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Marketing your library – Instalment 3

Displays: highlighting what you have!

So if library marketing can be anything you want it to be and starting small is the best way to proceed, how do you get started? In the two previous columns we talked about marketing in broad general terms, but now let's get specific. For your first marketing attempt you will want to take the path of least resistance and the best and simplest way to do that is to regularly highlight what you have in the easiest way you can, avoiding any potential pitfalls along the way. Creating awareness and attracting the users attention is a basic marketing principle that lets you draw the user attention to resources you already have. By using in-house resources to create simple rotating displays, you can highlight your library's strengths and uniqueness!

Stop, look and listen

The first thing any librarian new to marketing should do is take a good look at the library and its history. This step can help you to avoid political and personal pitfalls and can keep you from inadvertently alienating people. For instance, if your library already has an outreach or marketing committee, then you should definitely work within that committee. If your library doesn't have a marketing committee, consider creating one. Further, if your library has already experienced marketing successes and failures, you can make better and wiser decisions if you know what has worked and hasn't worked in the past. Your colleagues are your greatest asset in any marketing campaign – so talk to them.

You will also want to be sure what resources are available for you to use to market your library. If you want to do a physical display, first make sure you will have the physical space to set up a display. For physical displays also make sure you have any supplies you might need like clear sign holders or book easels. If you want to do a web page, you will need to make sure you have access to server space and software.

Making lists

Hopefully by talking to your colleagues, you will have learned what sorts of resources they are most proud of and gotten advice concerning the best way to go about highlighting those resources. Write down all the different ideas that you and your colleagues have. Ideally, your list will include all kinds of different resources such print materials, electronic resources, unique collections, library services and more. Use this list to map out your plan for the rotating display for the next six months to a year. For your inaugural display, however, pick the one thing on the list that you are most comfortable with and let it be the first resource you highlight.

Since this is to be a rotating display, you will need to decide how often you want to change out the display. Lots of libraries have some sort of "Resource of the month" promotion, which is great. If you are just starting out, however, you may want to opt for a less frequent schedule. You can always increase your pace later. Academic libraries tend to change things around according to semesters, but you could also use the seasons or a bimonthly schedule.

What's in a name?

Once you get this far, naming the display may prove to be the hardest part. Most everything else is flexible, but consistency is important for the title and any graphic you use for the display. Make sure you ask around for suggestions! "In the spotlight" or "The resource shelf" are nice generic names, but don't be afraid to let the name of the display show the personality of the library!

More ideas!

  • Create a new book display
  • Highlight faculty and/or local authors
  • Staff picks
  • Use current events as your inspiration
  • Find inspiration in your school's or region's history

Be sure and check out Judith M. Siess's, The Visible Librarian: Asserting Your Value with Marketing and Advocacy (American Librarian Association, Chicago, 2003).