In the mid 90s, a top advertising agency came out with what they thought was the perfect slogan for a business that works with libraries: “Giving you another quiet day in the library.” They didn’t realize that quiet is what libraries don’t want. Libraries need to be filled with energy, creativity and enthusiasm to fulfill their potential for enlarging young people’s minds.
How do you market your library? How do you ensure that the library is the hub of the school and the first resource for not only students but teachers and administrators? Beverley Buller of Chisholm Middle School in Newton, Kansas starts with an advantage. She was lucky enough to design her library herself, bringing her 31 years of experience into play and making her library as inviting as she can make it.
“It looks a little like a bookstore,” says Beverley. She credits the excellent signage, both in the library and throughout the school, for helping to ensure that the library is a focal point. A couch rests along one wall, a comfortable reading area encourages a reader to linger, electric candles give the library both a pleasant ambiance and aroma. The library stays open after school until 5pm on Tuesdays. Perhaps most importantly, Beverley smiles.
Displays are always important and Beverley uses her Bound to Stay Bound book covers to entice students into the library. A “Book Buzz” bulletin board changes frequently with information she receives from online newsletters (like this one) that includes information about exciting authors and books being made into films.
For Suzonne Evans of Donna Shepard Intermediate School in Mansfield, Texas, marketing the library begins the first week of school during “Kickoff Week.” She makes sure that students, teachers and parents all feel welcome and encourages them to use the library early and often. She also includes a fundraising component by featuring books that will be studied that year and offering them for sale.
Both Beverley and Suzonne stress that communication is key. When Suzonne receives her review journals and other support materials, she immediately emails the table of contents to her teaching colleagues. They respond with what articles they would like to read. When she receives new book orders, she sends titles and descriptions via email to the appropriate teachers so that they know what new resources are available to them and their students. Suzonne also teases her students by keeping the lists of books being ordered behind her desk. Some students come by daily to check on the status of the orders.
Booktalks outside the school can raise the school library’s profile in the community very effectively. Beverley Buller has been featured in her town’s newspaper�twice on the front page!–on numerous occasions, most recently for her Black History Month displays and activities. Beverley works hand-in-hand with her school district’s public relations person to make the most of every opportunity for media coverage. The local media know she is a resource and an expert that they can call on.
The Battle of the Books is a regular spring semester activity at the Donna Shepard Intermediate School that local media loves to cover. Ten books are selected for the competition and sixth graders divide into six-person teams. The entire team reads each book with each member becoming expert in three. During The Battle, Suzonne begins each question with “In which book . . .” and the teams show off their knowledge. All the schools in the district participate and a big trophy goes to the winning school at the end. More information about the Battle of the Books can be found at www.battleofthebooks.org, but Suzonne warns that she always has to come up with additional questions because her students study the books so much!
Suzonne Evans has also heightened her school’s profile through presentations at gifted and talented education conferences. Her booktalks speak to the specific needs of these students and her audiences have grown from local and regional gatherings to a state-wide conference for the parents of these exceptional students.
Yet, the library must first serve the students within its own building to make the library and its contents exciting and accessible. One example of Beverley Buller’s creativity can be found in the ways she uses the Reader’s Oath. Each day during Read Across America week (just before Dr. Seuss’s birthday) the Student Council President reads the oath on the intercom. Beverley designed and produced Reader’s Oath bookmarks for the entire student population so they can follow along.
Reader’s Theatre is always a popular and fun way to engage students with a story. Dramatizing the work always means the student actor/readers have internalized the character in a lasting way. Presenting Reader’s Theatre in the library or even in school assemblies is a great way to celebrate Read Across America.
Marketing your library means making your library become an important part in the lives of your students, teachers and community. The school library is bigger than the building it lives in. The school library is in every teacher who has enriched a lesson using its resources and in every child’s imagination that has been set free by a book from its shelves.
Ways to Market Your School Library
- Make the library inviting
- Extend your hours
- Place large, attractive signage in the library and throughout the school
- Displays, both in the library and throughout the school
- Information centers with cool book news such as books being made into films
- Make your presence felt from the first week of school
- Creative fundraising including selling books during the first week and open houses
- Communicate with your colleagues
- Tease forthcoming titles
- Booktalks in the educational and larger community
- Work with local media and school district public relations
- Battle of the Books
- Network within your professional community
- Reader’s oath (go to http://www.nea.org/readacross/resources/readersoath.html
- Read Across America week activities
- Reader’s Theater
What do you do at your library to spread the word? Send your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bound to Stay Bound will do a random drawing from all the ideas submitted and one lucky library will win a signed book by Brian Selznick, this month’s featured author.
With deep gratitude to Beverley Buller and Suzonne Evans for their creativity, inspiration and enthusiasm.