The vast majority of libraries in the United States have an e-book collection. The American Library Association claims that 90% of all branches have one, whereas the Library Journal states this figure is closer to 95%. The larger libraries spend millions of dollars every year, developing their collections, but is this money well spent? Maybe not. Pew Research has said that less than 38% are actually aware their library has a digital collection and only 6% have actually borrowed one.
One of the big problems facing libraries is how do you build brand awareness that you have an e-book collection and how to promote it? Some locations have promotional material, such as flyers and posters. In many cases companies like 3M, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive provide free content or promote in their branches. Overdrive has gone the extra step and actually created Free e-Book Day, which is drawing attention to libraries digital collections and rewarding those who do a good job with free credit to purchase more titles.
How exactly do libraries promote their digital collections without an expensive marketing campaign? Here is what a few of them are doing, maybe some of them will be relevant to your branch.
West Virginia’s Marion County Public Library System used Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to expand their virtual marketing campaign with an “eBook of the Day.” Staff created this program to reach out to library customers and provide readers advisory focused on “hidden gems” in the eBook collection. As a result, the titles they showcased increased dramatically in popularity. With this success, the library has also added a “Staff Pick” component to their approach. Check out the Pinterest page here!
The Kent District (State) Library recently hosted a virtual treasure hunt, hiding books throughout their community. Patrons were asked to take a picture of the found book and upload it to Twitter or Facebook to be eligible for some cool prizes.
Staff members at Sacramento Public Library came up with a clever way to connect its physical and digital collections: they place “Now in eBook Format!” stickers on the covers of corresponding titles in the physical collection. These stickers were printed in bulk and direct customers to the library’s website where people can sign up to borrow books online. It promotes the ebook service, without having to spend more money in marketing materials.
Another great way to promote a library’s ebook collection is to develop shelf cards. These can be inserted into the books themselves or placed underneath them. This gives patrons a picture of the cover art and name of the book, as well as a web-link to the book entry in the library’s computer system. This is a little bit more extensive, but libraries have seen a 100% increase in loan-checkouts when they employ this method.
The Mid-Continent Public Library developed a number of savvy posters and then digitized them to promote it on their website. These marketing materials were aimed at people who never used an e-reader or borrowed a digital book before. It encouraged people who had an e-reader that they had the ability to borrow books for free. Since they employed this method, checkouts increased by over 54%.
In the end, if more libraries actually promoted their collections instead of buying a bunch of expensive e-books and hoping for the best, the public would be aware.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.