A few weeks ago in the UK, it was National Libraries Day – an annual celebration of the goodness of libraries. The focus of the Day is largely on public libraries, these being the types of libraries most people engage with, and also arguably those most at risk in the current political and economic climate.
In previous years, I’ve always gone to my own public library on the day, extolled the virtues of libraries via social media, and written to my MP and local councillors about the importance of libraries. However, since for the first NLD in 2012 I was working in a workplace library, and on the last two NLDs I wasn’t working in a library at all, I’ve never been able to arrange anything to shout about the library I worked for.
This year I finally got my chance! Back in October I started working in the library at the University of Huddersfield. Since starting, I’ve been working with Bryony Ramsden (@librarygirlknit) on “guerrilla marketing” – not, as I first thought, marketing gorillas (shame, I had some great ideas for a “buy one gorilla, get a smaller primate free” promotion…), but rather, putting on impromptu displays, marketing posters, social media activity… Basically, anything simple, quick and cheap that can be done to raise the library’s profile without having to go through the laborious process of getting everything approved through official channels (although we do have general permission to do all this, it’s not all cloak and dagger!)
With NLD coming up, Bryony and I thought we should do something to mark the occasion. Our initial idea of a simple book display, some handouts featuring the Library A-Z materials, and perhaps a few posters, quickly snowballed into a week-long social media campaign!
We decided to run a competition on Twitter and Facebook for library users (students and staff). We asked people to tweet or Facebook us their favourite thing about the library, and put all entries into a prize draw (for some fabulous Poundland prizes – we may have official approval, but we’re still on a guerrilla budget!)
We’d also planned to have a treasure hunt around the library, with clues leading to prizes, but scrapped that idea as too complicated to organise in the limited time we had, and just hid some sweets around the library instead for people to find.
Also during the week, we thought we’d use Twitter to raise awareness of the work the library staff do. We put out a call for volunteers and five members of the library team volunteered to take over the Twitter account for a day each, tweeting about what they were working on.
You can see all tweets collated from the week in this Storify, including the lovely comments we got from students and a couple of staff, who entered our prize draw. It’s probably obvious from the tweets that we had a lot of fun doing it – particularly some impromptu additions like our surprise Royal visit!
Overall, we were really happy with how it went. Organising it all took up probably a bit more time than I’d initially thought it would, but I think it was well worth the time we spent on it. Although we weren’t exactly inundated with positive comments for the prize draw, the ones we did get were lovely. I’d been secretly nervous before we launched that we either wouldn’t get any comments at all, or would get negative comments or abuse – happily, neither happened!
The difference on Twitter in particular was noticeable: we gained nearly 40 new followers during the week (although a few were marketing-type accounts, and a few more were other libraries and librarians, about half seemed to be students or other library users – as far as we could tell!). We got many more replies, retweets and favourites than usual, and several of the people who got in touch to enter our prize draw have continued to engage with us on Twitter.
There are a few things I think we could have done better: having a different person take over the library account each day worked well, but there were times when the “official” tweeter was tweeting at the same time as other tweets were going out about the prize draw and other NLD stuff, which at times made our feed look a little confusing. I think we could have scheduled things better.
I also think we could have made more of the book display – we had a few books on there about things like study skills and referencing, which I saw a few students pick up, but then quickly put back – it looked like they were unsure if they were allowed to borrow them! A sign saying “please take/borrow”, or something to make clear that it was ok to take books from the display, could have helped this – although one or two books did get taken from the display in the end, so obviously not everyone was put off!
All in all it was a fun week, pretty successful in raising awareness of the library, and I would say generally a success. I’d love to do something similar next year: taking into account the improvements mentioned above, plus I’d love to do something outside the library – maybe a stall in Student Central!