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


Promotional Ideas

How a Last Minute Idea Can Lead to Amazing Library Marketing Results

I have a theory about the kind of person who becomes a journalist. The general news reporter who gets sent to the drug busts and homicides and fires and tornadoes is a junkie of sorts. They like the high that can only be found when you’re racing at breakneck speed to get to a scene before your competitor. They do their best thinking when they’re working on a deadline…a really tight deadline. They love that adrenaline rush.

I was just such a junkie. In fact, my addiction to the breaking news high was one of the reasons it took me so long to leave the business. Even after I was worn to the bone, dog-tired, and miserable, I stayed in TV news because I thought I could not get that high in any other profession. I was wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a former news colleague. He was covering a major event at my library. He said to me, “I never thought you would leave news for a laid-back job at a library.” And I laughed, out loud. I may have even sounded maniacal. My library is definitely not laid back. And I’m certain, from my many conversations with my dear readers, your job isn’t either!

It’s true that, on most days, I have more time to plan and organize than I did in TV news. Overall, things move at a slower pace through the funnel at my organization–and that’s a good thing. There’s more time to think, be creative, and consider marketing from all angles. There is time to make sure all the pieces of a promotion are in place and crafted as perfectly as possible.

But being a little agile, a little willing to do some marketing on a rushed deadline, is also a good thing. I wish more organizations would open themselves to last-minute marketing. It can be fun and challenging to take ideas that come at the last-minute and bring them to life. You may do some of your best work when you are formulating promotions in a few days or a few hours! A good deadline can push you and your staff to be creative in ways you’ve never imagined.

It’s easy to recognize these quick promotional ideas if you are open to them. Seize an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Recognize when your library has a connection to an event in pop culture. Look for pieces of user-generated content that are so fun and engaging you can’t want to wait to promote them. If it makes sense, if the promotion aligns with your library’s overall strategy, and if you have the time to do it, there’s value in turning a promotional opportunity around in a few days.

You don’t have to be a formal journalist to do this. Anyone can include some flexibility in their marketing schedule. The key lies in planning–which sounds contradictory. But the trick is pretty simple.  When you’re laying out your regular marketing schedule, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop in promotions.

For my library, this drop-in marketing usually happens when we have a great event that’s been planned by a branch at the last minute. This year, I was looking at the calendar and I realized there was a series of anti-bullying puppet shows for young children scheduled at several of our branches. I realized the event was in line with one of the core elements of our library’s overall strategy. I also did about ten minutes of online research and discovered programs of this nature were not available anywhere else in our community. I quickly put together a social media and email promotional plan and launched it in the span of a week. Our emails had a 30 percent open rate, a ten percent click-through rate, and attendance was high.

Most libraries will find it easiest to create a drop-in marketing campaign on social media. Sometimes the idea will become a creative outlet that can drive engagement on your platforms. This was the case when one of our marketing department co-workers noticed that the front covers of many old books compliment or match clothing! She grabbed some books and some staff and posed them together. Her Instagram posts drew new followers and engagement for the library’s account.

Of course, to execute drop-in marketing, you need the approval and trust of your supervisor. So, have the talk ahead of time with your superiors.  You won’t have to turn a last-minute campaign around every week or even every month. But when you do… it will be worth it. Sometimes the gold nuggets of promotion are the ones you can’t plan ahead of time!

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!


The Top Seven Websites to Find Free Stock Photos for Your Library


A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. That’s so true in marketing, where the visual you create to go with whatever message you are trying to promote is often the first thing a potential cardholder will see. The quality of that visual determines whether that cardholder engages with your content–or moves on. Visuals count.

Many marketing experts, including my friends at Content Marketing World, contend stock photos are to be avoided because they don’t create authentic branding for your library. I agree. But most libraries, mine included, don’t have a budget to hire a photographer for every campaign or content marketing initiative. So we have to rely on free stock photos.

But libraries must navigate the tricky legal maze of copyright issues associated with free stock images. This website has a great FAQ on copyright issues surrounding stock photos. It’s mandatory reading for every library marketer. Do not use Google Images, because of copyright infringement danger. Your library can’t afford a lawsuit or fine.

You can combine free stock photos and authentic photography. If your library has, you have a ton of free options for photography classes! Buy a good DSLR camera and practice, practice, practice! There will be instances when you’ll need a photo that’s specific to your library so this skill will come in handy.

But sometimes you just need a stock photo. So I’ve created a small but powerful list of websites where you can find high quality, free stock photos.

Unsplash: An amazing site with a huge selection of high-resolution photos. They’re licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash. You don’t need to create an account to download.

Pexels: Before I discovered Unsplash, this was my favorite site. I use it for marketing for my church and presentations at library conferences. It contains some amazing high-quality work. There is no attribution needed and you don’t need an account to download the photos. These photos are also licensed under CC0.

Free Images: This site contains nearly 400,000 images in dozens of categories. You can easily check the usage rights for each image to learn how you can use it and whether you’ll need to attribute it with a photo credit.

Pixabay: All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required and there are hundreds of thousands of photos and videos to choose from.

Freepik: Freepik helps you to find free vector art, illustrations, icons, PSD, and photos for using in websites, banners, presentations, and magazines. The majority of the resources offered at Freepik can be used for free; you just have to credit the author of the illustration to Freepik. This is a great resource for libraries with limited graphic design resources but who need to build infographics or other designs that are non-photo related.

Freerange: Another source for thousands of free stock photos and images. You’ll need to create an account to download anything but the quality is high. The images may be used in commercial projects like websites, advertising, books, videos, and other commercial presentations. You don’t have to credit the photographer. You cannot put the images on anything you plan to resell-like T-shirts, mugs, or other library swag.

Canva: Finally, if you haven’t discovered the amazing world of Canva, allow me to introduce you. I use this site to build all my social media graphics for my church marketing, my presentations, and some for the library when we’re in a pinch. The site does include free photos which you can incorporate into your graphics–you just need to select the type of graphic you wish to create first. All the graphics you see on this blog were created using Canva. Use of the graphics and photos on the website is mostly free… some graphics and photos cost $1 each.

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.


TV News Coverage Ain’t What it Used to Be. What Now?


For a long time, I lived in a bubble.

I worked in a local television newsroom. I knew about EVERYTHING that was happening in my community, from which convenience store was most often targeted by robbers to where drug dealers were likely to be hanging out to the names and backgrounds of serial pedophiles to the intricate details of the city council fight on parking meter increases. And I could not imagine how people got along in life without knowing all the stuff I knew. I thought my audience hung on every word I wrote. I thought people were religiously watching TV news, just like I did… or at the very least, that they had the TV on while they were cooking dinner or doing homework, or cleaning the toilet. I mean, that’s what our bosses told us. They had ratings data and the data said we were popular.

Then I left TV news to work for the library. I started living like a real person. And I realized that most people don’t watch TV news anymore. They read newspapers and listen to radio news reports even less. Most people get nearly all their news from social media–Facebook in particular.

A study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism recently found TV viewing in the United Kingdom and the United States has declined three to four percent per year on average since 2012. If the trend continues, TV news viewing will see an overall decline of 25 to 30 percent over ten years.

When TV ratings go down, stations can’t charge as much for their advertising. Profits decrease and most stations will cut staff to cut costs.  That means fewer reporters and photographers to cover stories.

What does that mean for libraries? With a diminishing audience and a shrinking newsroom, getting your library’s story on the local TV news isn’t as easy or effective as it once was, as much as it pains me to say it.

So libraries often find they can’t get news coverage, especially on TV. What do we do?

Seeking a news audience to spread your library story is like building your house on rented land. You have no control over what is said in the story, how it’s promoted, and where it ends up after it airs. And you’re chasing the chance to be seen by a smaller and smaller audience. Why? Because it’s the thing we’ve always done?

Now, more than ever, is the time for libraries to embrace content marketing. There are easy and cheap ways to do this. Turn your blog into a content marketing machine, by regularly publishing stories that you once pitched to your local TV news station or newspaper. The same can be done with your print publication. Stop putting out a straight calendar of events and start adding stories about your customers, your librarians, and your service in a unique and exciting ways.

My library, unfortunately, does not have a blog as of this writing but we do have a quarterly publication and we fill as much of it as we can to publish the stories we would have once sent out as press releases to our media friends. The most beautiful part of this arrangement is that we get to control the narrative… the story is told by us in the most positive way. We don’t have to worry that our news friends will surprise us with a negative angle to their story. We don’t have to hope they’ll do a good job of promoting the story before it airs and place it in an easy-to-find location on their website. We control the story and distribution.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pitch stories to the news. But we should no longer rely on news coverage to reach audiences who don’t know anything about us. Publishing your own story on your blog or in print gives you the chance to do distribution on social media, setting a target audience and reaching people who might not have a library card. EVERYONE is on social media these days–particularly Facebook–and creating a targeted boosted post on Facebook is easy and cheap.

And it may be more effective than ever.  A Pew Research Center study recently reported that four in ten adults get their news online. While TV remains the most popular place to find news content, its influence is slipping. The study found mobile news consumption has increased, with 72 percent of U.S. adults saying they get news on mobile devices, up from 54 percent in 2013.

So incorporate content marketing on your own website and use the easy, cheap social media distribution models to get your story in front of new eyes. It’s more effective, it costs less, and it cuts out the middle man, giving you control over the story and the chance to connect quickly with library fans, new audiences or people who haven’t used their library card in a long time.

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.




Stop Serving Your Cardholders Spaghetti: Get Personal


Imagine you are going to dinner with someone special. You decide to visit your favorite Italian restaurant. A waiter seats you. The music is playing softly. Candles are flickering. The wine is fantastic. You’re primed for a spectacular meal.

But instead of handing you a menu, a waiter appears and simply places a plate of spaghetti and meatballs in front of you. He looks at you expectantly, waiting for you to bite in and express your appreciation.

But you don’t like spaghetti. Maybe you’re gluten-free. Maybe you prefer penne with pesto. Maybe you had dreams of a big, cheesy calzone.  Spaghetti is not what you had in mind this evening. You’re disappointed and upset and you end up walking out, vowing never to visit this crazy backwards restaurant again.

It’s common sense to treat restaurant customers like individuals, with individual tastes. You would never open a one-dish-fits-all restaurant and expect it to do well. So why do library marketers often treat their cardholders like they all love or want the same thing?


We have a lot to excuses for why we don’t get more personal with our marketing messages to library cardholders. Most often, we blame our budget. We don’t have the money to buy software that would allow us to deliver personalized messages to thousands of cardholders.

It’s true that targeted email marketing is the most effective method I’ve come across for delivering the right message at the right time to the right customer. And it’s true that it usually costs some money to do it right. But it’s not the only way to do personalized marketing. There are two other effective methods that cost nothing or next to nothing.

Personalized social media marketing: Simply put, this is making a concerted effort to keep an eye on as many social media channels as possible for as many hours of the day as possible to answer customer questions and feedback on your library and services. Customer service through social is extremely important. If possible, your head of marketing should be non-exempt and should  be available to monitor social media channels during off-hours. I know that’s a lot to ask but it’s what customers expect us to do. It’s what our competitors do. If you really want to compete with Amazon, Netflix, and your neighborhood store, you’ll need to monitor your social channels as often as possible and respond to questions or comments as quickly as possible. That’s all there is to it.  For some amazing examples and inspiration, read this post.

In-person marketing: Front-line library staff are your marketing partners. When you have an important message for a certain segment of your cardholder population, you should enlist the front-line staff to help you deliver it.

Recently at my library, we welcomed author Lee Child for a book signing and talk. To help build excitement for the event, we created bookmarks that we put inside every Child book checked out during the month of November. Then, when cardholders came to pick up their holds or when they grabbed a Child book from the shelf, our front-line staff members started a conversation with the cardholder, giving them more information and talking up the event. We had 350 people at our author event, even though the evening was cold and it was pouring rain. It was that personal contact with cardholders that helped to make the difference. It helps to make sure cardholders remember the event, because they remembered the personal pitch made to them by front-line staff.

Don’t let fear or worry stop you from doing personal marketing. There are easy and free ways to deliver relevant, meaningful messages to your cardholders and to build relationships and make connections they’ll remember.

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.

Five Super Easy Ways to Hook Teen Cardholders for Life!


Before you read this post, read this one.

Okay, now you’re ready to tackle marketing to teens. It’s an important demographic and we need to focus our efforts on them to secure the future of our libraries.

And if you are wondering, I actually ran these ideas past a group of teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18. So you know I’m not just making this up. I got approval from real teenagers.

So, the number one most important rule of marketing to teens is…


Don’t market to them.

They HATE marketing messages and they are masters at dodging them. They pay for Spotify, Netflix, and YouTube Red to avoid ads. They can spot an ad or a pitch a million miles away and they run screaming when we try to reach them through traditional marketing messages.

A study by the McCarthy group showed 84 percent of teens don’t like advertising and are much more trusting of information sources that are not actively focused on selling messages.

Well, that’s not very encouraging Angela. What do we do?

We build personal relationships with our teen cardholders. If you’ve spent any time with marketers, this is one of those things you heard them say all the time, particularly if they’re a student of content marketing. It sounds new-agey and difficult. I mean, they’re teenagers… can you even connect with them?

Yes. You will have to be patient and build a relationship with them over time in many places, including social media and in-person. This kind of marketing is counter intuitive to the traditional marketing mind. The traditional marketing mind pushes out messages like a machine. Have a program, create a flier, poster, bookmark, give them out to everyone who looks like they might slightly be within the realm of possibility as a participant, and hope that they show up.

If we really want to succeed, we need to focus our efforts and be more personal in our programming and our marketing. It takes more time but they’ll remember how that connection makes them feel every time they think about the library and that’s what we want… that feeling will be a thread through their lives.

Example: School work is hard. A lot of teens are taking advanced college level classes and their parents can’t help them with the material. They need help. Your library probably has some kind of homework help service and you probably market it the traditional way, through print poster and fliers that give out at the library or at their school saying, “Come use our homework help program!” What normally happens? They read it and they throw it away.

What if we offered to come into classrooms and teach teens how to find resources online, both from the library and from other sources, which they can use to help them with their homework. What if we showed them how to find research sources online that are vetted… not Wikipedia and not Google.

Number one, you’re creating a valuable partnership with your local school district. You’re helping the school by helping their students to improve their grades. You’ve solved the problem of getting teens to come to your library for a program on homework help because you’re catching them at school, where they have to be anyway, as part of their normal day. And you’re showing teens that the library is a place where people care about them and want to help them succeed in life.

There are dozens of innovative ways to market to teens through content marketing and in-person events. This kind of more personal marketing helps them to figure out solutions the main problems in their life. This sounds counter intuitive because you’re not directly marketing your library. But here’s why it works: you’re building trust and trust is the basis of any long-term relationship. We want young adults to know that when they have a problem in life, they can turn to the library to help them solve it. This is how we hook teens for life.


Don’t try to be cool. Teenagers know that other teenagers are not running the marketing department of the local library. They recognize that adults speak to them in a different tone and manner than their peers. So don’t try to work slang or cool phrases into your marketing–they’ll see right through that and it might come off as corny or insincere. Instead, be direct, be conversational, and don’t talk down to them.

Teens are diverse, so your marketing must be. Walk through any high school cafeteria and you’ll realize that teens have widely different tastes in just about everything-music, movies, clothes, etc. Also they are diverse in age… a 13 year old’s interests are vastly different from an 18-year-old. So we do we lump all teens into one marketing group?

If you can pinpoint exactly what kind of teen will be interested in the program or service you need to promote, you can do a better job of marketing. Before you print anything or create any graphics, create a persona. How old is the teen you’re targeting? What kind of student are they? What do they like to do after school? Are they a regular library visitor or do they barely ever walk through your doors? These questions can help you create a narrowly focused target audience so your marketing will be more effective.

And keep your messages age appropriate. You may also have to narrow the focus of your teen program or event. The more specific you can get, the more your event or message will relate to an audience and the more than audience will engage with your library.

Build relationships with people who can help you. For my library system, the best marketing tool I have to reach teens is the teen librarians. These men and women interact with our young people every day. They know their names, their interests, their transportation situation, their struggles in school… all the things I can never uncover even with the best marketing survey possible. Keep your teen librarians in the loop about programs and services you are promoting and ask them to make one-on-one contact with some of the more influential teens at their branches. Leverage the trust that the teen librarians have with the kids by asking them to make personal pitches for marketing initiatives for teens. Word of mouth and influencer marketing is a successful tactic for teens. If you have time, ask your teen librarians to run ideas by their customers to get some preliminary feedback. Listen to their ideas and opinions, then base your decisions on their original input blended with your marketing expertise. Teens want to be respected and treated like an adult. They want their opinion to matter.

Here’s an example of how this worked for us. Teen Read Week happens every year, and I’ve never really been able to get teens to engage on social or on our website with marketing messages for that week because I’ve always been very general with my marketing message. “Hey teens, it’s Teen Read Week. You should… read.”

This year, I decided to create a specific book list for teens. Really, it was a list of reading recommendations for them put together by other teens. I sent an email out to our teen librarians with a form, asking them to ask teens at their library to fill it out.

We compiled the responses into a book list which was our main promotional focus during Teen Read Week. We did social media posts and we created an email that we sent to our teenagers with a direct link to the list. The email gave us a 29 percent increase in circulation for the books in the list. This list did well because teens love to be asked for their opinions about books and they’re more likely to read something suggested to them by another teenager.

Use brand ambassadors because teens care about what other people are thinking. If you can convince influential teens to use the library, then their influence will spread and going to the library becomes cool.

Next Monday, I’ll send the second part of this list of marketing tips to target teen cardholders!

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.

Why Marketing to Teenagers is THE MOST IMPORTANT Job You Have Right Now


Teenagers are the future of my library and yours. But traditional marketing fails to reach these media-savvy kids. So how do libraries build the foundation for a life-long relationship with this demographic?

Here’s the thing: It’s not all about technology!

Teenagers are not alien beings. I have a teenager and an almost teenager… ages 16 and 12. And they are growing up in a different world but they’re not that much different from the adults I interact with. They are not aliens. They’re just people in progress!

But I do look at my girls and think about how their generation is the future of my library. And then I feel anxious because traditional marketing fails to reach these connected, media-savvy kids. A study recently released by the McCarthy Group that showed teens trust their closest friends the most–and marketers the least! So right off the bat, we’re in trouble.

Building the foundation for a life-long library relationship between libraries and teens is tricky. But I’m not giving up and neither should you! Marketing to teenagers is an important job for our libraries–maybe the most important task we face right now.

Why do teens matter to a library? Duh, they’re the future. Of course, we worry about hooking teens and converting them into lifelong library users. But let’s break that down a bit. Why is it so important that we get teens to use the library and to understand the importance of the library as part of the community?

They are a big segment of our population. More than 12 percent of the people in the United States are between the ages of 10 and 19 years old. That amounts to almost 42 million people… enough people to fill my hometown of Cincinnati 49 times over. We can’t afford to allow a population segment that large to lose interest in the library.

Teens are the gatekeepers to modern trends. They have more information than ever. Style is no longer dictated to teens by TV, movies, and magazines. Teens are deciding trends for themselves. And they’re influencing older generations, passing taste and technology to their parents. They are the driving force behind their family’s technology shift. Why does this matter to libraries? Because a teen who believes their library is an important part of their life will exert an influence over the rest of their family and will affect the library behavior of the entire family.

What are we up against? The internet. I don’t have to tell you that today’s kids are connected. If they want to know something, they Google it. They find directions and order food and clothes online. They watch movies and TV shows online. They research papers online. They live online. A survey from Business Insider found that teens spend an average of 11 hours a day in front of some kind of screen. You can look at that as a constraint or a strength, and your perspective may affect the success of your library marketing efforts. We need to make sure our websites are mobile friendly, that our apps have the best design possible to make it easy for teens to use, and we need to make sure we provide as much content as possible online because that’s where kids are.

They think we’re old-fashioned. I did an unscientific survey of my daughter’s friends, about 15 kids. I asked them which of these words best described their image of the library.  The choices were: reliable, cheerful, trendy, old-fashioned, successful, stodgy, imaginative, and intelligent. The good news is that none of them answered stodgy! But the most frequent answer was old-fashioned. We have an image problem. So part of our approach to marketing to teens is to solve that.

Teens are insanely busy. The American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that teens spend the majority of their day, an average of nine hours, sleeping, seven hours a day in school, two hours of sports or extracurricular activities, two hours watching TV or texting with friends and four hours are split between work, religious activities, eating, grooming, and leisure activities, which includes reading and writing. If you’re having trouble getting teens to attend programs, this is why. It’s got to be really, really good to get them to make time for you in their schedule.

Teens are less loyal to brands and businesses than older generations. They’re not as nostalgic. Teens aren’t just going to use your services because it’s the thing that their parents or grandparents did.

Alright ,so now that you’re completely despondent and you are ready to throw in the towel… let’s figure out how to make this work. We don’t have to give up on teens and, as we mentioned, we don’t want to give up on them! We want them to be a part of the library. So how do we do that?

Next up, I’ll share a total of 13 easy tips that will help you market to teenagers. All of these tips cost little or no money and can be implemented right now in your library! Here’s the first set of tips. 

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.

Give People What They Really Want: Why You Should Market Services

GIVEHave you thought lately about why people sign up for a library card? I had the chance to work a booth at a public celebration where people could sign up for their first library card. I learned so much from interacting with patrons. And the story I heard, over and over again, was how excited these new cardholders were to get their hands on the books and resources that they knew they can check out, for free, from their library.

That’s what we should be promoting.

The most research study of library usage by the Pew Research Institute, published in September 2015, shows that 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to check out items… books, magazines, CDs, and more. Only 17 percent of library cardholders say they use their card to attend programs, classes, or lectures.

I’m not advocating that you stop promoting programs altogether. What I’m advocating is that you choose your program promotions carefully, based on your library’s overall strategic goals, and stop promoting all programs all the time. Intersperse your program marketing with collection based or service based marketing. I have talked before about collection marketing before on this blog and I know I will again! But our library has also had success with service-based marketing. It works because it’s what people really want from their library. Here’s a great example.

We have a great new reading recommendation service at our library called Book Hookup. It provides cardholders with three book recommendations, based on their literary tastes.  We decided this spring, once the service was running smoothly and all processes were in place, to begin to market to our customers. As we worked out the kinks of the service, we put signs in branches and had a few requests trickle in from cardholders who either saw the signs or ran across the service on our website.

For the major marketing play, we initiated a  plan for a multi-tiered approach. We sent targeted email messages to cardholders in specific clusters whom we thought would want to use the service: print book lovers, people who use the full breadth and depth of the library collection, and people who use both eBooks and print books. We sent these three emails over the course of three weeks, at a rate of one per week.

A few weeks after the emails, we started displaying a slide that advocated the use of the Book Hookup service on our digital screens at all branches year-round. We scheduled regular, rotating social media messages encouraging the use of the service. And on occasion, we put a graphic on our homepage reminding our cardholders that this service is available.

What happened? From the targeted email messages ALONE we gathered more than 900 requests for book recommendations. Throughout the following months, requests continue to  trickle in, but spike when we put the service in the forefront of social media or on the homepage.


This fall, we are planning another set of email messages, aimed at all of our email personas, from eBook users to audiobook lovers to people who haven’t used the library for six months or more. My theory is that I’m more likely to convince one person who hasn’t checked anything out in six months to use a service than to attend a program. And my job is to get them back through the door of library usage so that I can market other things to them. If I can turn a non-user or inactive user into a user, that’s a huge win.

I challenge you to look at your services to find out what your cardholders use. Ask yourself what they might use if they knew their library card would give them access to it. A couple of great services for libraries to market are Consumer Reports, The New York Times, Mango Languages, and If you have any of these resources, you should be marketing them to your cardholders. That’s the stuff people want!!

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.

My Big Fat Failure and What I Learned From It

My Big Fat

I have a library marketing routine. Every six months, I go through all the promotions we’ve done and take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t. I adjust my email sending schedule and my promotional plans for the next six months based on the data I’ve gleaned from cardholders who’ve interacted with our messages and promotions.

This time, within about ten minutes of starting this process, I was reminded of what could be considered our library’s biggest promotional failure to date. It was an experiment, so the sting is lessened by the knowledge that we intended for this campaign to be a learning experience.

Yea, Ang, keep telling yourself that.

We have one library in our system with a cardholder cluster distribution that is something of a miracle. This branch is a perfect representative of our entire system as a whole. It makes it an amazing test subject for any promotion.

So our idea was to convince occasional users of that branch–people who only come in every couple of months–to come back to the branch by offering them a free gift in exchange for checking out any item. It was January and snow was swirling and we had these amazing library-branded snow scrapers. Maybe that sounds lame to you but trust me, at outreach events, those babies are flying off the table. In any case, we actually did not identify the free gift in the promotion. Our overall library strategic goal this year was to increase physical visits to the branch, and this promotion fell in line with that strategy.

So we identified the target audience with the help of Orangeboy, Inc., the company that manages our email promotions. Through them, we were able to pinpoint occasional users. We took a two-prong approach. We sent those cardholders a postcard, asking them to come into the branch with the postcard for their free gift. We also sent them a targeted email a week after the postcard, which you can see below.



We sent the email during a time period identified as successful for library emails in our system–on a Wednesday night at 7 p.m. 735 people got the email and the postcard.

The email’s vanity metrics were pretty good…  51.29% open rate and 5.57% click thru rate. But the overall results–getting people to come in and use the branch–was not exciting. 6.6% of recipients came in to claim a prize. Eight were email recipients. 41 people brought in their postcard.

What did we learn from this? Well, a couple of things may have been at play. Perhaps occasionals don’t use the library often because they can’t get to it physically. Perhaps they just don’t want to enter the building. A digital campaign–driving occasional users to our eBranch in exchange for a gift–may be more effective, although we’d have to work out the logistics of getting a gift to someone who doesn’t want to come into a branch.  Perhaps it was the timing. The weather turned out to be pretty miserable, with record-breaking snowfall in the week after the postcard went out.  The week in which the email was sent was mild. However, if we tried it in the spring or summer, we may have better luck.

And although I generally look at this as a failed promotion, I can say that we convinced 49 people who haven’t used the library in a long time to do so!  Circulation at that branch increased by at least 49 items that month. It just seems like a lot of money and effort for a small result.

Still, we’ll keep experimenting with unique ways to draw our old customers back to our branch. Have you done something similar? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear how your library is working to increase physical visitors.

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.

The Million-Dollar Reason You Need to Market Your Library’s Collection

THE (1)

$250,000 vs. $8 million.

That’s the spread between the amount my library spends on programming and the amount they spend on collections.

I bet if you checked your library, you’d find a similar story. So why, my dear friends, do library marketers spend the majority of their time and effort promoting programs?


Please understand me. I’m not saying that library programming isn’t important or worth promoting. Library programs nourish the soul of our community and offer cultural and educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have access to them. Most library programs are a valuable and important part of the library’s mission to serve the community. And they deserve to be marketed!

But most library marketing teams spend their energy and resources promoting those programs. And they miss an undeniably important fact about library usage. Library cardholders want the books. They’re checking out books. That’s why they signed up for a library card!

A study by the Pew Research Center published in September 2015 shows 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to borrow books. Only 17 percent attend a library program, class, or lecture. Think about what people say when they sign up a library card. Most are going to tell you they are excited to check stuff out! We take it for granted that people know we have circulation items–books, magazines, music, and more. We need to stop that.

If we want to compete with Amazon and other bookstores, we have to promote our main asset–the collection. People are hungry for information about new stuff in the collection. And every time I talk to someone about the library and I mention that we loan eBooks, eAudiobooks and downloadable music, they look at me like I have two heads. We’re spending a ton of money to build our collection and our customers don’t really know it’s there. When they want a newly released book, who do your cardholders think of first–you or Amazon?

Before I was a library marketer, I worked as a television news producer. That means I put together each night’s newscast, decided which stories were told, in what order, and how they were told. Every year, our news director would bring in a consulting firm whose job it was to help us improve our shows and increase our viewership. I was proud of my work as a journalist. But when I was presented with the feedback from focus groups, it was clear that most viewers were watching my show for the weather. Hearing what was going on in the world was nice, but what they really wanted to know was whether it would rain the next day.

In television news, weather is king. In libraries, the collection is king. Collection marketing is a valuable investment for every library. The best way to market the collection is through targeted emails. In the next few blog posts, I’ll be sharing some secrets for targeted email messaging–things I’ve learned in the 18 months that we’ve done so at my library.

But you can start collections marketing right now through social media–especially Twitter and Pinterest– and by featuring books on the front page of your website.  Create themed book lists–you can enlist your collections development department for help with that task. Talk about new books and popular books in your podcast or on your blog.

For a few minutes every day, spend some time marketing your collection. It will increase circulation and will help reinforce the image of your library as a place of vast resources in the eyes of your cardholders.

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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