New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shout It Out: Libraries Are Essential!

The black-on-white bumper sticker, shown with a pen to gauge size.
Libraries Are Essential!

Is that a message you believe? One you want to shout from the mountaintops? I'd like to help you do that. 

Check out my Libraries Are Essential store on Cafe Press, where every product proudly proclaims, "Libraries Are Essential."

New for National Library Week: Inexpensive bumper stickers. They're available with black type on white OR with black type on a clear background. Buy a single one, a pack of 10, or a pack of 50. There's also a 20"W x 12"H decal to use on walls, bookmobiles, exhibit booths, and more. (The vinyl decal, just $12.50, can be placed on a wall, taken down w/o damage, then put up again repeatedly, according to Cafe Press.)

Cafe Press ships very quickly, and usually has a sale going on. These products give you a simple way to shout out about libraries' importance. Give them to staff, Friends, or Trustees, use them as prizes or giveaways, or buy in bulk to sell them as a fundraiser. 

These and the other products at this site were created by me, Kathy Dempsey, founder of the Libraries Are Essential marketing consultancy (using the logo font of my website). Feel free to ask questions, suggest new items, or contact me at Start by seeing what's available today.  

Don't forget: National Library Week is April 13-19 in the US! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Peek at Irish Libraries

It's going to take a little time for me to process and share the great things I just saw at the Public Library Association's 2014 conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Meanwhile, if you're feeling a wee bit Irish today, take a look back at this post from 2010 that includes video and photo from Irish libraries.

And the photos posted here are from a visit to another library, in Killarney, Ireland, a few years back. They show me outside with the colorful signage (top), and the meeting room (with a quilt display), and children's room (both below). 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Great Posters, for Free

Do you sometimes see images online and wish you could print them out for your own library? It's often hard to tell who created the images or what the copyright status is. 

Well, here are 2 great posters that promote librarians (note: not "libraries," but the humans who make them work!). I've gotten permission from the source to share them with you.

The publisher Springer has some wonderful images, and its marketing department will send you the high-resolution PDFs, for free, so you can print as many posters as you like. If you want either of these, simply send an email to to request them. Put "2600 BC" or "Keep Calm" in the subject line of your email to request your PDFs. (And the low-res versions I used above make for great social media posts.)

Thanks to the marketing-savvy staff at Springer for helping librarians show their value! I hope that many of you will take advantage of this generous offer.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Time to Enter the Best of Show Competition

Some of the Best of Show winners on display at the 2013 PR Xchange
It's time to prepare your entries for ALA's annual Best of Show Competition. Now you can enter online to be recognized for the great promotional materials that your library produced during the 2013 calendar year.

This contest is part of the American Library Association's Annual Conference. It's sponsored by LLAMA (the Library Leadership Administration and Management Association) and its PRMS (Public Relations and Marketing Section) group, and is overseen by the PR XChange (formerly known as Swap and Shop) Committee. The deadline is April 1.

There are many categories of materials / prizes: 
  • Advocacy (print/electronic)
    A READ poster from 2013.
  • Annual Reports / Strategic Plans (print/electronic)
  • Bibliographies / Booklists / Materials Promoting Collections (print/electronic)
  • Calendars of Events / Newsletters (print/electronic)
  • Fundraising Materials (print/electronic)
  • Reading Programs: Children and Family (print/electronic)
  • Reading Programs: Teen and Young Adult (print/electronic)
  • Reading Programs: Adult (print/electronic)
  • Services and Resources Available / Patron Orientation Materials / Policy Materials (print/electronic)
  • Special Programs, Exhibits and Events (print/electronic)
Details from the Best of Show Co-Chairs:
Entries will be evaluated based on content, originality, and design by a team of experts in public relations, graphic design, communications, and marketing who select the winner(s) in each category.  
Winning entries will be on display during the PR Xchange program during the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Awards will be presented to the winners during a Best of Show ceremony on that day. Award winners need not be present to win, but are encouraged to attend.
Online entry forms must be completed, and print work postmarked no later than April 1, 2014.
For more information about the competition, please visit the Best of Show at PR Xchange page on the LLAMA website or contact Best of Show co-chairs Karen Okamoto and Mark Aaron Polger at

Friday, February 14, 2014

Checking Out Experiences

There's a new article on the @YourLibrary website that you simply have to read: "Community Engagement: Kentucky Community Checks Out Experiences at the Library."

It's about the Boyd County Public Library in Ashland, Kentucky, which has a project that I think is fantastic. It's called "Checkout Your Community," and it allows patrons to use their library cards to check out an amazing variety of things, such as fishing poles and museum passes. Numerous libraries have been doing that for a while, but Boyd County has taken it a big step further. 

In addition to offering things like sports equipment and binoculars, the staff is partnering with local organizations to let its patrons check out "experiences." Here are some examples of what they can do:
  • At a hardware store, patrons can get a consultation with an expert about a do-it-yourself project and discounts on materials they purchase. 
  • Check out a guitar and music lessons from a local music store. 
  • Get a free tour of the Fire and Police Departments.
  • Play a free match at a local tennis center. 
This project has a huge "Wow Factor," and feedback from both users and partners has been "overwhelmingly positive." The Checkout Your Community program definitely puts the library in a new light, builds community ties, saves people money, and fulfills the library's mission “to provide quality resources and access to information for all users.”
“Our patrons are blown away when they hear about these opportunities, and they bring back positive stories when they return the items,” Nunley said. “I don’t think we could stop this now that it is unleashed!”
There's a larger lesson in all of this that I want to point out--that's how it got started. Some staff members came back from a Risk and Reward (R-Squared) conference with fresh ideas, but they didn't stop there. They asked a vital question: "What more can we do?" 

Asking such questions, thinking innovatively, and having the freedom to try new things is what sets some libraries apart from others. If you want your library to provide more meaningful or more exciting services that people will crave and use, that's what you need to do.

Go read this whole article now, and ask yourself: Why couldn't we do this? What's stopping us? What more can we do to add value to our community?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Where to Find Marketing Info

I've built an illustrated list of where you can find great information on library marketing. I've gathered books, websites, reports, tools, and blogs that I believe offer insight and how-to help. And I've wrapped it all up into a nice PowerPoint that full of live links, to save you time and money. 

I've not seen a list like this anywhere else. (If you know of others, please share in the Comments!) While it is far from exhaustive, it offers 70 resources, which of course all have links to many more. 

If you're just starting to explore marketing, this will be a treasure trove for you. If you're looking to answer a specific question or to find data that will help you make a point or beef up a presentation, you're in luck. And even if you're an expert marketer, I'll bet that you'll find a few gems here that you hadn't known about. 

Please: Use, Share, Enjoy! This is a gift from me to the library marketers of the world, to help all of you do better projects with less work. (You're welcome! :-)   

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The library redefined: Did she really say that?

I found a great video from CNET to help people learn how to download a free ebook from the library. I was so excited until I played it...

I loved that the reporter created an easy-to-understand video, but what really struck me was the way she positioned the library. Her use of phrases like, "good old days" and "think back to when you were in school" made me cringe. But it's a glaring reminder for libraries to remember different generations have different perceptions. 

Here are two quotes from the video that we may want to pay close attention to and ask ourselves if we're overcoming these objections for this generation? 

  1. "First you have to get off your couch and head out the door to get a library card."
    This is a biggie for lots of people who are accustomed to working online. If they can't get a library card online, they might never get one. Are you providing online registration? Can people access the link from any page? 
  2. "Here's there annoying part though, right now most libraries only have a few copies or licenses of each book, you'll have to think back to your childhood and remember that if someone else checked out your book, you'll have to wait your turn." Ouch! While it's true they have to wait, are you also making sure there are reading recommendations that will attract their attention before they leave your catalog? Are you able to promote some cool program? Think cross-promotion and think of it in the catalog--it may be the only place these users ever go.
If we are serious about getting people to use us online, then we must make it easy for them to do that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Ideas for Book Displays

Last year Kate Spade set up a cool pilot program in NYC during the holiday season that combined online shopping with a live window shopping experience. People could order directly from the window display and it would be delivered within an hour to any location in the city.

The idea of libraries utilizing retail window space for interactive book displays is very compelling to me.  

Malls always have those free standing windows where a store has closed or under renovation. You could go low tech and set up an amazing interactive book display with video loops of the author talking about the book, a few book trailers or one of some of your librarians giving a video taped book talk. A QR code sticker will let people connect to your catalog and download the ebook. Keep it simple and borrow from King County's "Take Time to Read" campaign and put up posters all around the mall with a QR code that leads them to a book talk.

Pop Up Libraries?   
It might seem too much to consider hauling your entire collection to a temporary space but why not consider creating themed outreach activities that extend for a couple of weeks and rename it a Pop Up Library?
Take it a step further and partner with a retailer. Create a themed campaign that is relevant to their mission and pull together a series of programs that make sense, create a space at the store for a mini two week Pop Up Library with resources around the theme- maybe even consider conducting a program at the store. The store might love getting a "live performance" by a popular author or other personality. When I was at Ocean County Library, NJ the special events coordinator brought a popular soap opera star to the mall for a book signing and the lines wrapped around the building.

The New Zealand publisher PQ Blackwell opened two LOVE AND CARE pop-up bookstores in Manhattan over the holidays. Don't worry about taking over an entire store, think in terms of creating an amazing space. I love using painted horses for a display table.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Deadlines Are Near for Marketing Awards

The deadlines for two major US marketing-related awards are coming up, so we wanted to remind you to send your entries in soon.

The LibraryAware Community Award

Deadline: January 20
Prizes: First place: $10,000; Second place: $7,500; Third place: $5,000

"The LibraryAware Community Award emphasizes the library’s engagement with the community and will recognize a library or library system that has demonstrated its ability to make its community 'aware' of what the library can do for it—and has delivered on that promise. The award will be given by Library Journal ... and funded by LibraryAware, a product of EBSCO Publishing’s NoveList Division."
Note: Nancy is the Product Manager on LibraryAware, which enables librarians to easily create and distribute various PR materials.

The John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award

Deadline: February 14
Prizes: Eight winners each get $10,000

"The John Cotton Dana Award, provided in conjunction with the H.W. Wilson Foundation, ALA, and EBSCO, honors outstanding library public relations, whether a summer reading program, a year-long centennial celebration, fundraising for a new college library, an awareness campaign, or an innovative partnership in the community."
Note: All submissions must be sent in electronically via the forms & instructions on the site.

Winning either of these awards will bring your library recognition, prestige, and money, so don't hesitate—start preparing your entries now. And good luck!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gifts We've Been Given

'Tis the season of gifts, and US public libraries were just given a couple of big ones.

I'll tell you about the 2nd gift first—the gift of a headline. A commentary magazine called The Atlantic published an online article on December 13 with this title: "Public Libraries Are Better Than Congress, Baseball, and Apple Pie, Say Americans."

Take another look at that powerful headline:
"Public Libraries Are Better Than Congress, Baseball, and Apple Pie." What better gift could libraries be given at this time when budgets are being cut? Granted, it's not too hard to be more highly regarded than Congress these days, but—beating baseball and apple pie, those two American icons? That says libraries are amazingly awesome!

We need all the help we can get to convince others that the internet is no replacement for libraries, so having that message in a respected magazine really is a gift. But, as with the gift of love, or of a bright flame, it's nothing unless we share it with others. So now, it's up to each one of us to share that gift with everyone we know. (Not just with fellow library people—with everyone.) Post it on all of your professional and personal social media accounts. Email a link to the head of your newspaper, magazine, radio station, or TV channel and invite them to do a local follow-up story.

Now, for the 1st gift: The info that enabled this "Better Than Baseball" piece came from a study by the good folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The report, "How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities," includes convincing data about how important citizens feel their libraries are. And when you can tell politicians, who want to be popular, that a majority of people find library services either "very important" or "somewhat important," that can sway votes.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is like Santa Claus: Year after year, it gives us perfect gifts. I mean, what better to give librarians than a nice package of well-crafted data from a trustworthy source? You know that's exactly what you always want. Now you can open it, play with it, and share it with your friends & family. (If you care about library funding, you're kind of obliged to do so.)

So thank you, Santa-Pew, for delivering data that can help save libraries. And thank you, Robinson Meyer, for writing the article with the bold headline that we can show to all the naysayers and funders who think that nobody uses libraries anymore. And thank you, Atlantic editors, for publishing the article free online so it's easy to share.

Now, readers, will you do your part? Will you spread this data and headline far and wide? (Remember: It could affect whether you have a job next year or not.) Let's work together, across the country, to use the gifts we've been given. Thank you, in advance, for supporting libraries. May we all prosper in 2014, and far beyond.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Libraries Are Essential for the Holidays
As many of you know, the business under which I (Kathy) do my marketing work and consulting is called Libraries Are Essential. I have a website and a very active Facebook page.

Now I also have something new: a Cafe Press store! So if you, too, believe that "libraries are essential," now you can order shirts, tech accessories, drinkware, laptop sleeves, and stickers with that message. (Most orders ship within 24 hours, so it's not too late to order for Christmas. And they're having lots of sales now!)

Wearing or carrying items emblazoned with "Libraries Are Essential" is like effortless advocacy. You could even order matching staff shirts for events! I hope you'll check out the selection; I'll be adding new designs and products as soon as I'm able.

This tree is part of a fundraiser at
Fredricksen PL in Pennsylvania.
In other news, I've been posting a different "book tree" on my LAE Facebook page every day in December -- 16 down, 15 more to go! That's assuming I can find 15 more... Feel free to go to the page and post a photo of your library's book tree to share with the world. All are welcome! Or simply go see what I've put up so you can Pin them or share them on your own social media accounts. (While you're there, don't forget to Like or Share something--because if you're not active on the page, then posts won't show up in your News Feed.)

Happy Holidays, Everyone! 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

End-of-Year Book Lists

'Tis the season for the annual end-of-year Best Books lists. Here are a few that have just come out in the last few days. 

NPR, the well-respected US media organization (formerly called National Public Radio), has released its Guide to 2013's Greatest Reads. You can search this very lengthy list by Staff Picks or genre, or see a straight alphabetical list.

Huffington Post, a major media company and news aggregator, has posted Best Books of 2013, a short list by two staff members, its Books Editor and Associate Books Editor. 

Oprah Winfrey, one of the world's most influential readers, has also listed The 10 Best Books of 2013 on her website. 

This is useful, ready-made content that you can link to from your own library website or social media sites. Of course, I don't think anyone is a better judge of books than professional librarians, so I hope that many of you are choosing your favorites and sharing them with your online and in-person visitors.

Do you create end-of-year book lists? If so, please comment here and share a link so everyone can compare favorites. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Henry Rollins Supports Libraries

PC Sweeney and Derek Wolfgram approached Rollins at the California Library Association Conference earlier this month and told him about an organization they're involved in, EveryLibrary, which professionally supports and advocates for library measures and votes around the US. Rollins was kind enough to make this 90-second video.

When well-known people like this express their beliefs about the importance of libraries, we need to take advantage of it. Share this video and spread the word that Henry Rollins supports libraries.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Libraries Are Essential After Disasters

One year ago this week, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US with vicious force. Countless buildings were damaged, and millions of people were left without electricity, heat, drinking water, food, and shelter. Of course it took massive response teams to get things back in order (and the work continues in many areas), but local public libraries were some of the first to shelter and help their citizens. 

This scenario has happened time and again. Emergency assistance is not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of libraries, yet they gravitate toward them in times of need. This is an important topic to discuss with your stakeholders. When they wonder why libraries still matter, and you're trying to convince them that it's not all about books, and you need specific stories to tell and real proof of what libraries mean to their communities, you can show these videos and use these posts. 
Urban Librarians Unite helps out after Hurricane Sandy by doing storytimes for affected kids. Photo courtesy of Christian Zabriskie.

I'm sharing a new video at the top of this post; a look back at Queens, New York, one year later. Also, see these other emotion-inducing, informative sites you can share. 

The Urban Libraries Council honored three libraries for their responses to community crises -- a hurricane, wildfires, and a mass shooting -- as Top Innovators at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference.

An overview of how Colorado librarians supported people during the Summer 2013 fires. 

I know that librarians and libraries have come to the rescue in many other emergency situations. Share the ones you know about in the comments so others can benefit from the evidence.