(Part 1 of a 2 part series)
Since graduating from library school, I have worked in corporate, public, and independent school libraries. Through it all, there has been a glaring common denominator: the need to market the library to my community, to convince them of its utility, to “sell” my resources and my services. It’s crazy how hard you have to work to help people these days, huh? I believe that it’s as important as anything we do because really, what good is a well designed space and a great collection of books and digital resources if no one uses them? Here are some of my marketing schemes. I know there are some rock star librarians reading this so please, use the comments feature to build upon these ideas.
Part 1: The Grownups
Idea 1: the digital newsletter. This has been key for me in putting it all together, for promoting databases, library programs, new books, faculty book clubs, and really just anything cool and relevant that I can come up with. Get their attention with a well-designed newsletter and you will keep their attention when it comes time to collaborate, to schedule research conferences with students, whatever you like. I really got into it at GPS–here’s the my archive. I moved to Emma Willard in August and recently did my first one here, eReaderissue1oct2013. I love that it’s gotten people talking! I don’t think that many of my new colleagues knew what I was ‘about’ before they read it. Microsoft Publisher template, tweaked to fit your school colors, hyperlink away, mix in some fun quotes and images, call out a cool database or app people should know, give a teacher a little shout out, then publish to PDF and attach to email or link to your web site. So easy, so fun, it will work. Trust me.
Idea 2: sugary bribery. Ask to attend a department meeting. If it’s before 11 a.m., offer to bring donuts. If it’s after noon, make it cookies. Tell them what you can do to make their lives easier and to better prepare their students. Tell them that you want to anticipate their needs before they even realize those needs (so you need to know what they’re doing, right?). Start a conversation about how you have already been working with members of their department (or other departments) to give them ideas of what you can offer. Talk about how you can work with them to develop Libguides to streamline the research process for their students. In short, sell it baby! Here’s your chance!
Once you learn what they’re doing and where they might like some help, follow up! Do your research, find out better ways to help them achieve their goals in class. Look for articles that might be of interest to them. Help them with their summer reading list. Offer to host it on your web site or as part of a summer reading Libguide. You help them, they’ll continue to use you in even more meaningful ways. Simple as that.
Idea 3: This isn’t so novel an idea, but I find it’s as effective as anything: be their friend. Sit in the lunchroom whenever you can. Chaperone if your schedule allows it. Just be cool. Friends want to work with friends, right? There’s nothing disingenuous about it. Be you, but just put yourself out there and talk to people. These connections will build momentum for you and your library program.
Idea 4: If folks are strapped for time in your school, expand your services outside the library walls. Pack up your laptop and go to THEM to teach a research lesson. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Flip your library. If you want to show them a particular database that would be good for their research project, send them a short screencast. Demo an app. Make a quick tutorial and post it to Vimeo. They can plug these into the course management page and you can use them again for other classes. Demonstrating your comfort with technology only builds credibility. Offering to be their life preserver, to come to their class to help them introduce a new technology (and stick around for when (not if!) things don’t work quite right), this makes you even more valuable.
Idea 5: Offer internal professional development. When I return from a conference that has great keynote speakers of interest to more than just us librarians, I create a simple web site like this one. Because several of us attended this particular conference, I asked the others to send me notes from their sessions so we covered a bunch of ground! We then offered a lunchtime discussion where the rest of the faculty could come, ask questions, and discuss. It was hosted in the library, of course. 🙂
Coming in December, Part 2: Marketing Strategies for your Upper School Students.
I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and success stories! Please use the comments to share.
Director of Research
Emma Willard School
Troy, New York