NEVER underestimate the power of walking up to a patron.
I think a lot of times, we forget the that the lives of most of the people who visit the public library do not revolve around the library. They may pop in and out for a book or movie, they may stop by every 3 weeks to return a stack of picture books and let their kids pick out another set. But, unlike those of us that work there, they are probably not checking the library’s website on a daily basis or following all of its social media outlets.
So when you hang up that poster in the front of your library, NEVER assume that it is enough. We have all learned how to ignore all of the messages being sent to us every day. Billboards, posters, fliers, spam texts and emails – we avoid a lot of marketing, we have to or we would never get anything done.
So, librarians, if you want your program to succeed, be it a storytime event, teen club, or adult class — YOU have to take the initiative and talk to your patrons.
One of our librarians decided he wanted to create a “Guys Book Club” – a book club with books that would appeal to male readers. Now, he could have just put up a sign, maybe a little display, and hoped for the best. And he probably wouldn’t have had anyone show up. Adults, especially men, are notoriously hard to get into programs. So he made sure there was a stack of our system publication of events sitting open at the desk with the Guys Book Club dates highlighted. Any time he helped a male patron, he made sure to talk up the club, invite them to the program, and give them a handout. And you know what? The club has been going strong for over two years!
Also, never underestimate the power of buzz words.
We will be starting our Early Literacy Initiative this month. In reality, we have been doing this forever, reading stories to children, singing songs, and preparing them for when they learn to read. Our new programs will just include more information for the parents/caregivers to help them after the 30 minute story time is over. In an effort to make people aware, I followed a cue from my co-worker and opened up the publication to the Early Literacy page. When I started handing them out, I just said “storytimes are coming back in March!” and most parents smiled and nodded.
Then I decided I should say “Early Literacy Initiative”. No sooner had I talked it up to the parent I was helping, but then another parent came over to me to find out more because she heard me say “early literacy”.
It’s easy to forget, when we live in the library, that not everyone knows what we are doing or understands the full value of programs for all ages. So the next time you or a co-worker are trying to get a new program or series off the ground, don’t just put up a poster and cross your fingers. Go out into the stacks, talk to patrons and let them know. Your excitement and enthusiasm may make them want to check it out or your words might carry over to a patron you had missed and they will want to know more.