Saturday, September 16, 2006

Successful Saturdays: Smartest Card Campaign or Don't leave home without it

This Successful Saturday will focus on the library's Smartest Card Campaign both last year and this year.

I love the idea of library card sign-up month. There is tremendous growth going on in my community and getting these new citizens engaged and coming into our library is very exciting. I love thinking of new ways to promote getting a library card. My ideas are limited by funding, so we can't give away a bike or an Xbox 360, but we can do things that help get the library's brand out as well as getting patrons engaged in their community.

Last year we purchased 50 canvas bags with the library's name and brand on it. We told patrons, the first 10 patrons that sign up this week will get a bag for Library Card Sign-up month. I called the Mayor and he came out to get the first bag. I explained the process to him while the photographer from the newspaper snapped our picture. It was a really great promotional tool. What I liked most about it wasn't that it increased patron participation, or that it was a great promotional item that ran in the paper with pictures, but that I can always see those same patrons who signed up for a card that month carrying around their bags. What a great promotion, they identify themselves with the library now. They carry the bag in the library, outside the library, they are walking billboards for the library and the fact that they had such a great experience getting a card, they will start talking to other people who notice their new bag. Granted, we could not do this every year, but it was great brand recognition AND it made believers out of our patron who spread the word about the library.

I think the biggest promotion over the summer for library cards was requiring patrons to get a library card to use our public access computers. New library cards doubled from almost 400 to 1000 patrons a month. We ended up running out of cards in August because I misjudged how fast these cards were going. We usually order 2500, but we had to double the order because of the participation. This created another problem for us. We were issuing so many library cards, but our cards were UGLY. They were a throwback to pre-credit card days. An ugly cranberry color with just the library's name in black with a space for the patron's name and a place on the back to adhere the barcode, YUCK! I had planned to upgrade the card when our vendor called us. He said that it was costing us more money to print these cards because it used out-dating machinery and would we consider upgrading our cards? It offered a new card, credit card sized with a keychain extra card for the same price we were paying for our current cards. What a great deal! Of course, it made me think, if we are so out-dated that our vendor is telling us to upgrade, we definitely need to do a better job of keeping up with the times.

I ended up designing the cards myself, using an image of the library with a sub-image with the library's entry sign in the corner. The barcodes come already on the card and the library's hours of operation and website are on the back. Everyone was so excited when they came in. All the staff instantly changed and upgraded their cards. As a promotion, we told patrons that we would waive the replacement fee for a new library card if they wanted to upgrade to the new cards. Another way the library's brand can be spread by customers. The library''s card has the city symbol, the name of the library, a picture and sign, plus the library's website, hours of operation and address. It had none of those things before, pretty sad. Patrons are all asking about the new cards and how to get one. New cards issued will go even higher for this month and we are extended the promotion into October.

The biggest goal of our library is to get all these new citizens into the library first. Getting them engaged in their community by using the library is the best first experience anyone could have. They see all we have to offer plus services and a webpage like ones they are used to in bigger cities. We are even getting them to spread the word by using library bags and library cards, and we did not even have to give away a bike.

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