Blogger Heather Acerro

Keeping Connected with Custom Collections

At a time when Rochester Public Library (MN) has limited ability to provide direct services to children, teens, and families, our custom collection service has helped us stay connected.

Since mid-March, RPL staff have been heavily engaged in city-wide pandemic response work, including setting up and staffing a day center for people experiencing homelessness and running a COVID-19 call center. We also provide library services through our digital library, Curbside pickup, Bookmobile services, Deposit & Homebound services, phone reference, and Internet access by appointment.

This work has required our library to collaborate as a large team, with staff from multiple divisions sharing ideas and responsibilities on the various projects. As a result, our Youth Services team hasn’t had many opportunities to work together. During this time, two YS programs have allowed us to provide direct service to our kids, teens, and families.

In June, we launched our Pen Pal program which has been a delightful way to keep connected with the kids at home.

Custom Collection Flyer

That same month, we began to heavily publicize our Custom Collection program, which pre-pandemic had been used sporadically by a few teachers in town. Once we began advertising the service, it took off with business growing steadily each month. Our busiest month so far was September with over 125 custom collections filled.

We advertise the service through social media, email blasts, flyers in Curbside delivery bags, and on our website. Our two biggest boosts in business happened when one happy customer shared her experience on social media with her friends and the next was when we shared our Custom Collection video on Facebook. We now have many repeat customers who use the service regularly.

Custom Collection requests are collected through an online form, which submits an email directly to YS staff.

We use an excel spreadsheet in Office 365 to track due dates and work in progress. This has been a great way to help kids and families find their next favorite book and stay connected. And families love it too! We just received this message in a collection request:

 “Thank you, we love getting our custom collection books almost as much as going into the library!”

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