New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

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

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Promoting Libraries With T-Shirts

It happened again the other day. I was in the grocery store, pushing my cart of food. As I was heading back a couple aisles to get that last item, a man in a crisp white shirt called out to me, "How do you vote for libraries?" 

I was wearing a bright red t-shirt that exclaimed "Vote for Libraries." He seemed to be a regional rep for this store; he was not wearing one of their everyday Acme shirts but he had a lanyard with an Acme ID card and was carrying a clipboard. He seemed to be standing around waiting for someone else nearby who was dressed like him. 

The shirt I was wearing came from Gale Cengage Learning.
The vendor had donated the shirts for the
ALA Rally on Capitol Hill that took place at the end of the
the 2010 Annual Conference.
See my pictures of the rally on Flickr.
After he asked the question, I pulled my cart right over and replied, "Well, when there is a bond issue or a township that's asking for a budget for a new or improved library, you should vote for it. Also, in national affairs, there are many votes that affect library funding and there are mailing lists where you can get the word about these votes and urge your representatives to support libraries." 

And so began a short, pleasant conversation with a total stranger. My bright t-shirt had started it all. 

It didn't take long before the man said, "Well, you know, with all the ebooks now, and bookstores closing, and newspapers being online, why would people still vote for libraries?" While I hate that assumption, I love getting the question because it gives me a chance for my elevator speech. I responded, "Yes, ebooks are getting bigger now, but you know, many libraries loan them too. Why go out and pay for all those downloads when you can get them for free? And the librarians can help you with technical issues if you have questions about your e-reader too." 

A look of surprise crossed his face. Typical. Many people stopped thinking "library" as soon as they changed from reading print to reading digital. They just assume libraries aren't changing with the times. 

We talked for a minute about ebooks; he complained about the limited ability to share books & I explained some of the snafus that originated with the publishers. I also went on to say that libraries are still valid b/c they offer so much computer training, job search assistance, entertainment programs, tech help, served as community centers, etc. The man listened intently; clearly all of this was new to him. By this time, his colleague had walked over and she listened with interest as well. Now I had a chance to tell two people why libraries still matter in the age of the internet -- and all because I was wearing a library t-shirt at the grocery store.

This is something I do a lot -- wear t-shirts everywhere and use them as conversation starters. It's simple but effective, and I meet lots of people that way. Recently, over at my Facebook page for Libraries Are Essential, I shared another story about a t-shirt talk, and put up a challenge for others to post pics of their own favorite library shirts. (Please join in!) 

Nancy & I at the 2010 ALA Rally
Do you have a story like this one? Do you wear your shirts out and create opportunities to talk one-on-one about the value of libraries? Share your own tales here or on the Facebook page! 

1 comment:

Nicole Hagy said...

I've also heard from community members that "no one uses libraries anymore." It breaks my heart, as I know libraries have a great return on investment for the community and provide resources not even the best search engine could provide. Great post!