New Library Directors Handbook
You can develop bookmarks, flyers, and newsletters. These should be simple, colorful and useful. Typically this is a time intensive, but less expensive way of marketing the library. What kinds of information should these items have? Your library hours, phone numbers, storytime hours, and special events are all good for this type of publicity. Have these items available at the various service desks. People can pick them up or staff members can hand the items out.
Book lists, displays and exhibits typically address a certain subject. Book lists give people an idea of what books the library has on a topic. Displays and exhibits can do this as well. The difference is the visual impact. While book lists may list several items, the displays and exhibits let people actually look at the item. You can do a formal display focusing on a particular topic or you can display books throughout the library. Choose eye-catching covers that make people want to check a book out. For exhibits work with other local artists, students, etc. This works to the advantage of both groups, since you both get a chance to do some publicity. Plus this is helpful for developing positive public relations and highlighting the importance of the library as a community center.
Advertising in the newspaper, on the radio or television is more formal, but has the potential to reach non-users. It's important to develop good relations with your local media. Find out when the deadlines are and what the procedure is for inserting something into the newspaper or onto a radio or TV station. Human-interest stories are the best, both for the media format and for your audience. We relate to stories about people and their experiences with the library more than we do stories about numbers, etc. Photographs of library events and people add to the story and are very important.
Another thing you can do is put your library events into the newspaper community events column, which is usually free.
A library website is another way to promote the library. Think of a website as giving your patrons access to the library 24 hours a day. Even if you are small, there are some valuable things you can add to a website. First it's a place to list hours, phone numbers, and contact information. You can also list library services and how to get library cards. If you are automated and your system has the software to do this, you can have a link to your catalog from your website. Patrons can search your collection to see if you have an item they want. With sophisticated online catalogs patrons can even reserve an item, see what they have checked out, and place ILL requests. Your website could also have information about special events coming up in the library, sites you recommend people visit, exhibits featuring local information, and lots of other useful stuff. The only limitation is how much time you have to devote to the website.
This is another place where an online shared catalog can be useful. Even if you do not have the time to develop a website, you can at least offer patrons access to your materials via the shared catalog. Another library is responsible for the technical aspects of having your materials online. The customer is then able to access the collection at any time.
Be creative in how you publicize the library. It can be the difference between a well-known and well-used library and one that is not.