April 5, 2019
NoveList hosted one of our most popular webinars ever on promoting your library’s collection. Four librarians talked about their different strategies for getting books off the shelves and into the hands of readers—increasing their circulation in the process (of course!). Not only did a record number of you attend, but you also found the webinar “immediately useful” and that the information “really hit the spot.”
As the webinar hit a (useful) nerve, we’re continuing the conversation on promoting library collections, including inviting many of the presenters to expound on what they said in the webinar in a blog post. We’ve got a post on creating best of lists customers for your library and one on marketing through self-check systems.
Sara Leady’s fun flyers particularly resonated with people. She’s the brilliant mind behind this flyer, created after FSU’s football team lost a brutal game to Clemson. She agreed to share some of her pro tips for creating memorable flyers like this one.
We hope you enjoy this guest post from Sara.
Customer Engagement Coordinator, LibraryAware
1. ALWAYS, I mean ALWAYS, make sure your library actually owns a copy of the books you’re featuring (not just ordered but actually fully processed and out there in the library wilds). I even check to see if they’re also available digitally.
Imagine being a patron who is stoked about a book after looking at your list only to find out your library doesn’t even own it. Total party foul. If it’s a fiction list and the book’s not too quirky, I’ll make sure there’s multiple physical copies and at least one digital copy. If it’s a real oddball list (which I love to make), then I lessen the required amount. Sometimes I’ll check on holds, too, since a popular title might have a mile long holds list. If that’s the case, think of it as an opportunity to highlight a lesser-known title.
2. Match your featured book/material covers to what shows in your catalog or is on your library’s shelf.
We’re a visual society, so often we remember the cover better than the title. You’ve all had patrons who asked for a book with a “blue cover” (and might *cough cough* be a librarian who does the same.) Using a cover that doesn’t look like the one on the shelf has the potential to be confusing. This can be tricky when you have an older title that’s come out of nowhere as a must-read or has been turned into a movie, so people can be looking for those new covers, but it is good to try to match things up.
It’s also good practice to keep in mind which collection you’re promoting when looking to match covers. Your physical shelves are likely to have a different cover than what might be showing in your digital collections. If you’re promoting digital stuff, then use what’s going to pop in whatever app you use.
3. Use covers with awards stickers/labels.
The stickers give your suggestion extra weight since obviously someone else found it worthy too or it wouldn’t have won an award. I do this especially when I’m including any book that’s potentially controversial, but also when I do lists for youth. Award stickers also make it harder for parents to question why the library is promoting a certain book.
4. Keep your patrons in mind when making materials.
What language is going to make sense to them? Seriously think layperson terms and in ways that might seem odd to you. For example, our PR Manager told me to quit using the word “title” and instead use the word “book.” I hadn’t even thought of that being a potential barrier till she said something, and it was a total duh. No one but librarians/authors/publishers are going to say, “Check out these titles!” They might, however, say, “Check out these books!” Word choice might seem small, but our purpose is to be accessible, and our words create inadvertent barriers.
5. Think about where, when, or even how a patron might use library materials and make it a part of your pitch.
This guideline came from trying to promote our magazines more, especially the digital ones. Since the only place I regularly read magazines is at the airport (or doctor’s office), I wanted to play to the idea that they wouldn’t have to pay crazy airport prices and would have a whole library of magazines to pull from with their library card. Audiobooks are a similar example. There’s a misconception that you have to sit still and listen to an audiobook, so around the holidays I push road trip listening as an easy way to keep everyone in the car entertained (or just to keep yourself from suffering in the airport).
6. Mix it up.
I like to try to trick people into reading things they might otherwise consider not their thing. Sure, maybe it’s evil, but we could all use a little encouragement to get out of our comfort zone sometimes. One easy way to prod people into reading something new is to put YA titles in adult lists. I’ve been in so many book clubs where people refuse to read anything that’s not targeted to adults that I’ve taken it upon myself to convert as many “adults” as possible to reading things intended for “younger” readers. I’ll also toss in different genres depending on the list. If I’m working with a genre like “mystery,” there’s no reason not to toss in a fantasy or even graphic novel, as long as it fits in with being a great mystery.
7. Get a second pair of eyes to check for mistakes, but also find people to serve as a sort of “sensitivity reader” for your list.
Fun words are great, but make sure you’re not being offensive.
More than just catching typos, a second pair of eyes has helped me catch the times where I modified the direction I was going with a book list and inadvertently did something like leave a nonfiction book on a fiction list.
Equally, possibly more important is finding coworkers who can be “sensitivity readers” for your lists. For example, I (a 30-year-old, white, female from CO/WA) have used a word I thought was cute and fun. When I sent my lists out to the managers to post for a holiday, I quickly received a phone call from a branch manager asking me to remove all materials from all locations and re-do them as he was highly offended. Our PR person (an even younger version of me) also didn’t understand the nuance of the word I’d used. We asked the assistant director. She took one look, gulped, and told me to immediately make sure everyone took them down and find a new word. The branch manager and assistant director are from a different generation, and there was a generational gap in the word’s meaning that I didn’t understand. If you don’t have people to act as sensitivity readers, at least check Urban Dictionary (or something similar) to make sure you’re not making some unintentional mistake. If you do make a mistake, be gracious about fixing it and consider your lesson learned. Remember your lists represent the entire library to your community. You certainly don’t want to put your library in the headlines over something you made.
Missed the (wildly popular) webinar? Watch the recording.
As Head of Interlibrary Loans/Periodicals, Readers Advisory and Reference Librarian Sara Leady reigns as the Queen of Readers Advisory for the Anderson County Library in the land of South Carolina. Sara holds a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from the University of South Carolina-Columbia with a focus on Children and Youth Library Services and diversity within the graphic medium.