A PROMOTION A DAY
by Marylaine Block
I'm surprised that so few libraries create their own calendars, either to sell or to give away as promotional items. Mind you, I'm not talking about our calendars of library events, which many libraries post on their websites, but real, January-December or academic year calendars, that people use to plan their days and weeks and months. The thing is, people look at calendars every day, so when librarians create a calendar, they have 365 opportunities to tell people things they might not know about what the library can do for them -- and 12 more if you count the facing page where calendar-makers always put the pretty pictures.
Take, for instance, the Counting the Days 'til Kindergarten calendar created as part of West Bloomfield Township Public Library's Grow Up Reading(TM) Initiative. Each month has a reading readiness goal, stated in the facing page. Among them are Learning the ABCs, Oral Language, Phonemic Awareness, Concepts of Print. For each month's theme, there's a brief statement of What Reading Experts Say, and What Good Readers Know How To Do (a way for parents to measure their children's progress).
The calendar pages themselves include sidebars describing What Parents Can Do To Help Children with that theme, week by week, while each day's entry includes either a regularly scheduled children's program at the library or a suggestion for a short activity parents can do with their children to help them toward that month's goal, such as "fill a baking sheet with rice and help your child trace letters with his finger," and "as you read nursery rhymes, stop before a rhyming word and encourage your child to fill in the missing word." The bottom of each calendar page recommends Books for Four- and Five-Year Olds.
That's one way to use a library calendar: to advance one specific library program. But think about your goals more generally. What do you do that people don't realize you do? What kinds of services are they unaware of? What special kinds of collections do they not know you have? Do people know about all the information available through your web site? Are there entire groups of people in your community who think the library has nothing for them? A calendar gives librarians 365 opportunities to showcase all the things they do.
Each month you could highlight a particular collection or service. Do you want to show men that you really do have things to interest them? How about, for a month in which hunting or fishing seasons begin in your state, on the facing page for that month, you highlight a nice display of your outdoor sports magazines? You could schedule programs or workshops with local outdoorsmen for that month, and mark them on the facing calendar page. For blank dates on the calendar, you could supply important facts (when each season begins and ends, bag limits, how and where to get licenses, etc.), recommended books, both fiction and non-, intriguing facts about the animals and the sports, and, of course, URLs for the pages on your web site where they'll find sports information and reading lists.
Want to highlight your local history and genealogy collection? You could make that the theme for one month, with a nice display of some of your historical photos, maps, newspapers, parish histories and such. You could schedule workshops on genealogy and local history searching for that month, and give the dates for them on the calendar page, interspersed with titles of some of your key resources, samples of local history questions you've answered, and links to your local history webpage, tutorials, and databases.
I'm sure you can think of any number of services you might want to highlight in similar fashion. 24/7 reference or homework help? You could show how it works with a picture of an onscreen transaction, and fill that month's calendar page with samples of the questions you've answered, the URL for the homework help page, or "Did you know... items about how the library works with local schools. Services to immigrants could be highlighted with a page featuring all the languages you collect in, and the dates when regular services like ESL classes meet. December and the start of summer reading programs are great times to feature children's collections, puppet shows, web sites, and special services like stories by telephone or on local cable.
You might also want to reserve one month just to tell people things they don't know about library operations: how many questions you answered last year, how many children's programs you presented, how many visits you made to nursing homes and daycare centers, how many people visited the library, how many magazines you subscribe to, how many magazines and journals they can access in your full-text databases, etc.
While you're at it, you could throw in some data about the economic impact libraries have on their communities, like the South Carolina study in which "About half of the businesses surveyed use the library as a primary resource for business and research information; three quarters of them said that the library contributed to the success of their businesses," or the Florida study that showed "For every $1 of public support spent on public libraries, income (wages) increases by $12.66" (http://www.oclc.org/news/publications/newsletters/
oclc/2005/267/advocacy.htm). You could also use this opportunity to explain how people can support the library by becoming a Friend, or visiting their book sales and/or shop.
Try it, why don't you? Can you think of any other kind of advertising you could afford that could get people to think about your library every single day?
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When noted travel writer William Least Heat Moon travels the country gathering material for his books, he makes it a practice to stop at the local library. They can always tell him why the community has such a funny name, who is the last remaining descendant of the founding family, and where to go to see historic ruins.
Andy Barnett. Libraries, Community, and Technology. McFarland & Company, 2002. P. 61
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