August 15, 2017

Five tips for having the most effective Library Card Sign-Up Month ever!

Just when you thought you could breathe after your last summer reading event, September rounds the bend. Not only are you preparing for back to school activities, it’s also Library Card Sign-Up Month. This year, the Honorary Chairs are the Teen Titans and ALA has tons of branded materials for you to download and/or purchase. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, don't worry! These five tips will help you leverage your efforts for the greatest impact.

1. Start with your staff

No matter what you do, it will be better if you have staff buy-in and the best way to get that is to involve them in the process. Consider going beyond the traditional “start a committee” mindset and pull the whole staff together for a brainstorming session. Start the meeting with a “big picture” overview of what you hope to achieve such as strengthening relationships with your partners, reaching underserved areas of the community, or increasing circulation of a specific collection. Then ask everyone to share their ideas. The only restriction is that the idea must tie back to one of the big picture goals you outlined in the beginning of the meeting.

If you can’t host a meeting, create a bulletin boards labeled with the different big picture ideas in the staff room. Let staff write their suggestions on Post-It notes. The more you engage your staff, the better the buy-in will be.

One of many ready-to-go signage options available in LibraryAware

2. Honor your partnerships

With the Teen Titans (crime fighting DC superheroes) as the Honorary Chairs of Library Card Sign-Up Month, there are plenty of partners that fit naturally. This is a great opportunity to partner with the local police, comic book stores or clubs, schools and even local comic creators. Think beyond traditional programming ideas. For example if you partner with the local police consider activities that might help them meet with the community in an interesting way. Katie Stover, head of reader services for Kansas City Public Library, hosts a pop-up book club at various community locations related to the theme of the book. One time the group even visited a police station. Local businesses, newspapers, bloggers, and community groups are great choices, just keep in mind that the best partnerships are those that are ongoing, share common values and are mutually beneficial.

3. Host programs that leverage your library's goals

With such a fun theme, it will be easy to create campaign-specific programming. Always keep in mind that the best programs will not only fill the room, but also provide a platform to get people interested in your library’s collections and services. It’s as easy as starting your program by telling participants why your library is hosting your program. For example, all the program ideas below support literacy, creativity, and transforming lives. By articulating the “why” you help people connect the dots between the one activity they are participating in and the larger value the library provides the community. If there isn’t a connection, you may want to reconsider the program.

  • Teen Titans or Super Hero Trivia Contests
  • Mini Comic-Con
  • Make your own comics -- illustrating and writing comics
  • Make a movie
  • Book discussions
  • Role playing games

Looking for some more programming ideas? Here’s a fun article to read from Amy Dittmeier’s blog, CCGC in Libraries (Cosplay, Comics and Geek Culture), Throwing a Super-Hero Bash at Your Library.

Program flyer

Program flyer

Capture the attention of your audience with eye-catching flyers like these made in LibraryAware.

4. AMRR... Always make reading recommendations

As a NoveList employee, I can tell you that we are all passionate about empowering librarians to make reading recommendations every chance they get. In an ideal world people would always approach you, but don’t let it hold you back if they don’t. You can always reach program participants with the right book displays and signs. Pull out all the stops this September by turning your entire library into a super hero reading hot spot. Create displays that feature super heroes and staff picks. Do you have staff who are cosplayers? Consider highlighting them in costume on a flyer featuring their favorite staff picks. Engage patrons -- put out a huge foam board with Post-It notes and let your patrons list their favorite comics or graphic novels. Place signs with reading recommendations in the stacks (go for author and book read-alikes), and distribute bookmarks in your hold books and at checkout. Don’t forget to promote your DVDs and CDs. 

Recommended titles

Recommended titles

It's easy to recommend great titles with these colorful reading recommendation signs.

5. Create an email list

Libraries are seeing great results with emails. The more targeted your list, the happier your recipients, so why not use this month to collect email addresses and create an email list that you can use to keep in touch with all the folks who attended your events. Are you already sending a monthly e-newsletter? Make sure you let them know its Library Card Sign-Up Month!

I know that some librarians are little resistant to running a campaign that asks people to sign up for a library card. It might help to keep in mind that while it may be called Library Card Sign-Up Month, it’s really an opportunity for your library to shine so brightly that people want to ask you for a card. Your campaign doesn’t have to get people to sign up for a card as much as it should demonstrate how your library is relevant to them. And that just may be the most important outcome of all! 

Nancy Dowd is the Product Lead for LibraryAware. Her passion is helping libraries connect to their communities. 


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