Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Library marketing: running an event to promote usage

"Marketing isn't taught in library school, and I think we're at the point where it should be," says Ruth Wolfish from the IEEE. I have just followed coloured footprints along the hallway to Ruth's session so it was clear before I even arrived that it would be a break from the norm. I think the guys next door in the API session were jealous.

Ruth's starts with her tips for a successful event: make it meaningful, time it right for your audience, promote it well to the right people, get the endorsement of influencers in your target audience, make the benefits clear - and make it fun.

She then proceeds to set us a task list, starting with checking for conflicts and scheduling your project tasks. She suggests involving students in creating promotional materials, and seeking assistance from vendors and support staff around the university. She emphasises the importance of food in attracting attendees, and suggests a quiz or a raffle to keep people there until the end. Ruth's guidance even extends to design tips for your promotional posters - "uniform and easy to read" fonts, making primary messaging more prominent, avoiding too much text, being careful with colour combinations.

A really good event makes library staff more accessible - Ruth cites one library's Halloween event where librarians dress up; students see it as a "don't miss" event and remember the librarians personally afterwards. Ultimately the objective is encouraging more usage of the library and its resources (I was a tiny bit late for this session and I hope that objectives were brought up at the beginning as well as pitching up half way through - all marketing has to start with clear objectives against which success can later be measured).

Communicating your event
Library blogs are taking off - particularly in the US? I think - and Ruth shows us lots of examples, commenting on the layout of the text (make sure your offers are clear). She also shows examples of how universities are using Twitter "to communicate with our users more effectively" - library hours, catalogue updates, "whatever you want to say". It doesn't take the place of existing communication channels (website, newsletters) but adds to the library's means of publicising the e-resources on which it spends such a considerable amount. We look at one library's Facebook page which highlights all their events ("pizza in the library") and incorporates applications added by the library e.g. catalogue search, find articles, news feeds etc. Use the photo galleries to help build your library's presence and character.

Ruth moves on to "Little Ideas with Big Impact" - with examples from librarians all over the US, including "flyers in places people can't avoid (back of toilet doors)" and tear-off slips to remind people of the dates and times of your next library events.

I'm pleased that Ruth closes with measurement. I couldn't agree more with her assertion that you need to "make sure that you measure your success - that you have metrics when you're asked for them." She suggests thinking along the following lines:
  • What does the library do for the school?
  • Has usage gone up since you started running events?
  • Have you had more research requests?
  • Did you make new contacts?
  • Have you been invited to speak at classes?
Ref. Bhatt, J., Wolfson, R. "A successful collaborative partnership among the Faculty and Librarians at Drexel University and IEEE" - a study Ruth co-authored that may provide further insight into the value of library marketing.

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