Thursday, 1 December 2016

Small library? You need to think big: 10 top tips on how to use open days to promote your small but perfectly formed library service!

As a small, specialist library, we have to work hard to make sure our users (and potential users) know about the constantly changing range of services and collections we offer. Over the years we've run an occasional series of one-off  'open-day' events, including one just a few weeks ago (read all about it here)! If you work in a small (or even not-so-small) library, here are the 10 top tips, based on the lessons we have learned over the years, about how to host a successful library open day!

1. Plan, plan, plan. Organise a few meetings if you have a small team, and think first about what you want to achieve from the day- more users? better use of the collection? awareness of a new/underused service or resource? Make sure the day has a theme or focus of some kind.

2. Set a budget and find funding. Our open days have always been run on a shoestring, but it is worth thinking about whether there is any source of funding to support costs for food, drink, decorations, promotional materials or new things for the library. If there is no money to be found, at least planning in advance gives you time to beg, borrow and steal what you need!

Yes, we lure people to our library with cake. 
There, I said it.
Photo © Claire Beecroft
3. Allocate roles. We all have our particular strengths, so let the library team, however small, play to their's. Some might want to run the infoskills sessions (see tip 4), some might be great at decorating and giving the library a little makeover for the day.

4. Offer helpful, short infoskills sessions throughout the day. These were a huge success at our most recent away day. The trick is to keep them short, specify a time for each one, describe the topic of each one in a single sentence, and then promote them well in advance to ensure people can put them in their diary.

5. Bake. There is nothing, nothing on earth, like the lure of cake to get people through the door. Our whole team contribute by baking or buying- mostly by baking. Its worth planning this aspect too- we usually have a Google doc where people can list what they are baking, and this means we can make sure we have a nice variety and can cover all the bases- gluten free, dairy free, etc.

6. Call it what you want, but call it an 'Open Day'. It might sound strange, as the library is always open, right? But still, there is something about the phrase 'Open Day' that seems to work. It conveys the idea that all our welcome, even those who might not usually use the library, or who might not think that the library is really for them.

7. Tidy up the library and bring out the bunting if possible! Its really worthwhile putting up some decorations. Bunting is easy, as are ballons, banners etc. We have been known to make our own decorations, and lots have been brought in by the team or sourced cheaply from poundshops or eBay.

8. Showcase what's new. If you have some mobile shelving, trolley or stands, make sure the latest stock is on display prominently. If you have new electronic resources or websites that you want to draw attention too, fire up the PC/s and have these loaded and ready for people to try out.

9. Promote the heck out of it. Don't be afraid to use every possible channel to let people know what you are planning and that they are MOST WELCOME. Twitter, VLEs, Facebook, the library web page, flyers, etc are all good, and remember to promote the event well in advance AND on the day.

10. Put on your happy face and keep it on all day! This isn't usually hard for the IR gang at ScHARR- we LOVE a good open day, but just remember to keep smiling and send out good vibes from the library.

Posted by Claire

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