Ben Bizzle Promoting Your Library in the Digital Age

May 14, 2015 at the Doylestown Branch of the Bucks County Library System | CE: 2.5 hours

Topics: Library Web site, Programming, Traditional Marketing and Social Media

Intro: Ben Bizzle is one of several movers/shakers behind the company Library Market and author of Start a Revolution: Stop Acting Like a Library. He is also the director of technology at the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library.


  • Library Web sites ARE our Digital Library and we are JUDGED accordingly.
    A crap Web site = low expectations of the library in general.
  • The Web site can be the DIGITAL HUB, pushing people back into the Library’s front door.
  • The “Trinity of Evil” is our competition: Google, Amazon and Wikipedia because there is no longer a ‘dying need’ for a cited source
  • Web sites HAVE TO BE available on All Platforms: PC, tablet and phone
  • Best format for Web sites is the F-Pattern:
    • Focus on 1. Header, 2. Sub-header and 3. Left-hand side of the page for most important information on the site.
    • Nielsen’s F-Pattern priorities – “F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content” (with cool heat-map images of eye movement on Web sites).
  • Discussion of the Example site Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library (AR):
    • Slides for events, services, card application – anything current and up-to-date
    • 3 Click Rule – have a THIN and B R O A D site
    • Menu drop downs from Main bar
    • Use the Language of the Common Person!  “Research” v. “Databases”
    • Events Calendar – Easier to read a column:
      May 15 – Event 1 blah, blah (Enough info for a ‘buying decision’ – title, info, photos
      May 15 – Event 2 blah, blah
      May 15 – Event 3 blah, blah
    • Online Registration – They set up PCs in the kids section for Summer Reading registration
      Provides DATA – school, reading level, email for automated reminders
  • Language plug in to increase accessibility
  • Children’s and Teen pages have typography and colors similar, but different, from main site

Programming is King:

  • “Fun and Sexy” – Sell the Sizzle.  If you have a BAD program, you LIED and diminish trust that the organization will have a GOOD program in the future
  • Examples:
    • Pete the Cat concert at the Mall
    • Zombie Prom teen event on a Friday night with 63 teens attending
    • Arts on the Lawn – craft show and market. 50 vendors, 10 x 10 space. Repeat twice a year with themes (Renaissance, Vaudeville, etc.)
    • Make a cool program cooler and know it’s OK to FAIL.  Example: Lunch and Learn – wasn’t interesting or enticing enough to give up lunch hour for until they brought in animals!

Traditional Marketing:

  • Postcards, bookmarks, READ posters, Press releases, etc. all done but…Focus on new, fun and creative ideas.
  • Examples from Jonesboro – had inexpensive access to several billboards around town, which they used to advertise library with fun and creative themes.
    • Year One: eCards
    • Year Two: Typography
    • Year Three: Infomercial parodies using catch phrases from TV
    • Year Four: Guerrilla Marketing with Bansky-inspired street art (complete with a barcode that links to the Library’s phone number)
      Bizzle Example 3
  • Summer Guide, because it’s more than just reading!
    • Sell Fun (crafts) and Deliver Steak (books)
  • Keep It Simple – bright colors, clean graphics, simple designs
    Bizzle Example
  • Take Inspiration wherever you can get it – while brainstorming at the bar, Ben and his creative team had an idea: Why not advertise the library on coasters!!
    • Funny – each coaster has a joke, “Add a Word, Ruin a Book”
      Ex.: “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Malfunction”
      Ex.: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Parlor”
      Ex.: “50 shades of Grey’s Anatomy”
    • 3,000 coasters cost $800 and with 15,000 drinkers reading the, the cost was $0.053 per drinker
    • Each coaster included: picture, joke, the name of the library and the Web site.
    • From Advertisement to Delivery in Real Time.  By adding the Web site, you get instant delivery of service…from a smart phone…at the bar.
      Bizzle Example 2
  • EXPOSURE – Keep the Library out and about in the community, and get people talking about the library using fun, funny, quirky, and engaging ideas.

Social Media – Not Just a Bunch of Cat Pics

  • Image library available Here.
  • “Facebook is the only effective method for advertising library events.”
  • Twitter is more ‘throw and hope’ because it’s not as engaging
  • Pinterest isn’t social media, but has value as a resource
  • Facebook Advertising:
    • Paid ads reach the intended audience in your area.
    • Example: Henna tattoo event for 13-18 year olds in Jonesboro.
    • FB Ad for $50 had 10,000 impressions = 50 teens came to event.
    • Idea – Summer Reading ad in late June with a link to the Web page/post with information and registration link.
    • Pair with Google Analytics to get DATA
    • Increase Value of services – Created a FB ad for Freegal “3 Free Song Downloads each week with your library card” and a link to the service. With the promotion, use of the service increases, making the ROI better.  Stewardship!
    • Data: Use stats before and after ad runs.  More use = database/service is value goes up
    • What other databases and services would benefit from a $50 ad??

2015 Goals – Mid-year Update

It’s Oct. 21 – time for another progress report.

Here are my personal and/or library goals for 2015:

  • Replace the HVAC using our Keystone grant of $33,900, with the Township.
    Update: Install date in 4-6 weeks.  Now, we just need to figure out how to fix the Community Room HVAC!
  • Work with the Township and Board on our new lease.
    Update: Lease is done! Passed!  Working on the 2016 budget to see how we will manage this great space!
  • Support the growth of our Teen programs – work with the team to find new opportunities for programs, services, and collections for this important group.  They gave us really great ideas during the forums (like test-prep programs) and it’s now on us to make them happen!  The Teen Reading Lounge grant and program from the PHC that Jessica secured for us is a great start.
    Update: The Teen Reading Lounge grant has been extended through the end of the year with another $500 attached, so they will be doing some ceramic sculpting!  Jessica is our new Youth Services Associate, an expanded position.  Diane left us to teach, but I hope she may return for a 2016 Library Lab!
  • Launch an ESL Conversation Class and order/catalog the Foreign Fiction Collection, sponsored by the Friends.
    Update: The foreign fiction free lending library is still popular.  Abington Library has a strong literacy program and I am content to utilize their program.
  • Work with the Board to complete the Strategic Plan and then start using it to make decisions.
    Update: We are working on the Action Plan.
  • Raise Funds while having Fun – We have Lisa Scottoline booked, V. P. almost booked and have ideas for other fundraisers, like a beer tasting or olive oil tasting.  It’s time to secure sponsors.
    Update:  Lisa, Olive Lucy and the fall Appeal comes out later this month. We have Valerie Plame scheduled for our next author brunch at Philmont on Sunday, April 10.
  • Library Card Sign-up Month – this is a goal of Pam’s, which I support and want to help organize.
    Update: We have five business partners and represented the library at EVERY back to school night.
  • Sunday Hours – is it possible?  Can we get the necessary funds through sponsors?  Will anyone actually want to work on a Sunday afternoon?
    Update: Added this to the 2016 Budget, which we presented to the Township Oct. 6.  I hope my arguments were compelling enough to garner the extra financial support needed to make this strategic goal a reality.
  • Monthly Collection Development – review and order regularly.  Weed non-fiction and find quality replacements so there’s at least one book published after 2010 on the shelf.
    Update: Standing orders guarantee best-sellers arrive regularly.
  • Programming – book, promote, repeat.
    Update: Almost done with Fall.  If it’s a program the folks want, they show up!  I’m happy with our variety and breadth of programming.  Any more and we’ll face burn out.
  • Digitization and Archive project (this is a dream, but I’m putting it up here as are minder).  We should apply to participate in the Access PA Digital Repository, scan our old photos and provide access to them online before carefully storing them in accordance with accepted archiving practices.
    Update: We now have a small flatbed scanner out in the public as a ‘scanning station’ and discussed this dream at the Budget presentation – there are some history-loving Commissioners…
  • Develop Staff Tech Competencies CE program using the Ephrata model.  We’re good, but can always learn more about technology.
    Update: Pam created a fun true/false quiz that will help us assess staff knowledge at this point and should help with a training plan.
  • Staff want to have the Finch Program – a fun robotics program for grade-schoolers.
    Update: Asked the Friends for a Learning Lab with laptops and iPads for 2016!
  • EITC Grant for Summer Reading Program in 2016.  Hatboro has done very well with this grant and now that I know about it, I want to see if we can benefit, as well.
    Update: Still on my radar.


  • Move Web site to a Content Management System so staff can keep it up-to-date and merge the News Blog with the Web site.
    Update: We picked WordPress and this is on the calendar for winter break.
  • MCLINC Strategic Planning Committee.
    Update: I’ve enjoyed this process and getting to know some of the other librarians in the county better.
  • Improve the Browse-ability of the Collection.
    Update: Still need new signage.
  • Enhance the Friends Media Room (formerly called the multi-purpose or storytime room).
    Update: The Board voted to rename the room in honor of the Friends at the May Board meeting.  The new AV equipment will be installed in November.
  • Taste of Culture Fall Event, possibly with an Asian focus and feature a tasting of soups.
    Update: May have to postpone.

Geek the Library PA Style

Geek the Library with Jennifer Powell, OCLC – Tuesday, October 22, 2013

(I’ve written about Geek the Library before, so I’m excited that I didn’t miss the boat on this!)


What does advocacy look like? Q&A.  A’s: visit commissioners, Rotary, social media, newsletters, flyers, Teen boards writing to Reps, meetings with Superintendent, Parades, t-shirts, and Summer Reading Program yard signs.

What are the benefits of proactive awareness?

  • learn about and understand the total value of the Library
  • “Actively educating the public builds a foundation of knowledge that may facilitate library support when a need arises.”

Need both Internal and External Advocates – Can staff articulate the value of the library?  Do we gather stories of Transformation?  How do we demonstrate that the library supports success?

What is Geek the Library? It starts with the very simple Geek Board, where the community is invited to share (with chalk or silver sharpie markers on a black board) what they “geek” – or what they are passionate about.

  • Awareness campaign by the Gates foundation
  • Improves programming – for example, several people write that they geek gardening…you can do programming with the local horticultural society.  Do your folks geek their pets? Create posters with pictures of patrons and their beloved pets…right after you’ve had a program about grooming.
  • Geek is a verb – to love, promote, express interest in…and the Library supports what you Geek!
  • The 6-month campaign:
    1. Creates Awareness
    2. Generates Engagement with the local community
    3. Encourages Action – tell stories, show flow charges, focus on the value of the library and the need for support.  Turn library services into successes.

Why it Works

  • Takes the library out into the community
  • Starts conversations
  • When you increase awareness, you change behavior
  • Results in informed supporters who drive change
  • It’s Dynamic and draws attention and gets the community looking at and talking about the library
    • Teen clubs have been started because of Geek the Library
    • Database use increases
    • Friends groups expand
    • Libraries who participate are busier in general

Grant Objectives

  • 1,000 locations by June 2014 – free to start any time.
  • Should result in improved support structure for the library
  • ALL MATERIALS ARE FREE – one librarian said, “it was like Christmas and we just couldn’t believe it was all free!”  Includes, table skirt, 6-ft banner, posters, t-shirts, and templates to make local posters
  • Communications and ideas are sent weekly – ideas, one-on-one support and webinars
  • Access to the Campaign Management Center (CMC)
  • WebJunction Webinars

Consumer site: | Includes: funding myths and realities, Facebook, templates, videos

Library Campaign site: | Includes case studies, marketing and promotion materials, information kit (with a Powerpoint presentation to pitch the idea to Board/staff/Friends), planning help, talking points, “more information that I could use,” pre-written press releases, customizable items, and lots of ideas and pictures at Flickr.

Campaign requirements:

  1. 1 hour webinar
  2. Activate your CMC account
  3. Take an initial survey
  4. Let them know when the campaign ends

Planning –

  • Jennifer recommends 2 months lead time for a 6-12 month campaign.
  • Localize and personalize the campaign with local faces, celebs, and businesses.
  • Join events: fairs, job fairs, holiday events, sporting events (5Ks), farmers market, music events and expos
  • Involve the schools – have bulletin boards, bookmarks, contests
  • Have an Open House and party
  • See if community members with signs and billboards will share what they geek!

A Most Epic Event: Partnering with Townships

A Most Epic Event: Partnering with Townships

Presented by Tegan Conner-Cole – Wissahickon Valley Public Library in Montgomery County

Lower Gwynedd Township doesn’t have a library, but is served by Wissahickon – too much travel time. Director and Township Manager had a meeting (maybe a library, but instead outreach by library to Township). Partnership with Rec Commission – 1 year ago, started it.

Wanted a story-walk/book trail and truck petting zoo – not possible at Wissahickon. Waited for a partner. Lower Gwynedd has Penllyn Woods with a boardwalk. Brainstormed ideas with Parks and Rec Director and came up with PA One Book Truck Petting Zoo. Earth Day, National Library Week – both April 20. Library Added to events already planned. “The Bus for Us – ‘touch a truck’” – great publicity for the Township – fancy new trucks bought by the Township. Book Trial is a ‘green event’ for earth day. Get a book, everybody wins, Library/Township win/win.

Month prior, middle school reached out re: energy audit kits. Invite them to the event (green, too). Share table at event. Publicity for 3 events in one – National Library Week, PA One Book and Earth Day.

Reality – cruiser, backhoe, dumptruck, etc. Story walk (pages of the book on sticks along trail), and tents. Rain prior. Windy, cold and damp. 60 people attended. Needed more volunteers. Book pages fell off or fell over b/c of wind. People missed the location. Miscommunication among parties, but still successful. Book trail went well – fun. Middle school table went well – opportunity to share what Library has.

Energy Audit Kits at the library a huge hit. Kilowatt meters, etc. Bring in new users.

TO DO: Energy audit kit grant through PECO – school partnership? Get a banner for outreach events.

Live action board game at a fair, book trail to other events and/or at schools, Stories in the Park, “I dig nature” with Women’s Club and Lower Gwynedd (birding, gifts, scavenger hunt bags, dig for fossils, etc.),

For Adults – Tech Q&A one-on-one in library and off-site, Lectures – at library and off-site. Master Gardener, Philadelphia Museum of Art – promoted in township newsletter.

With Whitpain Township – Stories in the Park program takes the Library Outside (in Ambler Gazette). Part of Parks & Tots Program camp, ongoing,

Host ‘preview’ classes for paid classes. See the kids weekly – see librarian. Moves & Grooves-type program that are paid experiences through the township that parents can preview at library for free.

How to get started:

  • Township Manager First
  • Parks & Rec. Director (we don’t have one)
  • Have some ideas ready
  • Look at what you offer – can they be moved elsewhere?
  • Consider Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Think about promotion – National Library Week theme, One Book project titles, etc.


  • Tables at events, including harvest fests
  • Bring over lectures
  • Story times outside the library
  • Truck Petting Zoo
  • Themed Library Weeks (Community? Safety? Etc.?)
  • Book Trail (Historic trail)
  • Grant Partner – Maker Space in new Teen space – new community space for kids created together by township and library – grant.

Ideas from audience:

  • Look at City/Township magazine and see what can be partnered with – invite self
  • Fire Prevention Week
  • Battle of the Bands
  • Share supplies with Township (lego, kickballs, cones, props, etc.)
  • Partner with summer camps, etc. – resource sharing and PR for library
  • Host events for the Township – piggy back
  • “Meet the Editor” event at the Library – invited community non-profits and city gov’t
  • What does the township get out of it? Publicity, community outreach, PR and use of their buildings

[end notes]

After this event, Pam and I discussed having a book trail from the Library to the Township’s new playground near the new soccer fields as a way to celebrate both the playground and the new sidewalk linking the library to the rest of the community amenities.  Without a Rec Commission to partner with, coordination is more complicated, but the Fire Prevention Open House we piggy-backed on a couple of weeks ago was a great success.  Look forward to partnering with the Valley Youth Center and Huntingdon Valley Activities Association – two of the other non-profits that share our building and coordinate events and activities for HV!