Book Preview: Pop Culture Outreach

I was going to go in TOC order with these previews, but Lara Z. did such a nice job of setting up the discussion for this topic in her comments to the first Book Preview post that I thought we’d just move on and see where the conversation takes us. So, on to Chapter 4: Advocacy, Marketing, PR & Outreach!

Liz & I use the example of a nascent graphic novels collection for kids throughout the book, both for continuity, and because we’re hearing about and seeing more & more GNs better suited to a J (juvenile) classification than YA or adult. We discuss this kind of collection from both the point of view of the GN advocate and the GN skeptic, and while it’s no secret whose side we’re on, we are sensitive to the concerns of the skeptics, and we think practicing your advocacy, marketing, PR and outreach skills every day is the best way to rally community members & colleagues within your library to your cause.

Here’s a taste of how we view outreach on behalf of this kind of pop culture collection, and the benefits it may bring to your library’s services:

When you built your pop culture collection, you didn’t start from scratch. You used existing collection development staff, policies, and resources to create a collection that fits your community’s interests. Now use the same strategy for outreach. Pull out your library’s current policies, guidelines, and other existing outreach tools. Consult resources such as the tipsheets provided by ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services ). Look at your pop culture initiative and start brainstorming groups, people, events, and places to visit. Start with the ideas you had when you launched the initiative, but think bigger!

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Ask yourself,where do your comics-loving patrons go? Is there a county, state, or other nearby convention that they look forward to? Add that gathering to your “to-visit”list. Remember:You don’t have to do this alone. Sit down with staff to brainstorm outreach possibilities and preferred outcomes. Do you want to make connections with parents, so that they know that reading comic books can actually improve literacy scores? Do you want to generate excitement about the new collection among kids and teens? Do you want to develop a mechanism for soliciting collection input and book reviews from patrons? Do you want to establish a relationship with a local comics shop? Write it all down, and don’t censor yourself. We understand there are only so many hours in the day, someone has to stay in the branch, and it takes time to plan all those programs. Still, we encourage you to shut off your inner naysayer. For now, just brainstorm: The sky is the limit. Put down as many ideas as you can think of. You can prioritize later.

Continuing with our comics collection example, your list of outreach possibilities could include:

  • Public and private schools, including art teachers, English teachers, reading specialists, related school clubs, activities, and publications
  • Parent-teacher organizations
  • Parenting groups
  • Homeschoolers
  • Local art schools
  • Art galleries
  • Comic book shops
  • Bookstores
  • Comics and manga conventions and associations (local, county, or state)
  • Authors, artists, and illustrators

We admit, that’s a pretty long list. Now think about why you want to talk to each group, using this process to help you determine your top outreach priorities. If you’re hosting a contest to help promote the collection, talking to art teachers may be your first priority—not only could you ask the art teachers to promote the contest to their students, but you could invite them to judge the contest, too. If your main concern is letting parents and concerned adults know the value of comic books (beyond the obvious—readers love them!),then target parent-affiliated groups first. When brainstorming with staff, ask them about any connections they might have. If you have a comic book lover on staff who visits the local comic shop weekly to pick up new titles, use that connection to build your relationship with local experts (and maybe negotiate a discount on bulk purchases!).

Many of you who responded to our survey told us about the kinds of outreach strategies you use at your libraries, and many of those suggestions are in the book.  Of course, we are always excited to hear about & share more ideas with our colleagues, so what are you up to? We’d love for you to share your top tips, your most mortifying disasters (feel free to go anonymous with those, if you’d prefer), and your assessment of why this stuff works.

Note to everyone who responded to the survey: we’ll be extolling your invaluable contributions to our book in a future post!

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