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Taking Pictures to Tell your Library’s Story

It’s an old cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words . . .

But with just about every staff member having a camera (on their phones or a digital camera) times have changed!

Here are some ideas I thought about as I wandered around a few public libraries this week.  It’s one thing to say libraries are very, very busy and well used.  It’s one thing to show our dry stats on gate counts and circulation – even if we make them pretty with bar charts, graphics and pie graphs.  It’s one thing to say that we serve diverse populations and that everyone comes into the library.

It’s quite another thing to NOT have to say it – but to demonstrate it in a visual way that engages your public, funders and community leaders.

So here are a few things I saw this week in a few Greater Toronto area that deserved pictures:

1. The stroller parking lot during story time.  OMG – 40 strollers makes a great photo and visually demonstrates the attendance.

2. The parking lot of the library – time stamped – showing that it’s full at all times of the day.

3. The crowd outside the door BEFORE the doors open.  I saw 25-120 people standing outside the library doors anxiously but patiently waiting to get in – and having nice neighbourly conversations as they waited.

4. Line-ups at the circulation desk and self-check stations and a crowd of people holding small piles of books and DVDs.

5. Groups of teens sitting at every PC station and – on the floor – around every electrical outlet working on their devices but surrounded by books too.

6. Full bicycle racks – sometimes double parked.

7. The cutest group of toddlers all staring at the story telling librarian and clapping their hands and singing a song.

8. Loads of individual seniors reading the papers in large comfy chairs by the window.

9. Every computer station filled and a small line up patiently waiting for their turn.

10. Librarian-led seminars in training rooms running every hour – all day – and every seat full with a different mix of people every session.

11. Great themed book displays with people browsing and borrowing a book they might not have known about.

12. A big pile of skateboards and backpacks at the circulation desk . . .

13. Loads of Dads attending library programs on Saturday with their kids – giving Mom some relief and/or finding a fun activity that engages their kids as a non-custodial parent on their day of quality time at low cost before heading to a movie later.

14. Great seasonal displays, themed Christmas trees, Xmas trees made out of books . . . and in the last few months Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving harvest displays with cookbooks.

15. Every week the library where my office is has a farmer’s market right outside the door and craft fairs are common too.  Just add a book truck!

I’m sure you see more of these great library land vistas.

All of these scenes weren’t set up, weren’t stock photos of models – real people, doing real things and enjoying the library.

Some of the above scenes don’t require signed permissions since there are no people in them – but they do show busyness and activity through surrogates like bikes, skateboards, backpacks, cars, and strollers.

So, think of a theme – like Another Normal Day at the Library – and start taking pictures every day.  Encourage staff to indulge their photography habit – especially those who take pictures of their meals, their friends and more.

Store the pictures in a central vault like Flickr, Dropbox, etc.  Celebrate those staff who contribute and maybe honour the best photos and photographers of the quarter.

Then, most importantly, get the visuals out there!  Share them on your website and social media.  Add a humorous, ironic, or descriptive tagline and post them to Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and more.

If a new Canadian sees other new Canadians at the library they’ll feel more welcome – not matter how often we communicate this formally.  If a cool-kid sees other cool-kids at the library, barriers are broken.  If a Dad sees other men at the story times, then he knows he’s welcome.

What is being communicated?

  • Our community is here at the library!
  • We’re busy and active.
  • We serve everyone at every age and demographic.
  • It’s fun at the library.
  • We’re doing so much more than books and we’re engaging our communities to be better students, citizens, parents, and more.
  • We’re thriving.

Sure, the pictures are good for traditional things like council presentations and newsletters but getting these images out into the community through social media changes the dynamic of the conversation and engagement.

And, oh by the way, we let you take stuff home too for free.


Posted on: November 23, 2013, 8:31 am Category: Uncategorized

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