Saturday, 11 February 2012

National Libraries Day in an academic library

Last Saturday (4th February) was National Libraries Day (NLD) 2012 in the UK. You can find out more on the website, but this was essentially a day for celebrating libraries. Public libraries in particular held events to celebrate.

During the week leading up to NLD, it struck me that we should really do something to mark it at work. Saturday is a tricky day for academic libraries as they tend to be much quieter, staffed with fewer staff and/or open shorter hours than during the week; in contrast to public libraries where, as I remember well from my days as a Saturday assistant, Saturday is one of the busiest days of the week. However, I felt that we should make some effort to recognise NLD in the days leading up to it.

Due to the last-minute nature of my suggestion and that fact that everyone was very busy that week, my colleagues gave me the go-ahead to basically just get on with it! I decided we should put some posters up around the library, featuring the NLD logo, an explanation that Saturday was NLD, and a “did you know” fact about the library. We had four different posters in total, each with a different “did you know”; about our longer opening hours this year, a reference building tool for Harvard which we have just launched (with an iPhone app coming soon), the existence of subject librarians, and our new 24/7 Chat service. My colleague who designs a lot of our publicity and is really good with Publisher created them for me, and I placed them around the library; by the front door, by the self-service machines, and on the door to the IT area.

I also thought it would be good to run a little competition. We have a suggestions box for users to submit comments and suggestions. It’s not very well used, so I decided that for this week we should offer the chance for users to win a box of chocolates if they submitted a comment and included their contact details. I asked my colleague to create some special comments slips, advertising the opportunity to win a box of chocolates and asking the users what they did and didn’t like about the library, which were placed next to the box along with a sign explaining that it was NLD and there was a competition. I set this up on Wednesday, and on Friday also brought in some sweets to place by the box, in early celebration of the day (and to try to entice them to submit a comment!).

On the day itself, my colleague who was on duty (we only have one member of staff in each Saturday) explained to anyone who hovered near the sign or poster by the door about the fact that it was National Libraries Day. It was also an undergraduate Open Day, so it was good that we had some posters and this small display up, for visitors coming into the library. As previously mentioned, Saturdays are quiet for us, and unfortunately we didn’t get that many visitors – Open Day attendees or students – over the weekend. When I came in on Monday all of the sweets were gone, but we only had three comments submitted in the box (only one of which included a name and contact details, so they won the chocolates by default!). I have to admit I am not sure why so few people entered the competition – there was chocolate on offer! Although weekends are quiet, the box was there throughout the Thursday and Friday, so plenty of students came in. I wonder if they just didn’t notice it; they came into the library for a purpose i.e. to get a book, to do some work, to print something off and didn’t pay attention to anything else? 

We therefore didn’t manage to generate a large amount of interest in National Libraries Day – with only three entries to our competition, and no member of staff being asked anything about the day. I think this is partly due to me organising things at the last minute; if I had thought about it sooner perhaps I might have come up with some more ideas, and I would have been able to ask colleagues for ideas too. It was also suggested that it might have had more impact if there had been something organised across the whole of Library Service, not just at one small campus, and I definitely agree with this. Not only could all of the libraries have put up posters or displays, but we could perhaps have made use of the library or university website. The suggestion that if there is a National Libraries Day next year, there is a wider promotion across all campus libraries, will be taken to Library Services management by an appropriate colleague. 

I’m glad that we did something to mark National Libraries Day, even though it didn’t have much impact. It was a good opportunity not only to engage with library promotion on a general and national scale, but to promote what we offer. It was also useful to gain some feedback about the library from students through the comments submitted, even though there were only three. If we had started planning earlier, and there had been promotion of the day in other campus libraries too, on a Library Services-wide scale, I think it might have been more successful. As I wondered earlier, if students don’t pay attention to displays or posters in the library, how else could we promote something – through the webpages, or is there another way? I think all of this is definitely something to bear in mind for any future events like NLD.

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