Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Engaging Library Users.

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Over the past six months I was able to arrange viewings of the College of DuPage Press library teleconference series for RIT Libraries. These teleconferences are free for institutions within New York state, so basically I just had to reserve the room, login to the website, and handle a few technological difficulties (with the assistance of the library technology services team). Some of the teleconferences were better attended than others, but I think everyone appreciated what they did get a chance to see. I personally found the last teleconference, Tools of Engagement: Engaging and Attracting Library Users on May 9th, to be the most interesting. Below are some notes on the hour and a half long session. One highlight was the blunt yet continually overlooked fact that libraries are not selling a product, not even the product of information. We are selling critical thinking and civic involvement.

Questions to ask yourself (or your library): Are you making the benefits obvious to potential users? Are you picking a narrow target audience? Are you considering optimal timing for delivery of events or new services (for academic libraries, consult the academic calendar for times of the semester that might be high stress for both students and faculty and break periods)? Are you assessing your efforts (i.e. a raffle simply asking “Where did you hear about this event?”)?

A Few Ideas:

  • Placing a “dorm pack” in every on-campus room for incoming freshmen with information & freebies.
  • Have a succession plan in place, be transparent, and document publicity and assessment efforts.
  • If library staff wants to help, but are worried that they don’t have any marketing background, there are ways to involve them by making use of their library-related skills. For example, librarians are excellent at doing research, so they could be helpful in conducting target audience and venue research. Writing is another popular library strength, as well as creative thinking.
  • Have “outposts” in the library for the career and writing centers.
  • Student orientation party with root beer floats and massages.
  • Holding a summer party for faculty.
  • Use Twitter or text messaging to send hold notifications.

The Power of Words: Choosing the right words can make or break a press release or marketing copy. Carefully consider word choices to be positive and uplifting. Including “education” is always a plus, as the general public sees education as important and worthwhile (Howard County Library).

Partnerships: Creating partnerships are one of the best ways to engage with the community (public, faculty, students). Offer library spaces for local events. One partnership example was between a local library and the town tourism industry, based on planting commemorative trees on the library grounds (Howard County Library – Blossoms of Hope).

Unique Library Experiences:

  • Hold an annual community gala/multicultural events at the library.
  • Create or participate in a community-wide book reading event.
  • Design and give away car magnets.
  • Partner with schools for a spelling bee.
  • Investigate unconventional initiatives – One library had an artist-in-residence in the library for a year, working on different exhibits. Another offered yoga classes in the library.

Tips on Marketing to Faculty: Find the faculty gatekeepers, they will tell others of your greatness. How can you make services easier and more accessible?

Communication Tools: University-wide blogging at the University of Minnesota

One really neat project was transforming librarian/library liaison business cards into trading cards (Gould Library at Carleton College). Jennifer Edwins, Loan Services Manager and Assistant to the College Librarian has given me permission to repost the images below. I love them!


So, what is your library doing to engage and attract users? Some of these things? Other great things?

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Written by Erin Dorney

June 2, 2008 at 5:29 PM

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