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Marketing on the Edge


Ben Bizzle and Melloney Dunlap

Ben Bizzle and Melloney Dunlap from the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library in Jonesboro, AR showed how they have developed innovative and aggressive marketing programs, which has been a process that has been developing over the last few years.

Your website is your virtual presence and reflects the impression you want to give people.  This was the library’s first website.


You need to be able to justify what you are doing, so the staff told the board that they wanted to be perceived as an information gateway or portal.  Some of the metrics needed to be changed–counting people coming through the door is not necessarily indicative.  One of the biggest challenges libraries face is barriers to entry.  They set up a goal of reaching any information on the website with 3 clicks or less.  Here is the website they designed to bring the library into peoples’ homes.

To appeal to people age 16 to 40, a video series of marketing messages for a fictional library was created:

The videos were a great success; library users and staff often ask if they can be in the them.

The next stage was to go mobile.  Why would somebody reach into their pocket and access the library?  They want to know the address, hours, etc., and then look at the collection.  An app called the “Pocket Library–Your Library, Everywhere You Are”, was developed.  People liked having that access.

All this marketing made the library realize they needed a PR and arts department.  They used interns from the local college, but they finish their studies and move on, which meant there was no stability or permanence in their branding.  So they hired Melloney Dunlap, an intern, when she finished her education.  She developed a new logo as a brand which is used on everything.

It is important to design with less to create effective promotional material.  Here are some guidelines.

If you don’t have a graphic designer, there are lots of tutorials, stock images, and fonts as well as programs available on the Internet.  Check out TechSoup for free or low cost programs especially for libraries.

The library leased some billboards in town and signed 6-month contracts.  Sometimes the ads stayed up longer because the billboard company would rather have something on the billboard than nothing.  A creative team was created to develop some humorous messages for billboards.  Here are some of them.  One of them went viral and made the front page of sites like Reddit and SomethingAwful.

Besides billboards, Facebook covers, and e-cards were also designed.  Posters for events were distributed around town and put up in store windows.  This opened new markets to the library.  In the current election season, a library sign among all the campaign signs drew lots of attention.

Here are some of the results of the marketing campaign.


The results show that the library is getting attention in the community.  Some of the philosophies of the marketing campaign are these:

We want people to start thinking about the library.  They will decide for themselves what is useful.  People want to be entertained and don’t want to see the library as a boring place.  Word of mouth is the best advertising, but you must stimulate that word.  You can change things in your community if you are willing to take a risk.  Don’t be afraid to fail; pick up and go forward.


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