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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Playing Hooky, But Learning About Marketing Ourselves

Well, almost playing hooky, since I will still get his post in under the wire of "today."  Today was a rare day where I could ignore the world.  My kids' school district lets them out early every Wednesday for staff training, so they only get 1 in-service day a year;.  It was today.  Since I work on most of their school holidays (like yesterday), this is our one day for the three of us to do something just for fun.  Thankfully they are still young enough to be excited to spend the day with me.

Stay with me here, this has an RA connection coming.

Today we spent the entire day at The Field Museum in Chicago.  It was quiet, and we had no time frame, no extra curriculars for them, and no meetings for me.  It was a rare "day off."

I had put my work brain on hold and was utterly enjoying my day with the kids, and then, on our way out, we saw a small, hidden gem of an exhibit which made me rethink how we librarians market the work we do to our patrons.  Entitled, "The Romance of Ants," this one room exhibit uses a graphic novel style to tell the story of the life and research of Dr. Moreau, a scientist at the Field.  It is both an intimate look at how a young girl with an interest in ants overcomes stereotypes to pursue her passion, and a look at some of the newest research about ants.

I realize that I might be losing many of you right now, but continue to bear with me.  This exhibit was educational (both in what we learned about ants and as a role model for my 8 year old daughter who is currently dreaming of becoming a chemist), but it was also an advertisement for what the Field does.  Much of the exhibit gives concrete examples of what the Field provides to its visitors and to the community at large.

Why can't libraries do this too?  Maybe this should be an example to libraries for our next step in marketing our services, especially in these trying economic times where tax payers are demanding the most for their money.

So how could the library use displays to both promote ourselves and educate and entertain while doing it?  I have to think about this some more, but off the top of my head, what about a display that shows how we make displays?  People don't realize how much work goes into our fiction displays.  Take it further.  Like the Field, why can't the library use the personal experiences of one employee to show how the work of the library's employees is at the heart of the library's overall services.  I envision a display or exhibit that shows the steps on how a book goes from being published to put on the libraries shelves.  It could include pictures of the steps it takes from being read in a review, to being ordered, processed, cataloged, put on the shelf, and then written up for a display, with information about the staff members involved in the process, and how their input is invaluable.

These are all just some of the ideas that ran through my head as we drove home in rush hour traffic.  I am not sold on any of these ideas, but the point here is that the museum made a conscious effort to market their staff in this exhibit.  It made me appreciate the behind the scenes work that goes into a world class museum; it made me proud to support this museum with my membership; and it made me wonder why a library could not do the same.

We are also a cultural institution, and we rely almost solely on public funds.  Although our patrons appreciate the services we provide for them with their nominal tax dollars, we need to promote the role our staff plays in making these services possible.  Without us, they have no books, no programs, no movies, etc...

So the moral is, let's start hyping ourselves more.  Oh, that and even when I think I am taking a day off, I am not.  Please let me know what you think, especially if you are already doing something like this already.

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