Making the Most of the Market

Gloria MillerMost school districts do not boast of having local meetings that draw national speakers. Most local districts do not have Gloria Miller providing the inspiration and hard work that creates an opportunity for her colleagues to get a taste of ALA right in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. We asked Gloria for some tips on how she makes The Marketplace so successful and since our space is limited we encapsulated them into twelve steps here.

  1. Do the advance legwork so that attendees receive in-service credit for attending.
  2. Showcase an author whose work resonates with your audience and can serve as a focal point. This will also give you media opportunities and provide signed books for gifts or fundraising.
  3. An announcement giving dates, times, speakers and more goes out a couple of months before the actual event, giving administrators and potential attendees time to plan, budget, and justify. The announcement contains clearly defined benefits of attending the Market.
  4. An extensive agenda is sent to attendees closer to the Market date giving specifics on times, places, speakers, sessions and more. Vendors are listed both alphabetically and by commodity, enabling the attendee to focus on their specific needs more easily.
  5. Everyone who registers for Market receives a checklist that includes what to do before you leave for the market (learn as much as you can about your library media center’s collection, talk to previous attendees and determine priorities) and what to bring to the market (an action plan listing immediate needs and specific vendors to see, comfortable shoes, etc.).
  6. A handy “Shopping for Resources” guide helps attendees evaluate what they are seeing in terms of their own needs. Sample questions like “Is the content appropriate to students’ daily life experiences and background?” may seem obvious but are always relevant. She also encourages attendees to consider recent weeding and look for resources that can fill new gaps.
  7. Gloria urges attendees to wear their badges at all times so vendors know who they are, provides tips on Market etiquette (show appreciation for souvenirs, for example), prepares attendees for the often hectic atmosphere and urges attendees to make suggestions for future product development.
  8. Afterwards, don’t neglect to share what you’ve learned with others, expect vendors to follow up on Market conversations and incorporate what you’ve learned into work routines.
  9. To encourage full participation and provide a promotional kick throughout the year, Gloria includes a coupon that can be redeemed for a gift at the close of the day. Sample gifts should be something professionally useful, such as a flash drive.
  10. A worksheet to help attendees organize their follow-up provides an instant action plan and increases the effectiveness of participation.
  11. A specific evaluation form will be indispensable for future success. Be nosy — ask about every aspect of the day!
  12. To ensure vendors have a productive and pleasant experience, Gloria gives them several promotional opportunities and opportunities for interaction with the attendees.

Ready to make a Market in your community? Even if your name is not Gloria Miller you can make a difference in the professional lives of your colleagues and, through their efforts, generations of students. The key is to think about a local meeting not as a stand-alone opportunity but as an ongoing commitment both on your part and on the part of those who participate.