30 Days of How-To #25: How to Jazz up Your Publicity

If you’re like us at my library, you’re fairly limited in the software you’re allowed to use (ahem, Microsoft Office suite), and your in-house publicity is made with Publisher. If you’re in the habit of making signs or flyers for your programs, check to see if you’ve gotten into the clipart-gradient background-text rut. If this isn’t you, please please please help your fellow librarian who fits this description. If you’re thinking, But what’s wrong with my clipart?, I beg of you, please keep reading.

Backgrounds

Flyers and signs should be eye-catching, especially when you’re competing for the short attention span of teens, and it all starts with your background. It shouldn’t be just any color, or a color at all. The background you choose can determine what images you use, as well as the type and color of your font. If you choose a plain background, you’d better have an image that pops, and your font color should be a high contrast. On the other hand, if your background is an image, use other pictures or clipart sparingly (if at all), and consider a “washout” effect, essentially increasing the brightness and lowering the contrast. You want the text to be readable from a distance, and an image background can obscure readability.

Images’ ‘ ‘ 

Think about cropping an image in a neat way to only use part of it. Instead of a floating ninja head, put that same head with the chin cropped off at the bottom of the flyer to make it look like it is looking over something. If you’re looking for something fresh, try searching through Google Images, Flickr, or other photo sites. Remember to keep copyright in mind, though, and look for images licensed through Creative Commons instead, which is often easier to use and understand.

Fonts

The last important element is the font. Even if your IT department protests every time you try to install something new, that doesn’t mean you can’t use special fonts. For a Halloween program, use a Friday the 13th-esque font or some other font that embodies your gruesome theme. Having a spa program for girls? Use a super girly font with a lot of flourishes. You can even try to match the font from a book cover (think Hunger Games). Here’s the trick: download the font, unzip it if required, and save the TrueType file to your desktop. Open the file, and like magic, the font becomes available when creating WordArt in Publisher. As long as the font file is open while your Publisher file is open, the font is available and will show up properly (Side note: even if you save the Publisher file, the font will revert back to a standard font if the downloaded font file is not open. To avoid this, save the file as a .jpg). Fonts can come from a number of sources, but my usual choice is dafont.com

The most important thing is don’t forget to have fun with this! What tricks have you learned along the way to keep your publicity from getting boring? Leave your answer in the comments.

 

Encourage Teens to be Heard

I’ve heard some talk lately about how teens seem completely ambivalent to the world around them. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that teens care about nothing but their own self-interests. Simply put, I don’t believe that. I believe the real problem may very well be the lack of a forum to express their ideas. It seems to me that as youth advocates, this may be something we want to provide. You could simply give them a time and space (and snacks) for discussion and only act as a facilitator, or you could have a full-out debate. Let them decide what they want to talk about, and encourage deeper subjects than TV, music, movies, and the opposite sex. Ask them questions. Be interested in what they say. Show them how to find more information. Show them how to research and find materials that support their arguments.

They may not be interested in the things that we as adults think they should be interested in or have the views that we think they should have, but teens should be given the opportunity to freely express their opinions. If they don’t get that at home, and they don’t get that at school, that can be something we provide at the library. It might seem like an uphill battle, but if we’re not trying to connect with them, what reason do they have to trust and connect with us?

And since it’s District Days, is there any reason not to encourage teens to talk to their representatives? Many of them are only a few years away from voting, after all. While we’re trying to get our elected officials to recognize the importance of libraries, what better success story to hit them with than an ambivant-turned-advocate group of teens?

How are you giving your teens a forum? Leave your answers in the comments!

Have a challenge? Need a policy?

With all of the talk about the banning of Angry Management by Chris Crutcher and the removal of the ban on The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, it seems like it’s a good time to talk about policies. I hope that everyone has a Policy for the Reconsideration of Library Materials, or some other similarly titled policy. If not, the time to form one is yesterday.

Check out ALA’s resources at http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/index.cfm. There you’ll find a sample form to give to patrons challenging materials, and tips for how to talk to the patron with the challenge. Everyone, not just those who would ultimately handle a challenge, needs to know what to do when a patron wants to ban a book. At my library, circulation staff are instructed to immediately refer the person to a manager or a reference librarian and to not say anything in defense of the material or the library. Because our circulation desk is right by the front door, circulation staff are most likely to have first contact with the patron, and they need to know what to do.

When a patron has a challenge, you should be ready with the form for them to fill out, as well as copies of your materials selection policy and selection procedures. If they still want to proceed, make sure your library has a process for reviewing the material and making a recommendation to administration, and if the patron is still not satisfied with the decision, make sure that the appeal hearing is made public. ALA also has tips for talking to the media during the challenge process.

Depending on your library’s procedures, you may be involved a lot or very little in the challenge process, but considering that YA novels make up most of the top ten of the most frequently challenged books each year, we as YA librarians need to be aware of how to handle these challenges effectively.

Handling Rowdy Teens: Stop Trouble Before it Starts

Summertime, of course, means that with no school and after-school activities, more teens can come to the library. A problem occurs, though, because when teens are together, they engage in normal teen behavior, which isn’t always good library behavior. The question is, how do you enforce the rules without alienating your teens, and if you have to make them leave for a day, month, or whatever the time period, is it possible to reach those teens and bring them back – just more well-behaved?

My library’s conduct policy applies to all patrons and clearly defines the consequences for different behaviors, when a warning is sufficient or when warnings have to turn into an order for trespass, either temporary or not. Having a clear policy is a good first step, but I don’t think any of us really believe that teens or any other patron are’ actually going to read it, even if you have your rules of conduct displayed in a very prominent place. In fact, most teens probably won’t know that what they are doing is wrong until you give them that first warning.
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Reach More Teens This Summer

At the end of this week, the masses will descend upon my library here in Texas. Our Summer Reading Club kickoff starts as soon as school gets out, and we’re expecting pandemonium. Most of our participants, just like in years before, will be elementary-aged, and we’ll hope, just like in years before, that we’ll see more teens that aren’t our volunteers.

The thing is, at least with us, the number of teens we’ll see this summer doesn’t even begin to come close to the number of children that will be running around the library. We’re in a suburban area with a lot of neighborhoods, and we’re right down the street from a high school, so what gives? Simply put, we’re in competition for their attention. No big surprise there. They have summer jobs and their own activities, and for many, the library falls low on their list of priorities. Many of us have found that even when teens do come to the library during the summer, they get their books, magazines, CDs, and movies and leave without ever hanging out here.

Conversely, some branches get more teens than they know what to do with. One of our branches across town has a much better showing of a teen population, but for the most part, they can count on seeing the same people. The question is, how do we get teens who don’t normally come to the library because of homework and after-school activities to visit in the summer? I think the biggest problem is perception. The library can’t possibly be a fun place to hang out because it’s a library.

But what if we have a space just for teens that feels less like a library and more like a place where they can be themselves? What if we don’t make teens adhere to the Summer Reading Club formula we use for children and give them something completely different (and what if our incentives — if you’re in favor of incentives, which I am — don’t suck)? What if we connect with them the way that requires little to no effort on their part? Having a Facebook page is great, but they have to see it to be a fan of it, and that’s effort. What if we fit our programs and our services to meet their interests and needs before we stretch their trust trying to introduce something new?

I know these ideas have worked for other libraries. What’s worked for you? Leave a comment!