Promoting eBooks

When our library first started acquiring Overdrive eBooks several years ago, I felt we had to make an effort to advertise them, to justify the cost. As creative forms of advertising have never been my strong suit, I stuck with basic flyers, but I knew I could get creative with the content. Of course, Overdrive does provide subscribers lots of publicity materials, and we have used some of theirs, but I wanted to include some with a more personal touch.

I love to write and I love injecting humor into anything I do with the students, so my first round of flyers, posted prior to a break, imagined all sorts of place you could be bored and in need of a book. Here’s a sample:

The next time around, not wanting to repeat myself, I kicked it up a notch. I started thinking up more ridiculous situations in which a book might help—and eBooks are always available! Here’s a sample:

Still, there’s only so much you can do with flyers, and there’s no guarantee that people will look at one flyer in the usual mosaic of them on doors and windows. So I decided to create short videos to share before winter and summer breaks, screening them at middle school announcements to a captive audience. In the beginning, I created the videos with PowerPoint, following a similar format to my flyers. The videos showed times when students might need a book, and ended with more information about Overdrive/Sora (Overdrive’s school app) and how to download books.

After running several of these, I wanted to try something different. Over time, I experimented with an online comic creator (sadly, I forget which one, and I cited all of my other images but not the comic creator!), used a school green-screen and the Keystone Kops, and an iPad-app stop-motion Harry Potter animation combined with our green screen. All still involved ridiculous or realistic reasons—such as Harry Potter being locked in by the Dursleys or an annoyingly perky mom—a student might need a book in a hurry. I posted these videos on a free account on Vimeo.

While those were all fun, they did take a decent amount of effort to put together, since I’m not naturally technically adept. Being always busy, I started looking for ways that took less time, and as a bonus, involved more members of my school community. I started with a fairly straightforward (but still silly!) video skit with the head of the middle school about how easy it is to use eBooks, and wouldn’t that be more fun than watching paint dry? Then came a skit with the then-current 5th grade listening to a pedantic story hour inspired by Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”

I have always found Geico ads really funny, as they appealed to my deadpan sense of humor. I realized I could model my videos on some of their premises, such as their “…It’s what you do” ads. In one of my lunchtime contests, students write excuses about why their homework is late. So I wrote a skit in which students used these student-written excuses in class, and then the camera panned to two “reporters” who opined that if you’re a student, you make excuses, but if you’re a kid on vacation in desperate need of a book, you use Overdrive. “It’s what you do.” Other videos I did with this premise involved Broadway Kids in science class, and a Latin class’ celebration of Saturnalia with the sacrifice of a stuffed sheep.

Another premise I used, though I can’t remember if it came from Geico, was what you can count on during quarantine. Students I recruited shot their own videos and sent them to me, and I put them together with some help from our Communications Department. Still another Geico premise I used was “How happy are…?” With help from several homerooms, I filmed skits about Pi Day and Star Wars Day. Last month, I used the premise of Geico’s “Did you know” ads to write a skit about Roombas in the forest, filmed with the help of our green screen.

At this point, I have changed a couple of things about how I create the videos and their content. In terms of creation, I found that individual students and homerooms are eager to participate, and I love involving students and teachers as a community-building activity, and as promotion for the library and the librarians in general. I also found that if I collaborate with the Communications Department on filming and editing, the videos look a whole lot more professional than the ones I film on a library iPad! I’ve also pulled in our Drama Department for costuming sometimes, in a further collaboration.

In terms of content, I realized that many videos ran too long, partially because I get carried away when I write skits, and partially because I always appended details about how to access eBooks through Overdrive/Sora. After consulting with Kelly, our head librarian, we decided that since all of the access details are on our website, videos should include only a slide telling students to consult us or the library website for more information. While I do wish I could give students more direct information on how to use the Sora app and access our eBooks, I realize it’s fairly dry, detailed information that would only hold the attention of those actively attempting to access eBooks. So now I focus on attempting to fix in students’ brains the fact that we have a few thousand eBooks, and that the Sora app is the way to access them.

Of course, the big question is whether the videos actually increase eBook usage, but that would be hard to assess. We have about 2,300 Sora eBooks, and in the past twelve months we circulated 1,687 to 219 users, or about 30% of our total student/faculty/staff population. We’d love to see more usage, naturally, and may start thinking about even more ways to promote our collection.

I think at this point the purpose of the videos, in no particular order, is: 1. Remind students about eBooks and Sora; 2. Remind students about the library in general; 3. Build a positive representation of the library in students’ minds as a place with not just resources, but a sense of humor and a warm welcome; 4. Build community by offering students and teachers the opportunity to participate and see themselves on the big screen; 5. Build community by collaborating with other departments to improve the videos; 6. Connect with the wider school community when the Communications Department posts the videos on school social media; 7. Have fun!

How do you promote eBooks at your school? Let us know in the comments!

1 thought on “Promoting eBooks

  1. Wow, thank you Rebecca! What fun ideas — not only for sharing fun ways to engage readers but for the imaginative suggestions to foster collaboration with teachers and your marketing department. This is super helpful! Great job!

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