Tag Archives: library programs

Publicity creation with Canva

Canva.Things have been crazy at the library lately, and I’ve had to come up with publicity materials for a lot of new programs. While Publisher is great for flyers, it doesn’t offer the flexibility I’d like for creating images for web banners and social media posts. There’s plenty of expensive software designed for these things, but as a librarian on a budget, I’m always looking for free/cheap alternatives. Which led me to Canva.

Some things I really like about Canva:

  1. You can choose from a variety of standard image sizes, or create something using custom dimensions. This has been perfect for making Facebook event photos.
  2. Canva is online, so you can access and edit your designs anywhere.
  3. If you sign up for the business version of Canva (also free), you can use the “magic resize” feature to quickly adapt the same image for multiple platforms. You can also share projects with other members of your team.
  4. There are tons of fonts to choose from!

Some things I’m not as crazy about:

  1. There’s no way to draw a curved line, or make text curve, in the free version of Canva. Or if there is, I haven’t found it yet.
  2. The free stock images you can use aren’t great. There are better images you can use for a dollar apiece, but I haven’t used any of those. You can upload your own images (including stock photos you purchase elsewhere), so I usually do that.

I know other librarians who also use Canva to make bookmarks and infographics, but I haven’t had time to experiment with those yet. I don’t have any formal training in graphic design; everything I do is self-taught, using best practices I’ve read about online and experimenting over the last four years that I’ve been creating publicity for library programs. When things settle down a bit at work, I’ll play around with other image types in Canva, and let you know if I come across anything of note.

Do you use Canva at all? Do you have a similar tool you’d recommend for creating publicity?

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Career Crossovers

This Thursday, I’m presenting my first library-sponsored writing program at a local coffee shop. I’m really excited for this — and the whole series — but also a little nervous. I consider both librarianship and writing careers, but I’ve never combined them for a program like this.

Writing Elements.

As a librarian, I’m looking forward to the series because it’s the first time (at least in my tenure here) that our library has reached out to a local business to present a program there. Off-site programming is becoming increasingly popular as libraries are focusing more attention on community engagement. Dozens of libraries across the country now run book clubs that meet in bars, and I’ve heard of libraries partnering with local gaming stores, restaurants, and other businesses for various programs. For the Writing Elements series (a tie-in with our summer reading theme, Literary Elements), I reached out to a new local coffee shop where individual writers already practice their craft.

The librarian in me is also excited about the series because I know the target audience. I don’t know everyone who will be coming, but I know a few who have already told me they’ll be there. And not just because they’re my friends, but because they’re genuinely interested in a writing program.

I’m looking forward to the series as a writer because it’s a chance for me to meet and network with other local writers. I’ll have exercises related to a different topic each week (characterization this time around), and I’ll lead the group’s discussion, so the series will give me a chance to hone my skills as an instructor a bit. The writing community is so helpful and supportive, I always enjoy a chance to return that support, whether that means critiquing a friend’s work or hosting a library-sponsored series of programs.

Any tips as I make my foray into library outreach and more formal writing instruction?

Reflections on library programming

Excited dog.

Photo by Flickr user edanley

When I first started working at my current place of employment, I tried to go for a healthy mix of fitting in with and challenging the conventions and practices in place there. Mostly I fit in, but I’d heard and read enough about new librarians bringing fresh perspectives that I felt it was my duty to examine the way things were done and, if the methods seemed strange or unnecessary or inefficient, ask if there was a better way to accomplish the same goals.

Most of my ideas were not so much changes as additions. The library was fairly light on adult programming when I started, and I sort of took it upon myself to become the programming librarian. I did this for a few reasons. First, I saw that there was more we could be doing with adult programs, and I knew I wanted to be the one to do it. Second, I loved coming up with new program ideas, and my managers seemed to like most of them. I loved (and still love) organizing everything; making promotions; writing press releases, blog posts and social media posts; and learning more about my new community by partnering with various speakers and authors to bring everything together. Finally, I was good at it. My managers liked my ideas, I was getting good attendance, and I’d carved a niche for myself in my new workplace. Whenever a phone call or email came in from someone who wanted to present, everyone knew to transfer or forward it to me.

Lately, the library has fallen into a programming rut. We’ve had exceptionally low attendance, and the device drop-in sessions that our digital services coordinator planned haven’t been popular, despite the fact that we get questions about tablets and eReaders pretty frequently at the reference desk. Part of it may be the weather — snow has closed the library four days this year, it was below zero for more than eight days in January (http://www.noaa.gov/), and even when the weather wasn’t bad the roads often still were. (It still amazes me at how poorly this region handles snow, given the amount that we get. So many roads simply don’t get plowed.) But I’m sensing a trend, and I’d like to curb it.

I’ve graduated from the honeymoon stage of my time as the programming librarian. It’s not all new and easy and fun all the time. I’m working on bigger, more involved programs — a series of Appy Hours whose roll-out was as disappointing as that of healthcare.gov (too soon?), the Adult Summer Reading Program, and (this is still in the development stage) a community read possibly culminating in an author visit. And as exciting as these big projects are, I worry that my co-workers and I may be the only ones who are excited about them.

So what’s the solution? We’ve tried handing out evaluation cards at programs, asking what people would like to see from programs. The response is always vague and unhelpful, if we get a response at all. We could post surveys or polls on our blog and social media pages, but I think those surveys will only reach a fraction of the community. And they’ll reach the fraction we’re already reaching, not the people we’re trying to reach.

Focus group.

Photo by Flickr user Scott Maxwell

After a six-hour college fair that saw three prospective students, my assistant manager and I had an impromptu brainstorming session. I threw out the idea of having a community focus group meet to discuss library programming and services. We would reach out to representatives from local schools, colleges, hospitals, restaurants, and churches; from the YMCA, the police, the local casino, the local gaming store, the local employment center, local banks, and the local government — just to name a few. We would ask all of them what they and the people they work with would like to see from the library — and how we can make it happen.

This is all still in its earliest planning stage, and we’d have to get the right community leaders on board, but I plan to take this idea to my manager and, if she likes it, the Programming Team. I think getting the community more actively involved in library programming could be more effective than just having a group of librarians try to figure out what will and won’t work.

What has your experience with programming and community feedback been?

What to do when no one comes

Tumbleweed.

Photo by Flickr user VancityAllie

Last week I had my first zero-attendance program at the library. I’ve had low attendance before, but this was the first time that nobody showed up. It was a little disheartening; this was supposed to be the first in a series of Appy Hour programs where librarians and attendees share their favorite free and inexpensive apps related to a designated theme. My manager was really excited about the idea, and many people in the department thought it would be a great program.

So what happened?

It’s impossible to know the exact reasons why the first Appy Hour failed. It could have been the theme — I thought health and fitness apps would be great for tracking New Year’s resolutions, but maybe this community isn’t interested in that. It could have been the day I chose, which I realized only a week beforehand was the same day as several TV series’ season premiers. But I think the biggest reason was a failure to get the word out to the right people.

The library is not a field of dreams; building a program doesn’t mean they will come. What made advertising Appy Hours even harder is that the series was designed to draw people who don’t normally come to the library, or who don’t interact much with the library. Most of the marketing for Appy Hour reached those who already use the library. We posted on our blog, website, social media pages, and electronic signs throughout the building. I strategically placed fliers on tables where people use their laptops or tablets for work, and in the stacks near books related to mobile technology. I even wrote two press releases — one announcing the series and one with details about last week’s kickoff.

But the people who would theoretically come to Appy Hours likely never saw the fliers or signs in the library. If they visited our website, they probably clicked past the banner without even looking at it to get to our catalog or the database they wanted. They may not subscribe to the library’s blog, or like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. And who reads the local paper anymore? Most of the target demographic for Appy Hours gets their news online, via links posted on social media, or through parodies like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

So what now? Do we write the series off and move on? It’s possible that there’s simply no interest in this type of program in this community, but I’m not ready to give up just yet, and neither is my manager. We’re adjusting the way we tackle publicity for February’s Appy Hour, and hopefully the theme (date night) will be a bigger draw than health and fitness, too. I’m still going to advertise in all the places that I advertised the first Appy Hour, but I’m also going out into the community. I made a list of all the places where I’d like to advertise, and I’m going to take an afternoon driving around town, asking business owners if I can leave handouts there or post something on their bulletin board. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Panera
  • Starbucks
  • Local university’s student center
  • Local university’s library
  • Orange Leaf (a yogurt place)
  • Local chocolate shop (since the theme is date night)
  • Payless
  • Meijer
  • Walmart
  • Target

Can you think of any other places to promote a program like this? What has your experience been with reaching this demographic?