Super Library Marketing: All kinds of marketing ideas for all kinds of libraries.


creative library marketing

Five New Fantastic, Easy Holiday Library Marketing Ideas

Nearly a year ago, I shared my top five holiday marketing ideas for libraries. These ideas work for any size library, in any part of the world. It was one of the most popular posts on this blog.

We all need to be inspired near the end of the year. So I’ve spent some time gathering new ideas for library holiday marketing. The busy holiday season is a great time to try new things. And its important to be on top of your game during this time of year. Our for-profit competition is getting a lot of attention. Libraries are also competing with general customer busyness. Everyone is rushing around so much that it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day for a trip to the library.

So this year’s list includes some easy ideas that don’t take much time to plan and execute. But these tactics are just a bit out of the ordinary from the usual library marketing strategy. And each can be planned ahead of time to help ease the stress of your own job and that of your staff, because I know you’re just as busy as our cardholders!

Create and release a series of tips for your cardholders on how they can use your library to make their lives a little easier during the holiday. Brainstorm a list of ways your library helps ease the rush and craziness of the holiday season. Then decide on a sequence and schedule for releasing those ideas.

This one can really be planned way ahead of time. You can do everything-create graphics, write social media posts, and shoot and edit your videos ahead long before the holidays. Then, about a week before you start your promotion, tell your cardholders you’re going to be helping them out this holiday. Reveal your plans and tell them exactly when you’ll be releasing each tip, and on what platform. Create excitement and anticipation, then pay it off with your content. Link each tip with the others in your series and get more play through cross-promotion on various social media platforms and your website. Be sure to include an email message or two as part of this campaign.

Try a contest. To drive visits to your buildings during a time of peak busyness, a contest can do the trick. Keep it simple. Solicit some local businesses to donate the prizes… a gift card or a gift basket of goodies. It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy. Then, encourage people to come into the library to enter. Make it incentive-based. I like to require that people check out an item. When they do, they get an entry from our front-line staff. Then, draw winners! It sounds too good to be true but I’ve done this for three years to drive visits during National Library Card Signup Month and I am here to tell you that it works.

Try Facebook or Instagram live. People are using their devices during the holiday season. And they’re looking for good content. If your library has never tried doing a Facebook live chat or a live Instagram video, you can surprise and delight your cardholders by doing so during the holidays! Have a librarian on hand to answer questions coming in live through the comments about any topic–books, gift-giving, recipes, job hunting… whatever the staff member feels comfortable discussing. It’s free, it drives engagement to your social media platform, it takes very little time to set up and execute, and it is exciting! Be sure to send an email message to your cardholders to let them know when you’ll be going live.

Show what goes on behind the scenes at your library. I’ve talked to a lot of library marketers who have had great success with behind-the-scenes (BTS) content. And if you’ve never done it, the holidays are a great time to start. It can be as simple as showing how you book drop works from the back side. You’d be surprised how fascinating that is for your cardholders.

Showcase your staff. Here’s another simple idea that fascinates cardholders. Interview a diverse group of front-line staff about how they celebrate during the holidays. Or ask staff to name their favorite book of the year, and release that as a special end-of-the year book list. You can cross promote these staff picks on your social platforms and include an email message to cardholders.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!


Shrewd Marketers Challenge Conventions. So Should We!

I’ve thought a lot lately about how to approach library marketing in a new and fresh way. As my library creates and executes our strategy for summer reading, I am looking at each tactic and wondering if we can improve the marketing of this legendary initiative. According to the American Library Association, summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library, and develop the habit of reading. That’s a long time to be marketing a program and I think the industry might be a bit stuck in terms of how we do it.

For inspiration, I’ve looked over notes from a session I attended at Content Marketing World. It was led by Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director of Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency with offices in the U.S. and England. Doug’s session was inspiring. It was titled Exceptional Content–Challenging the Invisible Conventions of Marketing. I printed out my notes and have read them through each morning, then thinking about the points he made every time I need a brain break.

Kessler focused his session on a concept he calls invisible conventions. We have so many invisible conventions in libraries. These are the ideas and practices that library staffers hold as traditional and unchangeable. If you hear someone say, “But we’ve always done it that way”, you know you’re talking about their invisible conventions. Invisible conventions are powerful.  Kessler says they guide and constrain us without us even knowing it.

We do need conventions.  But we don’t need to be slaves to convention. Kessler says it’s our job as marketers to expose the hidden conventions in our institution and play with them. Libraries can’t be precious about their conventions because your cardholders aren’t.  Conventions are a signal to your cardholders that marketing is involved–even if you’re trying to be sneaky about it. Your customers are smart, and they’ll put up their defense barriers.

Think about how you respond to marketing messages for invisible conventions. We’ve all developed a sense of when the pitch is coming and we run the other way! You don’t want to turn off your cardholders–you want to inspire them. But if you hang on to your invisible conventions for safety, you’ll never move forward in the marketing of your library.

Challenging your invisible conventions isn’t going to make you very popular, Kessler warns. And that’s okay. Your administration, leaders of other departments, even fellow librarians may have a strong reaction when you decide to challenge conventions. They are more comfortable with traditional marketing practices and they want you to create pieces that make them feel comfortable. Be strong. Take the long view. Persuade your co-workers that change is necessary and that safe marketing isn’t going to cut it with your cardholders. Your job is not to make everyone else in the library happy. Your job isn’t to make friends with everyone in you work with. Your job is to serve your cardholders, and you can only do that when you put your cardholders first. If that means you need to throw convention out the window, then it’s the best move. Don’t second guess yourself. When your instincts as a marketer tell you that something needs to change, you are right. Change it.

I’m reminded of advice I heard from another Content Marketing World speaker, Amanda Todorovich of the Cleveland Clinic. She confessed she’s made some people at the hospital unhappy with her relentless focus on the customer. She has a strategy and she often says “no” to people who want her to do conventional marketing. That means there are some folks she works with who don’t like her. Amanda is okay with that because she realizes her job is to serve the patients, not her co-workers. I draw inspiration from her attitude when I’m faced with having a difficult conversation with a co-worker. You can too! (Read my post about Amanda here.)

So how do you turn conventional marketing on its head? By doing more content marketing. Kessler says, thanks to the companies who came before us, the public knows marketing messages are often filled with compulsive and shameless lies (thanks, cigarette companies). Traditional marketing is all about the brand: a one-sided sales message.  Content marketing, by contrast, is all about the audience. Content marketing rewards libraries for telling the truth. It’s focused on utility–how can we best help our cardholders. It delivers value, builds trust, and it gives our cardholders the power!

Kessler left me with a final thought: unconventional marketing can lead to great stories. Be straight, simple, conversational, and relevant. You will change hearts and minds.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Constraints Are Your Strengths: The Hidden Secret to Life-Changing Library Marketing


It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Jay Acunzo. This guy is smart and ambitious, yet he’s truly dedicated to making the marketing world a more creative place. He’s got credentials. He’s a former employee of Google and Hubspot. His current job is as VP of Platform at Nextview Ventures, an investment firm for entrepreneurs.

But I really connect with Jay’s ideas about how to be creative. On Jay’s podcast Unthinkable, he shares inspiring stories of craft-driven creators who decide one day to do something for fun. These side projects end up growing into something big and “unthinkable.”  If you’re not a listener, you need to.

What the heck does all this have to do with library marketing? One of Jay’s core ideas is that constraints in your job or side project can be a source of strength for you. And my gosh, how many constraints do we face in our jobs as library marketers? About a gazillion. We face budget constraints, staffing constraints, creative constraints, legal constraints… the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder we get anything creative and engaging done. It frustrates the heck out of me. Doesn’t it frustrate you? Wouldn’t you like to break free and do something amazing? Aren’t you tired of doing the same old thing, year after year? Why do we do that anyway?

I’ve had a couple of speaking gigs this year and that gave me the chance to meet a lot of library marketers. Most of them have a hard time pushing the boundaries because they’re scared of breaking tradition and they’re worried the bureaucracy of the library won’t be welcoming to creative ideas.

But I have also talked with fellow library marketers who are ready to push open the door of creativity and try new things. I think the time is ripe for some truly inspiring stuff to happen in library marketing. Our industry depends on it, now more than ever.

Step one, according to Jay, is to stop being a slave to best practices. Everywhere you turn, there is someone telling you how to do your job. Most of the time, these constraints come to us in the form of a tidy document called “best practices.” How many best practices do you adhere to at your library? At mine, we have social media best practices, website content best practices, and a host of best practices for dealing with our “clients” in other departments.

Jay says best practices have one flaw: They create one truth we feel we need to embrace. Good marketers follow best practices, but great marketers craft their own. Best practices tell you what you’re supposed to do. But what if your intuition is urging you to try something else?

So how about we begin the year by examining our best practices and seeing if we can rework them to allow more creativity, or better yet just throw them out and use creativity, intuition, and data to drive our marketing efforts. Give your team (or yourself) room to be creative and do creative work. That’s when the magic is going to happen.

When you make the leap away from best practices and toward pushing boundaries, Jay says you stop playing in the market and start shaping it. Are we proactively marketing what we firmly believe, or constantly reacting to the trend? Jay says no one buys a better pillow… they buy a better night’s sleep.This is so applicable to libraries. No one checks out books. They are borrowing an experience, a fantasy, a chance to get away from daily life or to learn something new about themselves or the world.

This year, I’m starting a creativity initiative in my marketing team. I ask them to meet once a month and do whatever creative thing they want to do. I don’t attend the meeting and I don’t prescribe how they conduct the meeting or even where they meet. I only ask that they pass on one great idea from each creative session that we can use in practical marketing purposes. Sometimes the group plays games. Sometimes they walk around the library taking photos. Sometimes they just talk through ideas. The point is that they set aside time every month to be creative.

But there are constraints. They only have an hour or two to work on creativity. And they have to come up with one actionable idea for our library marketing that won’t cost us any budget to implement. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Here’s another idea from Jay. Find 30 minutes each week to study one piece of marketing done by another library or company. Ask yourself … what emotion does it evoke in you? Why does it make you feel that way? How can you replicate that feeling in your own library cardholders?

Library marketing isn’t brain surgery. If you screw up, no one dies. Stop letting fear hold you back. Start putting creative ideas into practice. Use data to figure out if they work or not. What have you got to lose? If something doesn’t work, you just stop doing it and move on to the next creative idea. We used to do this all the time when I worked in TV news. When an idea didn’t work, we just called it “an error of enthusiasm” and we learned from it. No one took failure as a life or death outcome. Try stuff. There will be duds. That’s okay. When you find a creative marketing gem, it’ll be awesome.

So let’s lead the charge into creative territory for libraries. Let’s look at our constraints and find ways to work within them. The challenge to create within the constraints of regular library life might lead us to do something really innovative and cool. What a great way to start a new year!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


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