New Face for the BPL

The Boston Public Library recently unveiled a new design for their website, as well as a series of print, television and radio ads promoting the library. I took a look at the ads, and I have to say that I like them — especially the print ads, which are cheeky and informal. All of them (well, except perhaps the radio voice over) feature actual BPL librarians. In the TV ads, they’re talking about what they know, how they compare to search engines, and how they do their work — but in a friendly, not-boring-you-to-death kind of way. For example, in one of them the librarian is rattling off some random facts that he knows, and then he says “I know how to clear a room — take me to trivia night.” The TV ads also have a series of line drawings that illustrate what the librarian is saying, which gives them some interest (otherwise, you’d just be watching a talking head). I had seen one of them in July, when I got a super-secret back-room tour of a couple of BPL offices, but I had completely forgotten to try and keep an eye out for the launch of the new site & ads. (Good thing someone sent me the link!)

As for the website, it’s been long enough since I was regularly using the BPL’s website that I can’t really make a good comparison to the previous incarnation. What I can say is that I like the design, and it seems like it is pretty easy to navigate and get to what you’re looking for. The redesign includes a search box in the banner that defaults to searching the library catalog, which I think is a handy feature. Also in the banner is a drop down menu with “How do I find” as the default value — that gives folks an easy way to find some of the most frequently-viewed pages, no matter where they are on the site. (And without cluttering up the navigation in the banner!) Continue reading

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Fairfield Beach

If you’re reading blogs right now, you probably have 15 minutes to watch “Fairfield Beach,” a choose your own adventure video from the Fairfield University Library. This got sent around today by the associate director (though it’s dated ’07, and probably got sent around some listservs while I was stressing my way through the last semester of library school). We’ve been having some conversations about it here and there today at my library, and I want to know what other people think of it.

One of the things we were wondering was what the purpose of the video was. There was lots of speculation and I finally did the unthinkable and IM’d a librarian at Fairfield and asked. Gasp! (Vacation day tomorrow = extra sarcastic this afternoon, apparently.) They use it at the beginning of instruction sessions for their Freshman composition classes, to get the students a little more engaged in the topic. The video sets the scene for the library as a friendly, helpful, non-intimidating place (something I definitely could have used as an undergrad), and throws in enough cues to library instruction topics that the librarian can use the video to springboard into teaching those topics.

I couldn’t help but think about our equivalent Freshman literature instruction classes, and how difficult (impossible?) I find it to get even a couple of the students to really engage in the lesson. Anything that can entertain the students enough to get them to pay attention would be helpful, and this strikes me as just the kind of thing that would do it.

Tech Services video

This is a neat little video from the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Arlington Heights, IL, passed on to me by Ellen. It gives you a taste of what happens in tech services, the “behind the scenes” department of the library. Six minutes long, but it has a neat little hook and it’s not a talking head.

It looks like they have a series of library videos – I think this kind of thing, when done with an eye towards being informal and entertaining, can be a great PR tool. To me, nothing says “this is a friendly place to go” like people who not only take the time to explain what they do and demystify a confusing place, but who do so in an accessible way that really lets the library’s sense of humor and personality shine.

Online Marketing Webinar

So, I just listened to a free online webinar through OPAL — Online Marketing for Libraries, by Sarah Houghon-Jan, the Librarian in Black. (Here’s a link to the archive page this is listed on. I can’t figure out if there’s a way to link directly to the entry without just linking to the files, not that I tried very hard. Yes, the files are already posted. OPAL is fast.)

This was really cool. I’ve never heard Sarah speak before, and I thought it was a great presentation — and that’s saying a lot since I couldn’t see her, and we were stuck just looking at PowerPoints (though it was a good PP, as these things go!). The gist of it is that she covers a ton of ways, many free, that you can build your online presence aside from your library website. This includes things like blogging and social networking sites. But she also had a ton of great tips: making Wikipedia page for your library, or adding a link to your library from appropriate pages on Wikipedia (like a city or college entry, for example). Where do you come up in search engine results? Do all the various domains your users might type in to get to you point to your website? Are you listed in places like Google Maps and Library Thing Local? What about websites listing free WiFi hotspots? (Well, if your WiFi is free and not password-protected.) Continue reading

Public Relations Librarians

We seem to be scarce — the listservs I’ve found appear to be all but dead, and I’m not coming up with much when I poke around online looking for us. I know there are more librarians out there whose primary duties (or a significant part of their job) are public relations and marketing at their library. Are you out there? I would love to be in touch with you, either informally or maybe setting up a Google Group or reviving one of the lists I’ve found.

Personally, I’m especially interested in talking to public relations librarians at academic libraries. Most of the literature I’ve found focuses on special and public libraries, and while some of the information and ideas might still work, I think there are additional opportunities and concerns in an academic library setting.