideas for Library Promotion

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Seven Big Revelations I Had About Library Collection Marketing and How You Can Avoid Making the Same Mistakes

Photo Courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Four weeks ago, I started my new job.

In my previous role at a major metropolitan system serving a population of nearly a million people, I thought I knew people who were wild about books. But these folks at my new company love books on a whole new level.

I have learned so much in my first month. And I’ve come to realize that, as much as I loved collection marketing, I was making mistakes. In fact, I did a lot of things wrong.🤷

Because promoting the collection should be the core of any library’s marketing efforts, I want to make sure I pass on what I’ve learned.

Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Promoting Books

What I did wrong: I recommended books.
What you should do instead: Suggest books.

It sounds like semantics, but there is a real difference between recommending and suggesting books to potential readers.

Readers advisory consultant Becky Spratford of RA for All points out that library anxiety is a real thing. People come into your building or log onto your website to find a book they love. But they have a certain amount of anxiety. They feel like they absolutely must read a book that is recommended to them by a library staff worker. If they don’t finish it, they worry that we will judge them.

So, let your library users know that your book recommendations are just suggestions. No one will judge them for not reading the titles you suggest. And let your customers know it’s okay to return books unread!

What I did wrong: I used plot to promote books.
What you should do instead: Use story elements to promote books.

Most readers advisory experts rely on something called the Vocabulary of Story Appeals to make books suggestions. This is a way of describing the book without talking about the plot.

When picking their next book, readers don’t look for a certain plot line. They are looking for factors that appeal to them, including pacing, characters, tone, style, and the story line. Story line, I have learned, is different from plot in that it focuses on the WAY the story is told, as opposed to what happens in the story. Mind blown.

Library marketers can learn about story elements by requesting a free copy of The Secret Language of Books. I got my copy at the 2019 Library Marketing and Communications Conference. It expanded my vocabulary and gave me new words to use when marketing my library’s collection.

It’s so much more interesting to describe a book in terms of story elements. It intrigues readers and may lead them to place holds on books they would otherwise ignore.

What I did wrong: Promoting only new books.
What you should do instead: Promote new books AND offer a readalike available right now on the shelf to help soften the hold wait.

At my library job, I stopped promoting older books because the data told me that new books were the ones that got the most circulation from my targeted email marketing.

My change in philosophy doesn’t mean that the data was wrong. But there was a piece I was missing.

Sometimes, the most popular books are also the ones with the longest hold list. Most library lovers are, in my experience, okay with waiting awhile for a book they really want to read.

In the meantime, library marketers can do a better job of suggesting a currently available readalikes to our readers. This helps to create satisfaction for our readers. It also can expand their worldview. It keeps them engaged with the library while they wait for the new title. And, it helps our circulation numbers!

What I did wrong: Thinking I really didn’t have the skills to suggest books.
What you should do instead: Everyone in your library can suggest books. And I mean everyone!

I had a real hang-up with suggesting books to others. I can’t tell you how many times I said the words, “I’m not a real librarian but…”

But what I’ve come to learn is that I am a book expert because I love reading! I don’t have a degree, but I do read… a lot.

I also read about books a lot. I listen to podcasts about books. I talk to other book lovers. I have resources at my disposal that I can use like NoveList and Goodreads.

You don’t have to have a degree to be passionate about books or connect with another reader.

What I did wrong: Limiting the book genres I suggest to what I have know or read.
What you should do instead: Use resources to make recommendations from genres you’re not familiar with.

Consciously push yourself to suggest books outside your own comfort zone. It’s better for you, for your friends, your fellow readers, and for the world in general, when we broaden our horizons to suggest books outside our comfort zone. We should strive for equity, diversity, and inclusion in all areas of our lives—and that includes our reading materials.

What I did wrong: Putting more weight on New York Times bestsllers list for book suggestions.
What you should do instead: Promote books on the USA Today best seller list and on Amazon.

By using more than just one list of bestsellers, I could have gotten a better idea about what was truly a best seller. Lists from USA Today and Amazon include books from every age, genre, and publishing house.

Don’t discount sales of a book. If a book is making money, it’s popular. And your community is full of people who can’t afford to buy those books. But that doesn’t mean that people don’t want to read those books. We need to let them know they have access.

What I did wrong: Not asking my readers often enough what kind of books they like.
What you should do instead: Ask your readers about the books they love!

Survey your patrons. And do it regularly, because their tastes change. Your population changes. You don’t even have to do this using a formal survey. Just ask on social media. People love to talk about what they’re reading or what they want to read!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on the “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. For more help with your library marketing, email me at ahursh@ebsco.com.

The Library Marketing Live Show Episode 5: Ideas for Marketing Your Library’s Collection

Watch it now

Can you answer this super short survey about the live show? I need some feedback, please!

Things We Talked About

Collection marketing! Tracy from Wright Memorial Public Library asked to talk about marketing the collection. I do this at my library mainly through email and social media. I have a strong relationship with my friends in the Materials and Acquisition Selection department and I talked about that and why it’s important to not take it for granted that your cardholders know that the library has new materials.

Learn More

How to Pick Books and More for Collection Marketing

The Story of the Yeti: Why You Should Make Friends with Collection Developers

Stay in Touch

You still have time to register to attend the free webinar on digital promotions happening tomorrow, Thursday, July 25! You’ll find the link to that plus two conferences where I’ll be speaking on the events page.

Have an idea for the next Library Marketing Live Show? Submit it now.

We’ll chat on Instagram on Tuesday at noon EST for about 15 minutes. My handle is @Webmastergirl so follow me to see the show live!

My Library Promotions Are Successful but… How Do I Know What’s ACTUALLY Working? Three Easy Ways To Tell so You Can Replicate Library Marketing Success!

Special note: If you are planning to attend ALA this weekend, please let me know. I’d love to meet you in person! Be sure to stop by my table at the PR Exchange Event on Sunday, June 26, from 11-1 p.m. in the special events area of the exhibit hall.

Watch the Video Now

The Library Marketing​​​​​​​​ Show, Episode 147

In this episode, we’ll answer a question from a viewer. They wanted to know how to tell which of their promotions are working. It’s sometimes tricky work trying to figure out where people are learning about your library’s services and collection. I’ll share three strategies to help you figure out what is working… and what isn’t!

Kudos in this episode go to the Baytown Library. Watch the video to find out why they’re being recognized.

Do you have a suggestion for a topic for a future episode? Want to nominate someone for kudos? Let me know in the comments. And subscribe to this series to get a new video tip for libraries each week.

Thanks for watching!


Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, enter your email address and click on the “Follow” button in the lower left-hand corner of the page.

The 4 Essential Podcasts To Add to Your Playlist To Improve Your Library Marketing and Promotions

Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

In my day job, I create and teach professional development courses about library marketing. In a recent class, I asked the learners whether they wanted to learn about podcasts as promotional tools. The answer was loud and clear: “YES!”

Many of these library staffers were fans of podcasts. They understand the power of this medium.

Podcasts are fun, informative, and engaging. Listeners get valuable information and insight delivered in a way that feels intimate.

They’re also incredibly convenient. They show up on your phone when and wherever you want to listen to them–while exercising, while grocery shopping, while driving, while doing chores, and while crunching marketing data for your monthly reports. If you go on vacation, you don’t miss anything.

In my quest for lifelong learning and inspiration, I’ve found a bunch of shows that are really awesome–funny, fun, thoughtful, and well-produced. I subscribe to more than 20 podcasts, and I love them all. (If you want my full playlist, it’s at the bottom of this article).

The following four podcasts are essential for anyone who works in library promotion and who wants to do it well. Listening to these four shows will improve your work, inspire you, and help you feel more connected with the world.

I’ve got a blog post coming soon full of valuable advice from libraries with podcasts! Want to be a part of that post? Let me know by completing this short form.


Podcast Recommendation #1: That’s How it All Began from Andrew Davis

This is a series from one of my favorite experts. And, no surprise, it’s packed with incredible, intriguing stories.

In each episode, Andrew Davis focuses on a famous entrepreneur or business owner… except you don’t know who the famous person is until the very end of the episode.

By listening to this show, I’ve learned new techniques for storytelling and suspense. I’m also inspired by the stories. These are people who have found ways to overcome incredible hurdles. And because Andrew Davis is a marketing expert, his stories usually include a turning point, where his subject makes a marketing or promotional decision that changes their life.

Each episode is just 15 minutes or less. It’s the perfect show to listen to on the way to work.

Podcast Recommendation #2: Duct Tape Marketing from John Jantsch

This show was one of the first podcasts created. John Jantsch has been interviewing marketing experts, authors, and business owners about a vast range of topics including leadership since 2005.

I’ve learned a lot of practical marketing tips from this podcast. But this show is also a great example of how to turn an audio experience into an opportunity to drive more traffic to your website.

Each episode has its own website landing page, which includes a show description that’s packed with searchable keywords. John Jantsch shares his key takeaway, the questions he asked the guests, and a full transcript of the show. He also makes it easy to either listen to the show on the landing page or subscribe on a variety of platforms. And at the bottom of the page, he includes a further call to action to watch more podcasts, download a free resource, or sign up for a newsletter.

Each episode is between 20 and 30 minutes long. It’s another perfect show for your commute.

Podcast Recommendation #3: Death, Sex, and Money from WYNC Studios

This show, first released in 2014, is one of my staples. It’s hosted by Anna Sale, and it features stories of celebrities and regular folks talking about the most fundamental of human topics: death, sex, and money.

I’ve learned two big lessons from listening to this podcast. The first is how to interview. Anna Sale is an exemplary listener. That skill naturally allows her to ask deeply thoughtful follow-up questions. I can always tell that she is fully in the moment and present with her interview subjects.

The second lesson is how to offer additional support and resources. For many of her episodes, Sale and her team have created “starter kits.” They include playlists of songs, curated by listeners, to deal with tough subjects or get through challenging times. There are also starter kits for new listeners, featuring the best or most popular episodes, arranged by subject.

Most episodes range in length from 30 to 45 minutes. I usually save them for chore time on weekends. During the pandemic, this show made me feel more connected with the outside world.

Podcast Recommendation #4: This American Life from WBEZ Chicago

Hosted by the incomparable Ira Glass, a staple of NPR, This American Life meshes journalism and storytelling in a seamless and captivating format. It’s a masterclass in storytelling.

From listening to this podcast, I’ve learned how to find extraordinary stories in ordinary settings. Ira Glass and his team often use a technique called “story of self” to introduce a topic. They relate how or why they become interested in this subject. And that, in turn, makes it relatable to their audience.

Like Death, Sex, and Money, I’ve also learned lessons about interviewing from this show. In particular, the team is not afraid of silence when they are interviewing their subjects. They give their interviewees time to think and the audience time to reflect.

This show is a long-form podcast, with episodes lasting around an hour. I listen to this podcast on my walks and the stories are so intriguing and told so expertly that I am always surprised at how fast the time goes.

The rest of my podcast playlist

Armchair Expert

Conviction

Lovett or Leave It

The Librarian is In

Offline

Pod Save America

Professional Book Nerds

Reply All

Smartless

Sounds Like a Cult

This Old Marketing

Unhappy Hour

Unthinkable

You and Me Both

If you have a great podcast suggestion, please let me know in the comments.


Read These Articles Too!

A Library Staffer Reveals the Secret Formula for Connecting With and Entertaining Patrons. (Spoiler Alert: It’s a Podcast!)

I Asked a Podcast Host to Stop Interrupting His Guests.  What His Reaction Can Teach Us About Library Customer Service.

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The 9 Best Conferences in 2022 for Anyone Looking To Learn More About Library Promotions and Marketing [ARTICLE]

Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County https://digital.cincinnatilibrary.org/digital/collection/p16998coll12?fbclid=IwAR3gV2a2TMW2DFTLlsU0shgVGKzEFtzSJBYpqyAircAHN3eh6wvoE-siipw

What topics do you want to see covered at conferences this year?

For me, the Public Library Association conference marked the official return of in-person conferences for the library world.

This sounds silly but the chance to see library staffers face-to-face was extraordinary. I really did not realize how incredible in-person events were until the pandemic. And my experience at PLA made me realize it was time to compile my annual list of conferences for my readers.

I used three main factors to determine which conferences were included in this list.

  • The conference must have a robust selection of sessions specifically centered around marketing and promotions. That means there are some conferences on this list that are not specifically designed for libraries. Marketing is essential to library service and should be part of every library conference.
  • The conference must offer high value for the cost.
  • The conference must get positive reviews from past attendees.

I know that there will be readers who do not yet feel comfortable attending an in-person event, even masked and vaccinated. And not every staffer has the budget or time to travel for an in-person conference. That’s why I’ve tried to include conferences that offer an in-person and virtual option. (One silver lining from the pandemic is that conference organizers realized the continued benefit of online sessions.)

I’m also including a few state conferences on my list for the first time. If you are hesitant about traveling far in a pandemic, a smaller in-person state conference is a great option.

However, most state conferences have not yet posted their programs. That’s why I’ve included a link to an incredible website at the bottom of this post. It lists all kinds of library conferences, including many state events, as well as library conferences in other parts of the world for my international readers.

Finally, I noted the current COVID protocols for each event.

The Best Conferences for Library Promotions and Marketing

Texas Library Association Conference
In-person event, April 25-28 in Fort Worth, TX
Price:
$485 for TLA members, $750 for non-members.
This conference features a huge lineup of sessions across a wide range of library topics. There are ten sessions in the marketing track alone, mostly led by staff doing real-world library work. If you’re not a Texas librarian, you’ll still get a ton of value from attending this conference. Attendees must be vaccinated or bring a negative COVID test to the event to be admitted. Masks are not required.

Connecticut Library Association Conference
In-person event, May 3-4 in Hartford, CT
Price:
$260 for CLA members, $290 for non-members.
This conference lineup includes lots of sessions on a variety of informative library topics, including some marketing-specific sessions on advocacy and promotions. The price is affordable as well. Masks are required for all attendees.

Digital Summit Series
In-person events between May-December 2022 in 17 U.S. cities as well as two virtual conference options
Price: $395 for in-person events, and $325 for the virtual conferences.
Libraries can learn a lot from brands about how to create engaging experiences in the digital space. This conference covers content, social media, email, SEO, analytics, and strategy. And an expanded roster of cities for 2022 means most of you won’t have to travel far to attend if you choose the in-person conference experience. According to their website, their COVID protocols vary by location. Overall, they do not currently require attendees to be vaccinated or wear masks.

Digital Marketing Conference Series
In-person and virtual events between May-December 2022 across the U.S. and around the world
Price:
Varies by location. In general, you’ll pay $597 for an all-access pass but there are early bird discounts of $200-$300. Dates and discounts also vary by location.
This series includes sessions on customer engagement, social media marketing, video marketing, web analytics, email marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization, geo-targeting, and much more. Each event has its own website and agenda so be sure to pick the one you want to attend before buying a pass. In addition, each conference has in-person and virtual options. In-person attendees must be vaccinated but are not required to wear a mask.

Inbound
In-person and virtual conference, September 6-9 in Boston, MA
Price: $69-$99 for the virtual conference pass, $799-$1099 for the in-person pass.
Inbound bills itself as “the community that delivers.” The conference, put on by HubSpot, is an “immersive, three-day experience.” The agenda and speaker lineup are not yet listed on their website, but I have friends in library marketing who have attended in the past and found this conference to be valuable. The price is certainly within budget for most libraries. They currently will not require masks or vaccinations to attend in person.

Content Marketing World
In-person and virtual conference, September 13-16, 2022 in Cleveland, OH
Price: Virtual pass is $649, in-person main conference pass is $1299 (prices end June 24). Special note: If you email the organizers (cmi_registration@informa.com) and ask for the nonprofit discount, you can get a percentage off the Main Conference ticket. That brings the price into an affordable range. It’s worth the money to attend. The networking is incredible, the speakers are inspiring, and I always come home with a head full of ideas. You’ll learn how to create great content on all platforms. Right now, their COVID protocols do not include vaccinations or mandatory mask-wearing. They do offer a refund until July 29.

Nonprofit Storytelling Conference
In-person conference, October 27-29, 2022 in San Antonio, TX
Price: $795 for in-person or $695 for lifetime access to sessions on video if you’re not comfortable attending in-person. These prices go up by $400 after July 15. You can also apply for a scholarship.
This year’s program is divided into three themes: raise money today, get it done, and need to know. This conference is essential if you are responsible for fundraising or advocacy for your library. It covers lots of promotional topics including storytelling, email, newsletters, and strategy. They do not have any COVID protocols currently listed on their website.

Library Marketing and Communications Conference
In-person conference, November 2-3, 2022 in Indianapolis, IN
Price: not yet available
If you do anything in library promotions or marketing, and you have to pick one conference to attend this year, make it this one. This is an amazing opportunity to learn so much about marketing, communication, public relations, social media, and outreach in academic, public, and special libraries. The sessions explore issues that are important for this niche of library work. The conference includes time for attendees to network and discuss mutual challenges. Registration opens later this year. Sign up for their mailing list on the website to get more information. Join their Facebook group to start networking right now. COVID protocols are not yet available.

Guru Conference
Virtual conference, November 2-3, 2022
Price: free
I’m adding this to my list this year because it’s free and it’s all about email, my favorite subject! The program is not yet set but when you register, you’ll get a chance to suggest topics. I think it’s a great option for libraries, especially if you want to take your email tactics to the next level.

For more library conferences across the US and abroad, visit Information Today.


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Library Conferences Need More Marketing Sessions! 5 PLA Attendees Explain Why a Focus on Promotions is Critical Right Now [ARTICLE]

Photo courtesy the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

I’ve spent days trying to land on the right words to describe the amazing week I’ve just had.

I attended my first Public Library Association conference this past week in Portland, Oregon. It was glorious, wonderful, exhilarating, inspiring, transformative… and about 100 other adjectives.

Honestly, I felt like a kid attending her first week at a new school.

The sessions at PLA were mainly focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion practices. We also heard from experts about fighting censorship and first amendment challenges.

These are incredibly important and urgent problems facing the library industry. But there was a huge piece of the puzzle missing from the session offerings at PLA, and other library conferences I’m planning to attend this year.

Marketing and promotion are a critical part of all the work we do to be inclusive and to protect intellectual freedom. We need more library conference sessions that provide tips and inspiration for library promotion.

Megan Bratton, Marketing and PR manager for Natrona County Library, agrees. “It would be more valuable than most people realize,” she told me in between sessions at PLA. “Libraries do so much across so many spectrums and for so many demographics. It touches literally everyone in the community.”

We must make sure people know that our spaces, programs, and collections are open to all. We must share the message that we support EDI practices in our hiring process, collection development, and creation of services.

And to protect our libraries in the fight against censorship, we must do promotions to clearly explain the policies we put in place to ensure intellectual freedom is secure.

Marketing is an essential part of this work. It’s the job of everyone working at the library. And every library conference needs a marketing track.

The new friends I made a PLA agree with me. They shared a list of marketing struggles they’re facing that could be addressed through promotional-based sessions at library conferences.

Amy Cantley, assistant branch manager at Seminole County Public Library says she struggles to get information about her library’s services to people outside of her building’s wall. “We do social media promotion,” she explained. “However, we don’t do any outside promotion beyond that. So, unless you’re on our website on our social media channels you’re not hearing about it.”

Lisa Plath of Collierville Burch Library says her library does a great job of marketing her collection to current cardholders. So, this year, she’s focusing on expanding her library’s message.

Lisa says she is working on “… getting the word out to people who don’t use the library so that they know all the good we have to offer. The people who do use the library, knowing what we offer besides the books they come in to check out.”

Megan Maurer of Scenic Regional Library faces a similar challenge. She struggles with “… promoting things that people traditionally think about the library, but we don’t necessarily do a good job of reminding people we have. We don’t promote our collections or our databases.”

Katie Rothley of Northville District Library has seen the effectiveness of good storytelling in the for-profit marketing sector. She wants to replicate that for her library.

“I really want to tell a story about each service, but I want it to be a story of the person (who)… was able to solve the problem by using a library resource,” Katie said. “Connecting with people with stories is the most effective way to spread awareness and increase empathy and prove effectiveness so I want to figure out a concise formula so I can do that. I want to connect with people emotionally and feel empowered in their own life.”

As for Megan of Natrona County Library, she says she would like to see more library conference sessions on creating messages and convincing everyone on her library staff to share them. “Everyone in your organization should be sharing the same story,” she observed. “Libraries are very narrative-driven, and everyone needs to be speaking the same language. But people don’t understand the value of marketing until the marketing doesn’t do something they want it to… like their program doesn’t get enough attendees.”

There is a demand for answers to these big marketing hurdles libraries are facing today. Library conferences need to add more sessions focused on promotion to their agenda. A marketing track should be part of every library conference.

Marketing courses are typically not included in most library degree programs. Library staff needs help with marketing. It’s critical to our industry’s strength and survival.

So, I hope library conference organizers will take note and actively seek out more promotional-based sessions to add to their agendas. There are a lot of libraries of all sizes and shapes doing great promotions. I’d love to see more of these folks sharing their advice and stories at library conferences.

Do you agree? What is your favorite library conference? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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The Divide and Conquer Method of Library Marketing: How to Realistically Reach Your Library Promotional Goals Without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind [ARTICLE]

Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Have you been in the grocery store cereal aisle lately?

Recently I had a craving for yogurt topped with cereal as a snack. So, I went to the store with the simple plan of buying a box of cereal.

Did you know the average grocery store carries nearly 300 types of cereal? The cereal in my store takes up the length of an ENTIRE AISLE.

Holy Cheerios, Batman.

There is such a thing as too many choices.

When you’re faced with a wide range of selections, you can end up feeling paralyzed and unable to decide. Or, worse yet, you make a decision that turns out to be the wrong one because there were too many factors to take into consideration.

I sometimes feel the same way about working in library marketing.

Many of us have too much work to do. We have multiple goals we are trying to reach. And all that work makes it impossible to do anything well. It’s no wonder our promotions fail. We need to focus on focusing.

Now that’s you’ve created a promotional strategy and you’ve set up a promotional calendar, you may be tempted to try a whole bunch of new promotional ideas all at once.

But for true library promotional success, you’ll need to pace yourself. You want to be deliberate, intentional, and thoughtful about the library promotions you put out into the world.

Easier said than done, right?

So how do you create your promotions, track the results, and not lose your mind?

By using something I like to call “the divide and conquer approach.”

I’ve put together a three-step process to help you manage your workflow. This simple plan will help make sure your time is spent wisely. It will ensure you have the time to create your promotions and check the results so you can ensure that you’re reaching your promotional goals.

This method will make your marketing goals feel more manageable to you. You won’t get overwhelmed. And you’ll be able to spend time creating and tracking promotions to make sure the work you’re doing is effective.

Tackle one goal at a time.

People often sing the praises of multitasking, but any time management expert will tell you it kills productivity and leads to burnout.

Instead, you’ll want to prioritize your library marketing goals. Decide which is the most important by asking yourself one simple question:  Which goal will have the most positive impact on your library? That’s the one you should focus on.

This laser focus will actually allow you to reach ALL of your library promotional goals faster. When you focus fully on one goal, you can learn valuable lessons about your community and how they respond to your promotions on your available channels. And those lessons will make it easier for you to reach your future goals.

As you work towards your goal, you’ll learn along the way which work, which don’t, and how to carry them out effectively. You can use this valuable knowledge for future goals.

Create an action plan with list of tasks you need to complete to reach your goal.

In this step, you’ll very specifically lay out what needs to be done to reach your goal. This will make the final goal seem less overwhelming. It will also help you to gauge how much time you need to set aside each day to work on your promotions.

Let’s say that your priority goal is to increase the number of people who come to visit a physical library space. Your initial task list might look something like this.

  • Create a weekly email to promote a service that’s only available inside a library branch.
  • Create one Instagram and Facebook story per week to highlight a service that’s only available inside a library branch.
  • Create two social media posts per week on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote one in-person event.
  • Create a video that shows people coming into a library branch, focused on the physical space as a place of community and social interaction.

Now that you have your initial list of tasks, you can divide each task further into two or three smaller action items.

For example, your initial task of creating two social media posts per week on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote one in-person event can be accomplished by making a smaller action item list like this:

  • Choose events (consult with programming department)
  • Write post text
  • Create images
  • Schedule posts

Set a firm timeline for reaching your overall goal. Assign deadlines for each item on the task lists.

For our example, we may decide that we are going to work for the next two months on increasing in-person visits to the library.

Now, we can take our lists of tasks and set deadlines for when each of these tasks needs to be completed and released out into the world. Those deadlines will help you reach your target efficiently by assigning a timeframe—a start and end date—to every step in the process.

This “divide and conquer” approach gives you and your co-workers a chance to merge this new way of thinking and the new workload into your schedule without stress. It will make it easier to measure results.


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The Magic Secret To Create Effective Library Marketing: How To Set Up Your Library’s Promotional Calendar! [ARTICLE]

Photo courtesy Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library

Now that you’ve created a library promotional strategy, it’s time to take the next step. And that is to create a calendar for all your library promotions.

Three main reasons a library promotional calendar is important

A promotional calendar is vital to success. This is especially true in an organization with many contributors and stakeholders, like a library.

Here’s why you’ll want to have a promotional calendar, even if your team of content creators or contributors is small.

  • It helps you stay organized and focused on the goals you set as part of your promotional strategy.
  • It helps you to keep track of holidays, seasonal library and literary events, and major annual promotions like summer reading.
  • It keeps everyone at your library up to date on your promotional plans.

How to set up your library’s promotional calendar

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for my recommendations of three free calendar templates that you can use to create your library’s promotional calendar.

No matter which template you choose, the calendar should be shareable. This will ensure the contributors at your library can see all future promotional plans. It will also make it easy for contributors to add comments and ideas.

Once you choose a template and a location where it will “live,” set up the columns to track the important pieces for library marketing. Your calendar should include spaces to track these things:

  • The name of the event or service you wish to promote
  • The date of the event or service launch if the service is new. If it’s an existing service, you can leave this space blank.
  • The start and end date of the promotion
  • The type of content. For example, blog post, video, etc.
  • The channel(s) in which the promotional content will be published. For example: email, social media platform, digital signs, etc.
  • The topic. For example: you may have two promotions for summer reading. One could be planned for two weeks before summer reading begins with the purpose of promoting registration. Later in the summer, you may launch a second promotion marking the halfway point and encouraging readers to log their reading hours. The “topics” for these two promotions could be “Registration Push” and “Halfway Check-in.”
  • Due dates
  • The date and time for publishing the content
  • The person in charge of each promotion
  • Follow-through. This column is where you will note if the content was published according to schedule or if there were delays. Tracking follow-through will help you spot hurdles in the process of creating and approving promotions, which will lead to more efficient planning of promotions in the future.
  • Links to promotions after they are published. This will be helpful for those times when you’ll need to find and analyze a promotion after it’s out in the world.
  • Success measurements. List the data you gather after the promotion is published to measure engagement and effectiveness. Tracking your promotional success will help you spot the topics, formats, and publishing platforms that yield the best results for your library.

How your promotional calendar will improve your library marketing

The Marketing Rule of 7 states that a prospect needs to hear or see the advertiser’s message at least seven times before they’ll buy that product or service.

For your library, the Marketing Rule of 7 means it’s important to publish content on various platforms and in multiple formats. This will allow your library to reach your entire target audience.

Your promotional calendar will help you make those decisions by having a list of your channels all in one spot. Your calendar will also help you to spot effective ways to re-purpose your content.

For example, let’s say you created an infographic demonstrating the value of summer reading in preventing the loss of literary skills. Initially, you planned to post the infographic to Instagram.

Using your promotional calendar, it may occur to you that the infographic would be a great starter for a blog post on the dangers of the “summer slide.” Then, you realize you can promote that blog post and infographic in your next library e-newsletter.

The library promotional calendar helps you to see all your promotions and create a holistic campaign. It can help you decide if you have enough resources to focus on the platforms where your target audience is most likely to see your content.

Use your calendar to prioritize your most important channels. Focus on creating high-quality content instead of aimlessly posting on all available platforms.

Your calendar can also help you set deadlines. You’ll quickly learn how often you can realistically create and release new promotions.

Finally, your library promotional calendar will help you spot the busiest times for your library before they sneak up on you. It will help you plan for those busy times. You’ll be able to ensure that the promotional creation process is finished well before the publishing date!

What to include in your library promotional calendar

  • Holidays, especially ones that affect your library’s service hours like Independence Day and Veterans Day.
  • Local holidays. For example, where I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, opening day for the Cincinnati Reds is a holiday.
  • Literary holidays such as Library Lovers Day or Audiobook Appreciation Month.
  • Seasons, like back to school or graduation.
  • Promotions tied to popular culture, like the Superbowl and the Olympics.
  • Building openings/renovations
  • New service releases
  • Summer Reading
  • Author events
  • Fundraising opportunities, like Giving Tuesday and National Library Week.
  • Patron stories
  • Interesting or funny details about your library.
  • Evergreen content, like collection promotion.

Three free promotional calendar templates

Some of these websites make you an offer to try their product, but you can still get these calendars without making a purchase.

  • Smartsheet: I recommend the Marketing Campaign Calendar Template.
  • Aha: I recommend the Integrated Calendar
  • Search Engine Journal: This is a template set up in Google Docs, with instructions on how to copy it for your library’s use.

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Beginner’s Guide to Promoting Your Collection: How to Get Started and Drive Circulation at Your Library

Photo of a man in the library stacks, vintage, courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's Digital collection.

I have an obsession.

I check my holds list on my library’s website pretty much every single day.

This is no lie.

At my library, each cardholder has a dashboard. You can see all the items you’ve put on hold and how many cardholders are in line in front of you.

You can also put books, DVDs, and CDs on a “for later” shelf. If you’re like me, you’ll check that shelf religiously.

After checking my print item holds, I open the Libby app and check the status of all the audiobooks I’ve put on hold. I try to guess which audiobook has the best potential to be made available at the exact moment I finish my current audiobook.

That’s totally normal, right?

I promise you that there are thousands, nay, tens of thousands of readers who partake in this same obsessive routine. Libraries who capitalize on that obsession get higher circulation numbers. And the more people engage with your collection, the more they are likely to engage with other parts of your library.

That’s why I am an advocate for robust and strategic collection promotion. But most library marketing teams spend their energy and resources promoting programs.

I was at the Association of Rural and Small Libraries Conference last week (shoutout to my new friends!). I asked the group where their library spends most of its promotional resources (time and energy).

75 percent said promoting programs and events. A mere FOUR PERCENT said promoting their collection.

(Excuse me now while I have a short cry).

These libraries are missing a crucial fact about their cardholders.

People want the collection items. That’s why people get a card. And that’s the main way people use their card once they’ve got it.

The Public Library Survey Report‘s latest data, released in August, showed that there were 2.2 billion items circulated in 2019, about seven items per person in the United States.

By comparison, there are almost 125 million program attendees at public libraries. If each of those attendees only attended one program, that would account for only 38 percent of the total population in the U.S.

And most libraries spend significantly more on their collection than they do on anything else. Library Journal’s 2021 Budgets and Funding Survey shows that libraries spent 11.2 percent of their total budget on materials in 2020.

I am certain the data for other countries is similar.

If your library is putting resources into your collection, you must promote it. That’s the truth no matter what size library you work in.

But my gosh does it seem intimidating. Where do you start? And how do you get the most bang for your buck, in terms of circulation success?

Here are four easy things you should do right now to promote your collection. Because it’s what your community wants and needs from you.

Create FOMO with email.

Last month, I spoke to a self-described “library fan” who confessed to me that she often buys books because she didn’t know her library had new titles for checkout.

Most people don’t even think about turning to the library when their favorite author releases a new book. A concentrated collection marketing effort will change that.

Holds are a promotional opportunity. And the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real and tangible driver of promotional success.

So, promote your titles, especially new titles, using email. Include a line telling your cardholders that they are getting a jump on the holds list. Your most avid cardholders will pounce at the chance.

You can start small. Send an email once a month promoting three titles. Include a link to your catalog that will allow people to check that title out in whatever format they prefer.

All you need to do is include the book jackets, a short annotation, and a link. There are email programs designed specifically for libraries that make this process super easy.

You can also create a list of titles that aren’t new, but that are related by story element to the new titles which are the primary focus of your email. Give cardholders the option to check out these older titles while they wait for the newer titles.

Make sure you track holds and checkouts of the titles you promote in your email. That will give you some data to help you make decisions about what to promote next month. It will also be proof of the effectiveness of your work.

In my experience, one email a month can drive a circulation increase on average anywhere from 125 percent to 375 percent!

Strategically “upsell” your collection

Upselling is a sales term in which customers are encouraged to buy a more expensive version of a product than they originally intended.

Libraries can upsell too. We want our cardholders to end up checking out more items than they originally intended!

To do that, we must always be thinking of ways to offer other collection items to patrons as they checkout.

For instance, if you are running your library’s drive-thru window and a patron comes to pick up their hold on a memoir by a rock star, you can encourage them to log onto your library’s website to listen to that musician’s streaming music.

Or maybe you notice a patron bringing a stack of Regency-era books to your checkout desk. Suggest that the patron also check out DVDs of movies like “Pride and Prejudice”.

If your library is doing a screening of a kids’ movie, be sure to have an abundant number of books for kids in the same genre so that your patrons can leave the movie with a stack of books to read at home.

Look for every opportunity to encourage your patrons to check out more materials.

Harness the power of an eye-catching book cover.

Publishers understand the psychological impact of a good book cover. They spend a ton of money and research to pick the most engaging cover. We can use that to our advantage when we promote collection items.

On digital platforms, you’re trying to get people to stop scrolling as they move their feed. And a beautiful book cover works great for this purpose.

You can also put this concept to work for in-person book displays. Put your books face out. You want people to be drawn in by the beauty of the book cover.

Let someone else pick the items.

Delegate the selection of items to promote to the people who know what they’re doing–your collection or materials selection department.

Or ask the general staff of your library for recommendations. Librarians love it when you ask them what they’re reading. Your biggest problem will be whittling down the answers!

You can also crowdsource collection promotions from your followers. Ask people to share their book recommendations with you on social media or by emailing you.

You can even ask them to record a short video of themselves making their recommendations. Then you can share that content! You can even make a poster or sign featuring a photo of your patron and their book recommendations.

Want to talk more about collection promotion? Send me your questions or comments.


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Listening Is the Key: How One Woman Turned Her Superpower Into a Video Marketing Series That Changed Public Perception of Her Library

Photo of children reading courtesy the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's Digital Collection

As you well know, libraries have changed, evolved, and adapted in some remarkable ways, particularly in the past 19 months.

But past perception continues to be a real hurdle for libraries. Plenty of people who would call themselves a fan of the library don’t know all the things the modern library does.

We must make sure our community understands who we are right now. And there is a movement to do that through storytelling.

One of those storytellers is Evelyn Shapiro, Promotions Manager at Champaign Public Library in Illinois. As I was preparing to speak at Content Marketing World, I reached out to Evelyn to ask for details about her content marketing campaign, A Library for Life.

Evelyn graciously shared the story of how she compiled this amazing YouTube playlist of patrons who shared the relevance and importance of the Champaign Library’s work. And she’s permitted me to share what she wrote with you.

I hope you will find inspiration in her words. But also, I hope you will see how practical and, frankly, easy it is to gather and tell stories about the ways your library is changing lives.

“Libraries are one of the best ideas humans have ever had.”

Danielle Borasky, Vice-President, NoveList


“Friends and colleagues have told me that connecting with amazing people is one of my superpowers. It’s funny because I can’t help thinking—doesn’t everyone feel like they know truly remarkable people?”

“So, part of the genesis of the project came through the #LibraryLove shared by Karin Markovitch, the parent I interviewed. She had been sharing the most fantastic comments and stories with us in social media posts, tagging the library, also in person with the desk staff. She is just a natural library ambassador, brimming with appreciation.”

“I kept thinking about how I wanted to share her enthusiasm and appreciation of what we offer with the world, but especially with local community members who might not know about or use the library, and with staff because we never tire of hearing that our efforts and expertise result in a positive experience and impact for customers.”

“Our Teen Librarian Kathie Kading was keen on introducing me to Mallory Morris, the educator I interviewed. Mallory’s energy is pure magic, and she can speak with authority about the impact the library has on teachers’ and students’ lives. Interviewing her would mean other people would get to hear her stories, in her words. She was able to put together our group of teen interviewees, drawing from students at her school (across the street from the library) which turned out to be powerful testimony as well.”

“Also, a colleague in the children’s department introduced me to an area artist, Stacey Robinson, who was using the study room next to the children’s desk as his studio, coming in regularly and drawing illustrations for a graphic novel he was creating. She had gotten to know him over time and wanted to be sure I knew his story. (He ended up surprising her by thanking her by name in the acknowledgments of his book!)”

“I connected with him, and it turns out we know people in common in town in the art/design/theatre/dance/music worlds. Again, he was passionate about the library and spoke so well about what a treasure this place is. I wanted to be able to share his story. He also teaches on the University of Illinois campus in the Art + Design department and is a lot of fun to follow on social media.” 

“So, momentum had started building and because it was our tenth anniversary in this building, I realized I could propose the project as interviews with ten community members. It was our first video project and not part of my original budget that year, but it was the right timing to ask.”

“Once approved, I needed to build my list of who I would bring on camera. I knew about some of the range I wanted and topics I wanted to highlight including a parent and teen, a Board member, and someone who could speak about the Branch. Our director was able to recommend three of those featured—Candace, Thom, and Rajiv.”

“While working on developing our strategic plan, we invited a group of community members (around 50) to a retreat here to talk about the library and community needs. In one session I attended, Charlisa spoke up about the Douglass Branch, what libraries meant to her as a child, and how children access literacy in our community. I was so compelled by what she had to say. Charlisa has become a very active participant on our social streams as well.”

“Around this time, I’d met a new-to-the-community social media manager named Huan who worked remotely with an international org in communications and marketing. It turned out she spent a lot of time in our new walk-in co-working space for area entrepreneurs. She used it as her office and was getting involved with supporting the library in a few different ways—through a United Way young professionals project and through serving on the Library Friends Board. We met by chance in the FriendShop Bookstore. At the time, she was volunteering in the shop, and we had a chance to chat. She had an international perspective, having lived, and worked in co-working spaces in London. She could compare what we offered here with co-working amenities in a Big City.”

“I already knew Amanda personally and at this time she was heading up the local Project READ initiative and both our locations were public sites where their group offered tutoring. I love talking with her about making good things happen in our community. She had held the role of liaison for families as part of a school program our daughter participated in. I had seen how fluidly she moved in different worlds and languages and what an effective advocate she is. She turned out to be an ideal example of how the library partners with community groups and how our services help immigrants.”

“I learned to bring a stash of tissues with me each time because someone always started crying. The stories were so heartful. I’ve also thought about additional ways we could share these stories, including in print somehow. I haven’t even transcribed them yet or pulled quotes from them. There may be obvious ways to expand and reuse their stories. The key seems to be selecting people who could talk glowingly about the library, without a lot of prompting from me.”

“As communicators, we focus a lot on our messages, as we need to. However, I see our role as much as a listener—how else can we share great comments and stories?”

Evelyn Shapiro is Promotions Manager at Champaign Public Library in Illinois. Before that, she worked in graphic design and has more than 75 published books and CDs to her credit, along with numerous awards from Parents’​ Choice, University College and Designers Association, and the Chicago Book Clinic.

Is your library telling stories about your work and your patrons? I’d love to see and share those stories! Send me an email with more information.


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