Communicating with your Community through Media

Twitter Screenshot of library customers sharing photos of the Bibliotheca self-check machines

We’ve been busy at my library! Our huge RFID/Self-check/Carpeting project is pretty much done – yippie!

How did we connect with our community while our building was closed? Through media: local news media and social media channels.

Here are some of the mentions we received in the local news media:

We have a great relationship with local media, so it’s really pretty easy for us to get mentioned in the news (way to go, marketing dept!). Since we were closed for 5 days while we tagged all our materials, it was nice to be able to share that through local traditional media outlets.

We also used our own social media channels to share what was going on through those five days. Here’s one of our videos showing our first customer using our new checkout kiosks:

We made four more videos:

These videos were uploaded to Youtube, and then shared out via Twitter and Facebook. We also created some Vine videos and took some quick “in the moment” pictures that went to Twitter.

Now, our customers are sharing their experience with our new checkout kiosks. The image in this blog post shows two of our customers who took pretty much the same photo, then shared the photos on Twitter (with slightly different viewpoints).

My point?

  1. We’re done – whew!
  2. Gotta have those media connections – both local and social – in place BEFORE your big project. If you don’t have that already, start working on it NOW.

When your Library Building Closes, your Library doesn’t Close

Library Closed signSo my library is closed today. We’re closed from May 1-5 to do a couple of tiny little projects, like:

  • RFID tag almost 500,000 items
  • Install 11 new self-check machines throughout the building
  • retrofit our automated material handler for RFID tags
  • Install new RFID security gates
  • Remove a bunch of DVDs and CDs from lockboxes (and get rid of the lockboxes)
  • Oh, and put in some new carpet too, while we’re at it!

To get all this done, we’re using our staff (because they are awesome), and we needed to “close the library.” But here’s the deal: our building is (mostly) closed, but the library? Not so much. Here’s what I mean:

  • First off, the whole building isn’t closed. You can still use some of our meeting rooms, visit the art gallery, the cafe, or our bookstore.
  • Telephone and chat reference is still open.
  • The digital branch is open – our website, our library catalog, our social media channels are still running.
  • Databases? They’re still available.
  • Ebooks? Yep – still available.
  • Bookmobiles? Still running.
  • Our outreach vehicles? Still going strong.
  • WIFI in the building? Still available.
  • Computers at local community centers (run by the library) are still available.
  • Holds? Still available on bookmobiles and through our book locker in one of the community centers.
  • … and probably some other stuff that I missed.

This actually made signage difficult for us! Some of our signs around the building say “library closed.” And some of them say “library closed, but …” You can see more of our signs here.

So – is the library closed because we closed a building? Nope. Today’s library is much larger than the building.

 

PR 101: Don’t Make Major Announcements on April Fools Day

innovative and Polaris Announce stuff on April Fool's DayDon’t make major announcements on April Fools Day … or your customers might just think you’re a fool.

So, apparently Innovative Interfaces acquired Polaris Library Systems – two major ILS vendors (and yes, Polaris is my library’s ILS vendor).

When did they decide to announce this? On April 1, better known as April Fools Day. The day when companies large and small … make up stupid stuff on purpose. Just to be funny.

Many of us “online types” know that Google does this every year (this year’s Shelfie was pretty funny). Other companies do this with varying levels of success.

So when a major announcement from your ILS vendor springs up from out of the blue on April Fools Day? It makes you think twice, to say the least. That’s certainly what happened over at ALA Think Tank (a Facebook Group for librarians) – much discussion – none of it about the actual merger.

I tweeted about it, and Polaris answered:

So – Polaris and Innovative Interfaces:

  • I get that you have to announce it. It’s probably a legal thing.
  • But – the purchase happened on March 31. That’s when you should have announced it.
  • If you really HAD to announce it on April 1, you should have mentioned that at the start of your press release (which they did finally add sometime late afternoon yesterday).
  • The email I received should have gone out on March 31 – not April 1.
  • That’s besides the whole “talk to your customers” thing. I’m lookin’ at YOU, Polaris (who tried to sell us an early release beta version of their new LEAP software. No way now – not until the dust settles with the merger).

I’m pretty sure you guys both have some PR types on staff – use them next time, please?

Save your Community Money … and Announce it!

The photo in this post is from a gas station at a local grocery store. They put up a sign at the gas station showing how much money they saved a community via their fuel points program.

How cool would that be to use one of those library value calculators, add everything up for a year, and share how much money the library has saved the community – in books, videos, and events attended?

For some libraries, this could be a really BIG number!

Why do this? I can think of a few reasons, including:

  • It puts a positive spin on library budget discussions
  • It’s a nice way to share what the library does
  • It changes the conversation from an internal library one (i.e., how many books were checked out) to a community-facing, “why should I care” one
  • It’s a handy way to share the value of a library without having to explain why all those circulation statistics and customer count numbers matter

Has anyone done something like this before? If so, did it work? I’d love to know – please share!

Make your Stuff Obvious

This sign was at our local shopping mall. Like any good blogging geek, I stopped and took a picture of it – to the chagrin of my kids, I’m sure (“Mom – Dad’s taking pictures of signs again!” – eye roll!)

But the sign made me think of a few things that I thought I’d share:

  1. The sign is nicely done – large, easy-to-read words.
  2. Just an interesting side-note – the sign’s in the shape of a smartphone. A few very short years ago, a phone that did wifi wouldn’t have made any sense. But we all easily get it now, don’t we?
  3. The message is clear, the service is obvious, the sign is hard to miss. You know exactly what they’re advertising.

Contrast that with the average wifi sign in a library. In most of our libraries, we make little, tiny, dinky-winky signs that say “wifi.” Usually provided to us by our wifi vendor. If we have signs at all [hmm… I wonder what our wifi signs look like? I’ll need to check].

But at the mall … where they really want you to stay awhile … the wifi sign is HUGE. This sign was almost as tall as me, folks! And right out in the walkway, standing close to the food courts (one place people would possibly use wifi for an extended period of time).

What do they want you to do at the mall? Stay awhile. Eat some food. Use their free wifi. And buy more stuff!

Now translate that to a library. What do we want our customers to do? Stay awhile? Eat more food (if you have a cafe)? Read/watch/listen to/download more content? Ask us questions? Attend our events? Probably all of those things (though I’ll bet most of us don’t spell those goals out quite like that).

Define what it is you want your customers to do, then make your branding, your promotion, your signage – what you want people to do while engaging with you – make it obvious.