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Shameless self-promotion

This guest post is by Heather Jardine, talking about the fabulous high visibility initiatives she and her colleagues have implemented for the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries. I this these are inspiring ideas, we’d love to hear anything you have to add:

If you are going to do a job at all, you should do it properly. So now that we have decided it is time to promote ourselves and what we do, we have thrown caution to the winds and we are trying almost everything.

We started with tours of the Bib Services Section, what we call “The Journey of the Book”, initially for new staff colleagues but now also for members of the public and for colleagues from other libraries (so now we have three “flavours” of tour – Staff Journey of the Book, Public Journey of the Book and Professional Journey of the Book). The content is essentially the same for all three, but the level of detail varies according to the audience. Fellow professionals always seem most interested in workflow and management issues, members of the public are always fascinated by the processing – all that stickyback plastic takes them back to Blue Peter and their younger days. Yes, it is a faff setting it all up, but we learn as much as our visitors do and almost always people are interested, engaged and persuaded that what we do is valuable and useful, which is enormously satisfying. And, you never know who is going to come through the door on a tour. It might be someone with influence to help us, or someone who will bring us work and income. We all need friends at the moment. We are beginning to think that marketing it as a “behind-the scenes” tour might get more custom – everyone likes to see what goes on out of public view, as the National Trust and many other heritage organisations realised long ago when they started opening kitchens and other below-stairs areas.

One thing leads to another, and because we were doing tours, we decided that we needed a leaflet to hand out both as publicity and as a souvenir in goody-bags.

And we thought that a big, bright, well-designed poster on the wall outside our office would tell people who we were and what we did (it helps that our office is across the lobby from the public toilets, so there are always people about).

After a while, we thought that having a video version of our “Journey of the Book” might bring it to a wider audience, so we made a film and put it up on YouTube. It’s doing OK for views, but we’d probably get more if we had included a skateboarding cat. Oh well, there’s always next time. (That’s one of the things you find out quite quickly – whatever publicity material you produce, you have to review and revise it surprisingly often.)

We have started a blog, too, and made sure that it is picked up by Planet Cataloging, so it gets read as widely as possible.

And we have a page “about” us within our catalogue, and on our Intranet too, of course.

But there is still more to do. Only the other day I was introduced by a colleague as, “This is Heather – she works in the basement”, as if that was the only interesting thing about me. So – what next? My own gut feeling is that Facebook is passé, but we might give it a try nonetheless. Then there is Twitter. I’ve got mixed feelings about Twitter, but I am slowly being persuaded that it can be a useful tool. “Bib Services: the musical”? Probably not.

Perhaps the most important thing to say, is that we started without any special skills or knowledge. We are not marketing professionals, or graphic designers. It’s been a huge learning curve. Maybe when we look back, we think of ways we could have done it better – but there is always next time. Meanwhile, we’ve got something out there. And if we can do it, so can you.

We’d like to hear what you think of what we’ve been doing and to learn from your experience too.

Check out:

The video: An introduction to the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries

The blog: Work and expression

About us: The Bibliographical Services Section

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