Last weekend my copy of American Libraries for May/June arrived in my mailbox. Wetter than usual due to all of the rain we have been having lately, I let it dry out for a few days and then took it to work early this week to read when my eyes can’t handle looking at the computer screen any longer. Recently I have been a bit overwhelmed by all of the talk about eBooks and this issue of American Libraries was no exception, with no fewer than 15 mentions of eBooks in the issue I am pretty sure the topic has been oversaturated. A few months back, word had come around that Sue Polanka, eBooks guru from Wright State University, was going to be in my county for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference (ACL) in June. Being an active participant of the Palm Beach County library scene and also thoroughly interested in continuing education – especially when it comes to a topic as trendy as eBooks – I signed myself up for single day attendance for the day she would be in town. Little did I know that by the time she had arrived I would have heard so much about eBooks that it bordered on overload. But knowing that there is always something new and essential to learn I re-psyched myself up for her presentation.
Sue had already presented at one Florida event this year, as she was host of two presentations at the Florida Library Association Annual Meeting in April. I managed to catch her once there to see her talk about libraries that had initiated lending out their eReaders. Being a public services librarian at a busy urban library the concept of lending out an expensive devise seemed wild and foreign to me. As it turned out the majority of eReader lending was occurring at colleges and universities and most institutions were placing a hold on patrons’ credit cards – sort of like the hold placed on your credit card when you check into a hotel. Well, this would likely not go over well at my library, so I stored the information for future use.
Sue arrived to speak at ACL 2012 having just vacationed in Italy and her presentation was on 22 strategies for the promotion of E-Resources. Being a public librarian at an academic library convention I still managed to gather several important bits of information. Most important were tips on how to promote your library and your collection. Relationships are essential for marketing and it is key to remember the original form of advertising – word of mouth. Training your staff to promote your resources and to demonstrate them goes a long way to patron buy-in. Libraries should brand themselves by putting their logo on their online databases and pretty much everywhere else. There is a method of having Paid For By (insert name of organization) on the bottom of emailed online journal articles. This lets the recipient know where the article came from and where they can go in the future for similar information and a logo can be used for this too.
Other ways to demonstrate your library resources are digital displays in the lobby that are interactive and alert patrons to your programs and other offerings. Purchasing a digital video camera and having a dedicated staff member who creates two minute videos on library databases, programs, and other library activities. These videos can then be posted on the library YouTube channel, which is a great way to reach people outside of the library, and to accommodate those who might not be able to make it in. Obviously you want to use social media for promotion – and all of the usual suspects can be essential like Facebook, Twitter, etc. One of the really good ideas that I took away from Sue’s presentation is to create a Wikipedia page about your library. I know we librarians have been told over and over to be wary of Wikipedia, but this is a free way to demonstrate your library’s history and mission to anyone with access to the World Wide Web.
Overall the presentation was very useful and I was relieved that the entire dialogue did not concern eBooks and eResources. I truly believe that libraries need to build their brand and cannot let outside organizations like the media dictate their mission and purpose. There are too many reasons for people to come to libraries besides electronic resources and it is essential that libraries promote these types of things. Just as libraries before the internet were not simply about books, libraries after the advent of eBooks are not only about eBooks. We have a lot to accomplish to help people educate themselves, look for work, ask questions they don’t know where else to ask, and yes even be entertained!