Blogger Sarah Bean Thompson

Branding the Library

My staff and I love doing programming around geeky fandoms and pop culture. Whatever our kids and teens are talking about, we love to program around it. We have so much fun with our fandom programs and they are always well attended. But it makes me wonder what we can do to make sure all library programs have the same draw.

When we put a character name or popular brand to something, people come. Pete the Cat costume character event? 600 people. Star Wars Reads Day? 200 people. Harry Potter Trivia Event? 75 people. Doc McStuffins Stuffie Clinic? 120 people. Halloween Storytime and Trick-or-Treat Parade in the Library-366 people. My average program attendance this summer? 31.

Yes, 31 is still a great number and attendance. Yes these big name programs are fun and bring people into the library. But looking at what we plan for these programs compared to what we plan for programs that aren’t based on a specific character or brand, (art programs, science programs, dance parties, building programs) our set up, program plan and implementation is very similar. The only thing that’s really different is that the activities and crafts have a specific character instead of something general. Just having a superhero program isn’t enough, yet an Big Hero 6 program was huge. Storytime is well attended, but make it about Pete the Cat or Elephant and Piggie and I have huge crowds.

I know that these programs are all very creative and fun. And my regular library patrons always say how much they love library programs and how creative our staff is-no matter the theme. But how do we market library programs in general to the public without having to attach a popular character, theme or brand on top of it? How can we get people excitied about library programs without needing to attach a name to it? How can we get people to come to a Community Helpers program instead of a Paw Patrol program? Or a space program instead of a Star Wars Day? Why isn’t the library name enough?

I believe there is absolutely a place in the library for fandoms and pop culture and I love programming for it. But I would love to figure out how to advertise the all library programs to everyone in our community. I want to let people know that we have these fun pop culture based programs for the entire family. And while they are at the library, I want to promote all the other amazing resources the library has to offer. I want them to think about library programs and think they are all awesome and fun, not just the ones that are about a character or theme they know.

I don’t have all the answers and I’m still trying to figure out how best to program for our patrons. I’ve found a few things I’ve that help though:

-Don’t just have the program isolated to one room. Scavenger hunts are our best friend! They are easy to put together, kids love them, and they sneakily teach people about the library. Hide scavenger hunt items in all departments of the library and get people to explore all that you have to offer.

-Announce events at other programs. Advertise to everyone and spread the word. Having a storytime? Promote an upcoming program. I’ve found the best attendance I get at a Saturday program is when I announce in every storytime the week leading up to it. Also word of mouth is the best marketing tool you will ever have.

-Promote all the library offers. We noticed that at our annual Halloween Storytime and Trick-Or-Treat Parade we had lots of families attending that we didn’t see regularly attending storytimes. So we take advantage of this an along with stickers, candy, and finger puppets, kids also get our Storytime Brochure with all of our storytimes listed and fliers advertising upcoming library programs in their goodie bags.

I’d love to know other ideas on how to get people excited about all library programs.  How do we get people talking about all library programs and not just ones based on a brand or name? How do we make the library an exciting brand all of it’s own?

One comment

  1. Abby Johnson

    We struggle with this, too, sometimes, and I think you’re absolutely right when you say that word of mouth is essential for giving programs a boost. I used to have a super outgoing clerk that worked our desk and I would give her challenges like “Tell every person who comes in the department today about the puppet show on Saturday!” 😉

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