Friday, October 2, 2015

Top Ways to Advertise Your Library Programs - Part 1

So you have an awesome new program coming up, and you're super excited. That's fantastic! Now, how are you going to get the attendance your program so richly deserves? That all depends on how you advertise.

Naturally, you want to tailor your advertisements to the program's target demographic, but don't forget that parents often make plans for their children, older patrons sometimes have visiting kids and/or grandkids, and word of mouth is incredibly valuable. It can't hurt to try some different things, right? In this three-part series, we will be discussing some average (and not so average) ways to advertise. First up...

Posters, Flyers, and Where to Hang Them

Sure, we've all made posters, and they go up on the door, or maybe on the bathroom door if we're feeling ambitious. Where else can we put them? Well, that depends on your audience. Have you tried...
  • Local schools - If you email the superintendent, you can often get permission to hang signs in the school library, if nowhere else, but making sure that the teachers know about your programs can help promote library services to students, school faculty, and parents. Don't forget that teachers are potential patrons, too. Maybe the English teacher is just dying for a book club to join; maybe she will see the sign in the Teachers' Lounge and be your new best member!
  • Senior centers - Again, the programs you advertise there don't have to be just for seniors! Yes, there is "competing" programming going on at many senior centers, but when you work for the town, collaboration is always a good thing. Unless you are doing a movie program at the exact same time as their movie program, you probably don't have to worry. I have often advertised Children's Room programs in the Senior Center, too, This is particularly helpful for Summer Reading ("the kids are visiting and I don't know what to do!") and the our library's circulating collection of toys and games ("the kids are visiting and I don't know what to do!").
  • Recreation centers, yoga studios, gyms - When playing sports and games, there is often almost as much time waiting (for your turn, for the game to start, for your ride home) as there is playing. Why not give these poor waiting people something to read and look forward to?
  • Local businesses - Coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, and other places where people linger will often have bulletin boards dedicated to local events. If you ask nicely, you can often hang up a poster, which lets their customers (and staff!) know about your upcoming awesomeness. This is particularly useful if the business has a connection to your event. For example, hanging a flyer at a comic store or game shop is perfect for promoting teen Wii Game tournaments or board game parties.
  • Other areas of the library - You'd be surprised how few libraries will advertise the adult Summer Reading Program in the Children's Room, even though there are usually just as many parents as children! This holds true the other way around, as well. Patrons have families and friends, and they will let them know if they see something they might enjoy. If you have something complicated enough that a quick glance at a flyer might not be enough, try hanging them inside the bathroom stalls - you have a captive audience!
  • Inside of books - When I did a Zombie Party, I put flyers inside copies of The Walking Dead graphic novels. Pete the Cat party flyers are inside all Pete the Cat books. Hide Classic Movie Mondays flyers inside biographies of classic Hollywood starlets, Fantasy Book Club flyers inside fantasy books, and "Did You Know We Have A Database About This?" flyers inside reference books. I have also seen some great e-book bookmarks inside books on the shelf where the e-book version was available through our catalog. "Check it out now, or download it from home!"

Things to Remember:

If you're not used to posting flyers outside your library, there are a some things you might not have needed to think about before. A few things to consider:
  • Make sure that all flyers are clearly labeled with the library's name, address, and contact information. It wouldn't do for a potential patron to be interested in a program, and not know where to go. 
  • Less (information) is sometimes more (attention). You want eye-grabbing art and words, because you are competing with not just the other flyers on the bulletin board, but the entire world around that bulletin board: smart phones, pumpkin spice lattes, best friends meeting up for lunch, someone's dog who is just so darned cute. Large blocks of text will be skimmed over if not ignored: it's better to get someone's attention and point them in the right direction for more information than to not grab them at all.
  • Also, please ask permission before you start hanging things up. Let's not be silly about this. 
If you have a favorite place to hang your flyers, we would love to hear about it! Please let us know in the comments here, on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter. You can also follow us there to make sure that you never miss a post.

Don't miss reading Part 2: Media and Social Media and Part 3: Unique Advertising Ideas!


  1. And when you create a flyer, put the date AND YEAR on it. Sometimes those flyers, especially if placed off-site, have a way of re-surfacing in the future.

  2. Also when you go on your flyer "walkabout" make sure take some tape, a stapler or even a few push pins because you never know what their bulletin board is going to look like.

  3. Great tips! I am going to Pinterest it for my Graphic Design for Librarians online workshop

    1. Thanks for letting us know and sharing our info along!

  4. If you are distributing fliers by email - send both a pdf file for printing and jpg file for posting online.