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Marketing on the Edge

Ben Bizzle and Meloney Dunlap

Ben is the Director of Technology & Meloney is the graphic designer for the Craigshead County Jonesboro Public Library in Arkansas.  They started the presentation by showing the video they did for the 50 state salute to banned books.

Ben spoke first.  They get asked a lot how they get away with the marketing they do.  It’s been a process of about four years where they started revolutionizing the whole library, when 4 new staff started at the same time.  The first year they worked on their physical infrastructure – electricity, network, etc.  Then they completely redesigned their library website, which was (admittedly) pretty darn bad.  They didn’t want to be perceived as a building with books in it anymore, but as an information gateway and a portal.  They had to change their metrics of success – just counting the people coming through the doors is not an accurate reflection of a library’s impact on the community.  We give stuff away for free, but people will still go somewhere else and pay for the same thing. Why?  We have a barrier to entry for most of our services.  That’s ridiculous.  At their library they don’t chase trends, they build platforms.  Then they started a comedy video series about a fictional library called the Crooked Valley Regional Library:  It’s quite hilarious – highly recommend it.  They pushed hard a couple of years back on mobile services.  The library then invested in a PR and Arts department, including Meloney as the graphic designer.

Meloney continued the presentation by talking about how they didn’t really have a brand or logo before the website.  Now, everything in their building and that leaves their building has their logo on it.  Tips on doing good graphic design.  Always plan ahead of time, even if it’s just a quick sketch.  Choose only 2-3 fonts for any piece.  White space is your friend.  Limit the number of colors you use.  Have consistency in everything you produce.  She recommends Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Photoshop Elements.  She hasn’t used LibraryAware yet, but says it’s worth looking at.  Sites to get stock images and fonts from: Shutterstock, Tuts+,, and istockphoto.

Ben then discussed their billboards that they’ve done in their community.  At the head of the recession they did a “Save money at your public library” campaign.  They thought they’d play off the credit card ads (your library card: what’s in your wallet).  The lawyers were concerned that they’d potentially end up in court over copyright infringement.  So they passed on that idea.  They have a creative team – with combative meetings.  “No, that sucks” is the most commonly used phrase at their meetings.  They threw out ideas for the billboards – 20 ideas per person.  Their “Spoiler Alert! Dumbledore dies on page 596.” billboard got some negative reaction, but also ended up on the front pages of reddit, imgur, icanhazcheezburger, etc. made a Photoshop thread of their billboard which people could remix and add their own messages to.  Hundreds were made.  They’ve also done some Facebook covers that went over well.  The one they did as a parody of Pulp Fiction had a printed copy that was signed by Samuel L Jackson.  Their Fight Club parody video (book club) got mentioned by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club.  They’ve done some events campaigns as well – all with the same someecards look and feel.  They also put a card at the end of every stack in the library, representative of the subject in that stack.  Example: “50 Shades of Bacon” for the cookbook section.  Results?  Overdrive checkouts increased by 150% from 2011 to 2012.  Freegal downloads increased by 73% with a 97% increase in patrons using the service.  There are 110% more visits to their mobile website by 102% more people.  100% increase in foot traffic in 4 years.  40% increase in library cards issued in 4 years.  Concert attendance doubled to 400 in one year.  There was also a 50% increase in Children’s Summer Reading Club registrations.  Stats validate their success.

People are not thinking about their public library.  They want to sell the sizzle, not the steak, but deliver a damn good steak.  They don’t promote specific resources in their campaigns—they keep them general to just make people think about the library.  Once they have their attention, then people will check out the library and figure out what’s useful for them.  People want to be entertained—don’t be a boring place.  They want one person talk to another person about the public library…word of mouth marketing.  They love what they do and have passion for their library.  You can change things in your community if you are willing to take a risk.

Advertising isn’t about making you agree.  It’s about making you never forget what you just saw.

“Internet Librarian: Marketing on the Edge”

  1. Ben Myhre Says:

    Fifty Shades of Bacon…. what a great idea!!!! 😉

  2. Kathy Dempsey Says:

    They are doing great stuff at CCJPL in Arkansas!

    If you want to know more, Ben wrote an article on how they’re “getting away with” that stuff in the Sept/Oct issue of Marketing Library Services. (at infotoday dot com slash mls) The article has pics of the billboards and the someecards promotions they’ve created. Fun and effective!

  3. Internet Librarian: Marketing on the Edge | Librarian in Black Blog – Sarah Houghton | Teens, Youth & Libraries | Says:

    […] Marketing on the Edge Ben Bizzle and Meloney Dunlap Ben is the Director of Technology & Meloney is the graphic designer for the Craigshead County…  […]

  4. Eve Says:

    For too long libraries have been in the shadows, seen as one of many services offered by local council. Libraries are like churches. Many women tell me that they used to love going to libraries as kids and then only went again when they had kids! They’re not seeing all that libraries have to offer them as adults. Libraries need to rattle a few cages and the examples mentioned here are fantastic ways to do this!

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