Marketing a Hospital Library: Creating a Quick and Engaging Book Display

Unlike a public or academic library, hospital libraries tend to have limited space, budget, staff and time to consider marketing and promotion of library materials, especially in physical spaces. While it can be easy to bring in a visual element or create a small graphic with basic HTML skills for your library’s website, sometimes having a physical book display can go a long way to engaging your patrons and seeing increased circulation statistics.

I began putting up monthly book displays in our small Staff library in October, and have continued every month since. The display in October honored Breast Cancer Awareness Month, while November focused on Diabetes Awareness Month. I partnered with the diabetes education programs at my hospital to include educational materials and take-away items for the November display, including the 2018 Diabetes Canada calendar, food guides and living with diabetes pamphlets. These months saw a display focused on highlighting medical books in our circulating collection (i.e. not overnight loan or reserve items). I had a few staff members view the display and a few comments about the topic, but saw little improvement to our library’s circulation statistics or engagement with the books on display during these months.

In December, I switched things up and focused on our newly weeded and reorganized consumer health collection, suggesting patrons sign books out they may find personally or professionally interesting and take it home with them to read over the holidays. Books were selected based on publishing year, Goodreads reviews, and loan history. Each book had a small leaflet tucked into the front cover with the title and author of the work, three descriptive adjectives about the book, it’s Goodreads user-generated starred rating, and 1 or 2 user reviews of the book. I coupled this display with new bookmarks with borrowing and loan information, contact details, and a link to our online catalogue.

December was by far the most successful marketing campaign I’ve experienced so far. Within the first 24 hours of the display going up, 3 of the books were checked out. These books were all renewed by the patrons that signed them out. I accompanied the display with gift-wrapped boxes and 3D trees to make it more visually appealing, and had lots of comments on the cheerful holiday aspect of the display.

Although I would love to see the progression of the engagement with the December display, I’ve committed to monthly displays and now have completed one for the month of January. Unlike some months, there aren’t any health awareness months or days in January to correspond to the areas of care at my hospital. So, I focused on an area of our collection: leadership and management skills. I selected books focusing on general leadership, leadership in health care settings, and leading nursing teams. I’m excited to see how this display goes!

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Want to try making a quick book display?

Each monthly display takes me about 1-3 hours to complete, from start to finish. I also complete it on a $0 budget. Here are my steps:

  1. Come up with an exciting and unique idea for a display. Base the theme on something specific to your location, area of care, or something your organization is known for. If you have contacts in your location, you can work with them to create something together.
  2. Determine a physical space for your display. Use the existing architecture of your space to your advantage, and remember to keep accessibility concerns in mind. Think about how patrons use the space, if they will see the display from the entrance and how light and space may influence the colour scheme and decorations you may want to add.
  3. Choose books for your display. I usually go through our online catalogue, search for a couple of relevant subject headings (we use LCC), and then cross-reference with the loan history of those books, how new they are, and sometimes their cover art. Think about the story you’re setting by selecting these books – older books and books with lackluster cover art may suggest a boring and outdated collection. If you need more guidance, you can ask a subject matter expert for their recommendations.
  4. Create a poster or sign for your display. I use Canva as it is free to use, easy and contains royalty free illustrations and photos. Make sure your sign is readable. Colour and design help create visual interest and lead patrons into the design. Put the poster or sign up near the display. You may want to create a .JPG or .PNG version of the sign/poster to put on your library website.
  5. Bring in decorative elements. Compliment the colours of your sign/poster and the theme of the display to make it more visually appealing than just books on a shelf. Everyone who comes into a library is expecting books on a shelf – give them something to remember! Be sure to consider if the decorations make it difficult to pick up the books or overcrowd the space, and try to keep it budget friendly.
  6. Put it all together. Use your judgement to make adjustments, and keep the patron in mind when putting it together.
  7. Take photos and market it! Tell your leader, coworkers, patrons, friends, colleagues and even your online professional blog about your display! The whole point is to spread the word about your collection.
  8. Keep track of engagement with the displays and be prepared to discuss the impact with your leader. I use the circulation statistics and anecdotal evidence of engagement with the display to reinforce it’s importance and show how awesome of an idea it is.
  9. Do it all again! Keeping the display fresh on some sort of schedule keeps bringing people into the library space and creates a way for them to break the ice with library staff. It doesn’t have to be every month – you can do it every season/quarter, or just whenever you have time!

 

Thank you for reading! Please contact me if you have questions!

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The one question to ask yourself before applying to an ML(I)S program/library school

From the perspective of a recent Masters of Library and Information Science graduate, and recently employed library professional. 

  1. Do you have experience working with data or have you worked in a library, archives, museum or educational institution?

YES 

Perfect! This would be my #1 suggestion that you have before you consider becoming a librarian and applying to an ML(I)S program. Here’s why:

Data: Working with data is an integral part to every modern library job, and a skill that some libraries are very keenly pursing for new hires. Some retiring librarians just didn’t grow up in a digital age the way incoming professionals have. This isn’t necessarily true for all older librarians, just a percentage, but it’s still important. Having experience doing data entry, working on a website, doing cataloguing, or really anything with computers is an added bonus. But working with data in a database is the most marketable skill of all, since library catalogues are databases, and most of library resources are databases!

Worked in a library: You absolutely must have worked in a library of some sort before doing the ML(I)S program if you expect to get a Librarian position straight out of the program. No one told me this unspoken rule until I had already entered library school, so don’t repeat my mistake! Even if you got the highest marks in library school, or were super involved in student organizations, or networked your butt off, you are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to hiring if you don’t have previous work experience in a library. Even getting a job as an assistant, volunteer or page for 6 months helps. (The average co-op is 4 or 8 months, so this is a safe bet for how much experience you’ll need as a base line). If you don’t have this experience, you better sign up for a internship, co-op placement, or whatever your library school offers once you get there!!

Worked in an archives or museum: As memory institutions, you’re gaining valuable fundamental experience working in a place where budgets are tight, staffing is low, and people sometimes need that extra push to get in the door. You’re also likely doing some cataloguing, education, or research that is valuable to the role of a librarian.

Worked in an educational institution: Instructional design is a massive role in academic librarian’s work and in the work of school librarians, and a valuable perspective to have when it comes to the job hunt. You’re educating people, doing research, planning, dealing with budgets in some cases…it is all related!

NO

Libraries are a challenging field to get yourself into, even with the ML(I)S degree behind you. By not having this vital experience, you’re committing yourself to a lot of work and probably a large student debt in order to do something you just don’t have practical experience in doing, which could mean you aren’t 100% sure its something you want to do. Don’t force yourself into a career when it’s not something you want to do.

If you are still confident that libraries are something you want to do without having this prior experience, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by going to library school before completing this vital step. If you delayed going to library school until you’ve collected at least 6 months of experience in any of these areas, you’ll be far more likely to be employed at the end of the program, based on antecodal evidence of myself and others in the profession.  It will also make library school easier because you’ll have an idea of what type of librarianship you’d like to get into, and you’ll have experience to back up the heavy theory aspect of library school.

As the Annoyed Librarian has touched on many times,  library schools don’t limit enrollment to match the amount of library-related jobs in the market, meaning there are more ML(I)S graduates then there are jobs. Anything you do to make yourself more marketable before, during or after library school will help.

If you still want to give library school a shot, make sure you have allotted time, money and energy to doing a placement/co-op, internship or volunteering job either through your library school or in the community. Co-op placements (paid opportunities to work in a library or related institution and learn from real librarians) are your best bet, as you’re recouping some costs, networking, and getting practical experience that will be directly applicable to a a library job. For those lucky people, your internship employer may also offer you a position when you finish the program.

An internship is also good if you’re doing the work that a normal employee is doing – although the ethics behind unpaid internships is highly contested, and some libraries have union rules that will prevent you from doing “normal” library work at all.

If you can’t find any of these opportunities, get thee to thy library and volunteer! One of the biggest tips from library professionals on job hunting is to volunteer where you want to work, give it your all, and network while you’re there. That way, the recruiter may know your name before you apply.

 

Article Review: Knowledge of Journal Impact Factors Among Nursing Faculty: A Cross-Sectional Study

Kumaran, Maha and Chau Ha. “Knowledge of Journal Impact Factors Among Nursing Faculty: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Journal of the Medical Library Association, 105, 2, 2017, 140-143. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.5195/jmla.2017.207

This recent article by Maha Kumaran and Chau Ha, Liaison Librarians at University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Polytechnic respectively, came to my attention for its focus on a topic I heard of frequently during my MLIS: journal impact factors.

Journal Impact Factors (JIFs) are the metric created by calculating the “number of times, on average, that a citable item in a given journal is indexed by Journal Citation Reports…and is the ratio between citations and recent citable items published” (Kumaran and Ha 140). It is one of many metrics attempting to create a ranking of all journals, despite each journals inherit difference to others. JIFs got a bad rap in my particular MLIS program, as we were pretty liberal-focused and tended to have bad associations with journal publishers and their massive inflation on prices, which is a bane to many librarians existence. JIFs were thus another way to trap academia and librarians to paying extraordinary access fees for overrated content.

Kumaran and Ha seem to approach the subject with a similar attitude, suggesting “JIF unfairly rates nursing journals as underperforming against journals in other disciplines,” while pressuring scholars to publish in high-JIF journals, even if they are not the most suitable for the specific work or not as easily accessed (Kumaran and Ha 140). The authors rightly note that in some institutions, the importance of JIFs is so high, tenure and other employment opportunities are directly linked to the number of publications in high-JIF journals (Ibid).

But what Kumaran and Ha uncover in their small study relates more to the value placed on JIFs. From the surveys they conducted with 44 nursing faculty and instructors on their knowledge of JIFs, the authors found that many respondents confused the association of a high JIF score with the authority or importance of a journal. For example, one respondent claimed higher JIF meant “the journal is respected by [the] scientific community and highly subscribed,” while another correlated the rank to “how it is valued by peer reviewers” (Kumaran and Ha 141). The finding of the study is thus that nursing faculty and instructors in Saskatchewan confused the JIF rank, a mathematically significant number created to aid librarians choose journal subscriptions, with subjective values placed on journals in the academic sphere.

This confusion presents a problem as it drives scholars to publish in a small group of journals, that may use their high JIF score to justify subscription inflation or as a basis for creating “big deals”. This problem can be felt both by the librarian and the patron. For the librarian, already tight budgets can be made tighter by publishers that have large subscription fees, often bumping out other items that can add value to the library collection. Library patrons might not understand the reasoning behind the journal subscription cuts that follow, creating a negative image of the library in the mind of the user.

Patrons would feel the impacts of this too, as they have less variety for their research. Kumaran and Ha note that journals with high JIF tend to have biases toward English-language North American articles, have a general and international scope, and tend to rank clinical and multidisciplinary research poorly (141). This creates a problem as limiting research or publication options to top JIF publications erases many opportunities to present information to more appropriate audiences, and compliment similar research. As well, it adds to the digital divide and thus makes it harder for non-English journals to achieve the authority and importance bestowed on English content.

Solutions to the problem of misplaced value on JIF scores require a change in the way things are done in academia – not an easy task. There needs to be a change in focus on the part of institutions away from valuing high-JIF publications for their scholars to publish in. Instead, focus should be given to the best journal for the article. JIF might be a factor in the discussion of where to publish, but it should not be the only factor. Instead, each journal should be considered for its own merits. While it is simple to have a single rank to refer to when judging the value of a journal in a collection or to an institution, reality shows that the unique values of each scholar and institution make the decision making process much more complicated.

Second, emphasis should be given to scholars who publish in open access (OA) journals. The merits of OA journals is something commonly heard in library literature (to not necessitate repeating in this review), and include helping to solve the problem of inflating journal subscription costs for library budgets. Kumaran and Ha did note that more respondents listed open access as a criteria for choosing a journal for publication than JIF (142).

Another solution, which seems to be more the focus of Kumaran and Ha’s article, is to better equip researchers and faculty members on the reasons the JIF exists and other ways to judge the authority of a scholarly journal for publication and/or research. Kumar and Ha found that 50% of respondents wanted further training in the JIF, 25% were interested in sessions to educate all faculty on the JIF, and 18% wanted to invite a librarian to speak in their classes about JIFs (142). Demand already sets the stage for this solution, and makes it easier to implement by librarians and other educators. Institutions with instructional librarians have the tools they need to begin to educate their populations on what JIFs are and what they truly mean.

For my practice, this article adds value as it influences how I would assist a patron looking for advice in choosing a publication to publish in. It’s important to first know if your institution places a value on journals with a high JIF, and then how to recommend journals based on their other merits: peer review process, open access availability, popularity in the field, and scope are all important to consider in the process. In addition, its useful to know that metrics like the JIF are not necessarily reflective of the value of a journal, especially in a field such as nursing where clinical and multidisciplinary research are important.

Tumblarians, or Tumblr Librarians

In my long-standing love for all things social media, tumblr has been a constant source of online community, news, memes, fandoms, and cute pictures of cats. But only recently did I discover “tumblarians” as a tag used by tumblr users who happen to also be librarians. A quick search of this tag leads to everything from the personal accounts of being a librarian, to news articles about librarianship, to things like What the Librarian Wore, a personal favourite.

One post that recently caught my attention was relating to an exhibit at Ellis Library Colonnade. Relating to my recent post on post-WWII depictions of librarianship, this post by the Special Collections & Archives at Mizzou shows posters from World War One and Two in the “Libraries at War” exhibit.

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From Special Collections & Archives at Mizzou

The overall message from this post is that books are important tools, or “Weapons in the War of Ideas.” How cool is it that at the time, books were likened to the brave men fighting on the battlefield? From the author of the post:

The Library War Service was created in 1917.  It was directed by Herbert Putnam, then Librarian of Congress, and administered by the American Library Association.   In an enormous effort to send books and other reading material to the American forces, the ALA distributed about ten million books and magazines; collected five million dollars from public donations; supplied library collections to more than 500 locations, including military hospitals; and with the financial help of Carnegie Corporation, established 36 camp and military base libraries.  During the Second World War more than seventeen million books were collected through the National Defense Book Campaign launched in 1941 and better known as the Victory Book Campaign.

Books were frequently regarded as powerful ideological tools. President Roosevelt wrote: “No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man’s eternal fight against tyranny.  In this war, we know, books are weapons.”

 Another post that caught my attention on LibrarianProblems:

1

The GIF is awesome, because Parks and Rec is awesome. But the message stopped and made me think. I love social media as a form of personal expression, professional connection, a source of news, etc. But the question posed by this post (What do you do when a patron sends you a friend request on Facebook?) does seem like a tough one. Information organizations, like any other profession, have to deal with issues of personal and professional space. One aspect of the job search will be finding out what different information organizations have policies against this sort of online presence. Does having patrons on Facebook and other social medias influence your professional practice? For better, or for worse?

Response to “The Librarian,” Vocational Guidance Films 1947

Information professionals know that the role of the librarian has shifted over time. Studying the 1946 Vocational Guidance Film “The Librarian,” part of the Your Life Work series, shows the changing role of the librarian at work and in larger society, and can help illuminate the long-standing features of this profession.

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Film still, (0:14)

The film begins by stating that the two signs you would make a good librarian are a love of books and a love of people (and their love in return). The appreciation for knowledge and customer service skills indeed seem to be continuing themes in the field of librarianship. These “personal qualifications” (9:50), or what we might call soft skills, are still at the forefront of job postings and instruction of librarianship. However, with new spaces like BiblioTech opening up, the idea that books = knowledge = library is contested.

Gender has played a significant role in librarianship, and continues to do so. In this post-war film, nearly all the librarians featured are women. The exceptions are one male reference librarian, and the library administrator (of course). While there is a large majority of women in the field even today, there is still a danger in not representing the male librarian population. Indeed, the film rather innocently portrayed a female librarian being adorably confused by the big words of her male Doctor patron (8:30) which reinforces gender stereotypes in an uncomfortable way.

As this film was most likely circulated to high school students considering their college choices, education is emphasized. The narrator notes that most positions require a college degree and training at a library school. The exception are circulation librarians and those working in small libraries. These imposed rules are particularly striking. Why do small libraries not need educated librarians? Is their limited population somehow not worthy of a college-educated and library school trained professional?

There are also some interesting ways the film tries to make librarianship hip and modern for their young viewers. The narrator emphasizes the variety of materials librarians deal with (like microfilm, music, and movies). There is also the idea that librarians are “vital and essential” in creating “the kind of world in which you want to live.” These two points are perhaps the most changed in the near-70 years since this film was produced. With many politicians and budget makers claiming that librarianship is outdated and replaced with businesses like Google, these thoughts are apparently lost.

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From Intothestacks.tumblr.com

Modern times have also complicated the way librarianship works. I noticed the apparent ease a librarian had finding a blue book about television in her card catalogue system, without information about the author or title. Would this type of information retrieval be as convenient or even possible now? Was this ever possible in anywhere besides small libraries (which may only have one or two books on television)?

In conclusion, this film has brought out many further questions about librarianship that need to be answered in the rest of my MLIS courses. As I further dive into the intricacies of this profession, I will be able to look back on this film and have more answers (and possibly more questions).