Friday Design: Embracing Design Shortcuts

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you and your family are staying healthy and well. It has been a strange and hard time for everyone. Some days, I feel it is an accomplishment just to get through the day and let’s not even talk about people who are claiming to be more productive than ever.

I’m not one them. I have a toddler and very few hours in the day where I can focus solely on work. If you feel your life is like that, too, or your focus is simply not what it was (I feel you and give you a virtual hug), this post is for you on some design shortcuts I’ve been using to get the work done in a professional manner in the time I have now.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m not a fan of out-of-the-box templates for designing. But I am a fan of templates you create for your library that can then serve to brand your services and resources. And that’s the big design shortcut of this entire, emergency remote working situation: creating templates for the library’s marketing needs.

My library already was providing a lot of online services and resources, as almost all libraries do, but with the campus closure we needed to up our online marketing and promotions fast as there was no way for students to come into the library to see are signs or pass our sandwich board advertising the next workshop in the library.

Thankfully we’d just started an Instagram account, which is a popular social media platform at my campus for the departments, clubs, organizations, and individual students, faculty, and staff to get their news. And that has meant that my design load has gone up as every online workshop, every online change needs to be communicated via our Instagram and every post needs a visual.

So I quickly designed the library workshop visuals and decided that they needed visual branding so that when you see one of our workshop posts, you’ll know it is a library workshop from the aesthetic. I kept it simple and clear so it was 1) easy to update and 2) easy to read. Here’s some examples to show you our posts for online library workshops

Instagram post for a drop-in citation workshop showing the use of a template


Instagram post for a technology workshop showing the use of a template

While these two visuals look similar, they are still distinct with different color palettes and icons used. But they have the same visual feel, so it is easy to tell they are posts for workshops from the library. I create a flat design, without photographs for the workshops and include the same date, time, Zoom information on each at the bottom. The icons reinforce the topic of the workshops and the typography is simple and clear.

Now that I have these templates, I can more easily and quickly update them for upcoming workshops (good since we have at least 4 a week). I’m also creating visual branding that we can continue for our workshop promotion into the future.

Since we are all short on time and attention, use some design shortcuts to make your graphic design work a little easier. You’ll be able to create the projects you need to for your library without wanting to pull out your hair.

Take care and stay safe. I’ll try to be back soon with more news and notes about how we can continue to do our design work during this pandemic. I wish you and your families all the best. Allons-y, my friends!

Friday Design: Library Swag

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good week and have a lovely weekend planned. Today, let’s talk a bit about library swag. Whether you love or hate getting it, swag is ubiquitous at conferences, workshops, and events. Libraries have long created and provided swag as part of our outreach and promotional efforts and we’ve probably all seen good, bad, and downright ugly swag.

I love good swag. What do I mean by good? If swag is well-designed and useful to me, I love it. Clever and unique swag might draw me in, but if it isn’t well-designed and it has no use for me, I don’t find it great. So how do we create great swag that won’t end up cluttering someone’s dorm room or office and instead gets used and loved?

The way we do everything: with thoughtful design.

Swag doesn’t have to cost a fortune to be well-designed and useful. Take the humble button. Button making supplies aren’t super-expensive and the presses can be reused for years with care so you just have to keep buying pin backs and covers as consumables. You can find lots of design inspiration online and buttons are fast to design because the canvas is so small. Think pithy, clever, and concise on buttons. This is a photo of some I created for our summer orientation events. You can get your library marketing in on the rim of the button (I added our library’s URL).

photograph of well-designed buttons that say, Read, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Buttons are almost universally popular with our students. You can also use button-making as a library event as other libraries have done.

Small swag like buttons also encourage interaction at outreach events. They are small and if you have multiple designs, people like to read/look at them all before choosing. It’s a great time to have a short conversation, answer a question about the library, or plug an upcoming library event.


But swag, like grades, seems to be getting inflated over the years and departments often compete to have the coolest, most popular swag at events. From pop sockets to water bottles, T-shirts to sunglasses, the amount your library can spend on swag is truly astronomical.

If you are looking to up your swag game and have the budget for more expensive swag, make sure it’s something your target population wants (asking is always the way to do this) and make sure you can brand it with your library’s logo. It’s important for this type of swag to be useful and to provide a promotional push for your library. For example, we purchased power banks for an upcoming library event to use as prizes as you can see in the photo below.

photograph of power bank with library's logo on it

You can’t miss our branding on these power banks! Larger canvases are great for going large with your library’s logo and create striking promotional messages.

So I hope these two examples have given you some inspiration for swag in your library. Remember, you can always do right by creating simple, bold designs for your swag. Stand out with great design on a useful product and you’ve got a winning combination for your next piece of library swag.

See you back here with more design news and notes soon. Allons-y!

Reading and Audience Development Officers

I really enjoy being a librarian. I like teaching and doing reference work, playing with new online tools to see how I could apply them in the library and working with my colleagues. But sometimes I just sit back and scratch my head, because I just don’t get some of the things people do thinking it will better the library. 

Take this example about Edinburgh rebranding the librarians as Audience Development Officers. Okay, I am so missing why this is a good move. Yes, I understand that librarians do a lot more than people think we do and are reaching out to the community, in person and online, in multiple new ways, but audience development officers? To me this either sounds like the librarians are going to now be liaisons with the branch of the police force that deals with teenagers or they will become the opening act, like at a rock concert, and try to get the crowd moshing before the real show starts.

Branding good; audience development officers bad. I just don’t get why everyone keeps apologizing for being a librarian all the time. Librarians rock. Period. We don’t need a name change, but we might need some better marketing. What do you think?

In much better news, (because you knew I couldn’t bear to have a post without good news), people are apparently reading more fiction. That is a good thing. At this point, I don’t care if it is just a statistical blip or not, it is good news! But the gains are small and there is much room for improvement. So let’s get more people reading even if this article says there is nothing we can do to get more people reading.

If nothing else, read the two above articles to see just how different two takes on the same data can be. Very interesting, definitely a talking about about statistics, reading and librarians. And, just an aside, 100 books read in a year is a good number of books; that’s almost two a week. I think now I’m going to have to try to keep track of every book I read for a year and see how many I read. All I know is, it’s not as many as I want to read.

Final thoughts for this Wednesday: if you are a librarian, be proud of being a librarian and keep working to keep libraries relevant to your community. For everyone, keep reading. Reading is not an antisocial activity (I mean, way to put a negative spin on reading, right?); reading is a thoughtful activity that can be shared via reading to each other or afterwards by sharing how a book expanded your mind.

Have a great rest of your day!

Thoughts for a Foggy Monday

Hi! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I don’t know if it is because it is a Monday, or because it is foggy, but I seem to be in a bit of a brain fog this morning. Or it might just be because we are in the 5th week of the quarter (ack! where did the time go?) or because my head is exploding from all the information I took in at Internet Librarian 2008!

Anyway, that is a long way of saying that today’s post is going to be a little bit random (but what’s new?) and will be some tips and thoughts I had mulling over in my brain this weekend.

First, how do the Michaels do it? They always have such relevant Transparent Library columns. I was just thinking about implementing some of the tips that I got out of the digital marketing session from IL2008 and then read Library Journal and there was this column talking about PR 2.0. I think this is fantastic, as usual, writing about how to open up the lines of communication and get us connecting with library patrons. We need to get out there and be visible and how easy is that now that we can use free resources such as RSS, blogs, wikis and YouTube for promoting the library and friends of the library? Love it, want to implement, and hopefully my fellow librarians will be down with it.

Okay, so speaking of all things 2.0–are you twittering yet? Are your patrons? I sometimes feel we are out in front of the tech curve, but lots of people are using twitter as yet another social network. You can sign up for a free account at and get a network of followers and those you are following. It is a fun way of keeping up with people and you can use it to network too as a lot of librarians are on twitter. If you want some more applications to make twitter more fun look at this article. Oh, and remember you can get Firefox widgets for twitter and many social network sites, like Facebook, have twitter widgets.

So if microblogging is too much, and I admit that sometimes it is, what can you do keep in touch with people in a meaningful way? To borrow from the great Lifehacker, ungeek to live! I have a friend who we almost exclusively keep in touch through handwritten cards. Yup, through the post. It is great to have a correspondence in the 0.0 world and be able to look back over these cards. So just remember, just because it doesn’t come with bits and bytes doesn’t mean it might not be the best tool for the job.

Have a happy Monday.

Defining & Measuring Social Media Success: IL2008

by: Jeff Wisniewski, Web Services Librarian, University of Pittsburgh

Many libraries have presence in social media, but struggling with assessing if it is worth the effort, what is the ROI?

Game Plan/Outline of the Session:
Why be social?
Developing a social media plan
Assessing social media success

Why be Social (Bad Reasons)
Because Oprah said we should
cause everyone is doing it
cause kids think it’s cool

Better Reasons:
Innovative ways to connect with users we may never see face to face
To encourage, promote, innovate, learn and adapt
Markets our services–people like to read reviews from people like themselves
Improve Customer Service
Discover and deliver what users want
Your Google page rank is influenced by it
People are anxious to interact with you online 85% of Americans using social media think companies should have an active presence in social media

Study of Facebook from the UK
Indicates that students use Facebook to connect and talk about academics, could use in teaching and learning

Developing a social media plan
1. Listen: ask yourself–is there a conversation about your library right now? If so, what is being said?
2. Prepare: Define a strategy, define goals (what exactly do you want to accomplish?), pick a platform or two, right platform depends on your goals Social Media at Sun Microsystems: How to Pick a Platform
3. Engage: Start blogging, etc., remember that social media is reciprocal, upload images to flickr, building community on Twitter, etc. just start getting out there
4. Measure: Becoming active in social media is the easy part, assessment is harder.

Need to know your ROI in order to justify using social media
You are not measuring: friendship, happiness, karma, enlightenment, etc.
You do need: quantitative and qualitative metrics

What are you measuring?
The Trinity Approach (Vinash Kaushik
Quantitative: number of blog posts (Boyd’s Conversation Index: take number of posts divided by comments and trackbacks; result should be less than 1), number of facebook friends, views/visits
Have a tangible goal so you can measure it: ex higher satisfaction, fewer desk calls, etc.
Listen, Engage, Converse, take action (cyclical in nature), be authentic in interactions, don’t sound all markety
Metric: take comments and break them down into stars (positive), scars (negative), or neutral and can produce a chart and compare how you are doing
Five things to get started:
1. monitor general search engine results–focus on Google because Google does social media results
2. monitor social media search engine results (like Technorati,, Twitter)
3. create alerts (use Google alerts, figure out how people get to your library, choose comprehensive results setting)
4. analytics: Google and Clicky Web Analytics (
5. Assess nature and sentiment of the activity (deep commenting vs. superficial, users staying vs. bouncing quickly, repeat commenters vs. drive bys)

Take Home Message:
Social media creates a great opportunity for the library to engage more fully with people, but you need to remember to assess and measure the impact of your engagement in social media.

Digital Marketing: IL 2008

Digital Marketing: Session 2

Sarah Houghtan-Jan & Aaron Schmidt

Links will be on the blogs:

Digital outreach–connecting users with library services, connecting users with librarians
OCLC study: number 1 thing people care about is transforming lives, need to connect users with librarians

Ex. Librarian Trading cards

What is online outreach:
Tons of ways to outreach

Online: no barriers (I would disagree with this on a basic access level) but we are serving global audience now

What are we marketing?

Have to have an interact library website! Web 2.0 interaction

Must have good content online, must have quality, be relevant

Everything in this presentation is free!

Library directory listing: check if the library listing is correct: LibDex, MapMuse, Libraries411,, Libraries on the Web

Blog search engines: submit rss feeds to search engines, Feed Submitter site–goes to 15 different sites, great way to get out the word, easy marketing

Blog geo-search engines: frapper, feedmap, blogwise, gFeedMap–lots of people use these

Wikimapia–like wikipedia but a map–cool! Draw a box around where your library is on the map–put in information and a link

Search Enging Findability: search for variations of your library’s name, expand beyond Google, can buy AdWorks from Google–could use for special programming or hire a search engine optimizer (SEO)

Wifi–people expect it, and they expect it to work, list your library in wifi directories: wififreespot, wifi411, wifinder, jwire, wi-fi zone, wifihotspotlist gets people in the door

Community websites: American, canadaeventscalendar,, artsopolia, eventful, librarythinglocal–take ownership of your library’s listings

Google: link: URL and you will know who is linking to the library website, blog, etc. see who is talking about your library

Social Review Websites: yelp, city search, etc. use the flattering comments in your marketing material (how cool is that!), can also see problems and work to change it

Directory Information: look online for phone numbers, addresses, make sure listed correctly, Google Maps, yahoo!local, ask city, can claim your library, upload photos, etc.

A/V content Findable: you tube, google video,, blinkx, singing fish, yahoo pod casts, pod, podcast alley, get some subscribers

Social networking Sites: can create a profile for your library, ex. MySpace, Facebook, flickr, ning (note: some studies show students do not like libraries in their social networking space, other studies show the opposite, just an FYI)

Find Local Blogs: by city, lodger local, metro logging, feedmap, interact with local blogs, be available, find appropriate blogs, have authentic interactions, don’t be heavy handed, be friendly, takes time to be integrated into a community and have street cred

Blogs and Forums: tech boards, continuing education boards

Get out what you put in!

BookSpace (Huntington Library Minnesota): place to talk about books online, online community space, news, lists, etc. great design and space, get all information about books from disparate ploaces into one social networking site, no barriers to contributing to BookSpace

Expert Sites: list our staff on these sites: all, ziki, illumio, qunu, yedda, FAQQLY, Otavo, yahoo! Answers, SLAM the Boards (on the 10th of every month), identify themselves at the end that they are librarians

Ask Meta site: jump in and answer questions

Push the information out: have subscription services, rss/email updates (you can use feed burner), newsletter software, etc., don’t spam the inbox!

Make sure you are in Wikipedia! List on your city, create an entry

IM: free, easy, primary form of communication for many

Text messaging: send out notifications via SMS

Text a Librarian: combines IM and text messaging into one web-based platform, soon will have queue feature so many people can monitor one screen-name

Twitter: quick updates, be clear about what you will be sending so people know what they are subscribing to

SecondLife: time-sink, lots of time to set up for the investment, needs to mature

People are using this stuff. So no excuse to not do this! Be user centered!

Take home message:
Get out there and market online! It is well-worth it!

Packing, Goal Setting and YouTube

Okay, so it is Friday and we all need a little something fun and some tips to help us through the day as the weekend is fast approaching.

First the really awesome YouTube video from CSU Long Beach. CSULB had students give a tour of the reference services at the library–it is a great video. Again, marketing is so much better if students get in on it. I think my library should start a YouTube station. It definitely solves the problem with hosting streaming videos and with Overstream, we can even close caption the videos. Just a thought. Enjoy this video, I did!

Now from one of my favorite technology blogs, Lifehacker, here is an article on “Goal Setting for Skeptics”. I think goal setting is important, whether you write down your goals or not. I fine setting goals helps me from becoming bogged down in the day-to-day chores that have to get done and allow me to focus on longer-term projects, both at work and at home. But then, I’m the kind of person who also keeps journals to track project progress, keeps books of inspiring quotations and am always looking to learn. I know people that hate writing down goals and they get things accomplished just fine. I’m just saying, give the article a chance and see if it works for you. Who knows, maybe you could make one of your goals to adapt a Web 2.0 application to use in your library!

And last tip for the day, check out Wired’s article, Pack Light for Geek Travel. Great article to read for those of us who travel with a lot of tech gear and are getting ready to head out to conferences.

Speaking of conferences, I’ll be at the Internet Librarian Conference this coming week. So if you are going to be there, say hi.

What about Optimism?

So from the title of today’s post, you can probably tell that I’m getting a little frustrated by only hearing about doom and gloom all the time on every issue. It is easy to slip into pessimism about the state of the libraries, the state of the nation and the state of the world. But to me, that is way too much like giving up or giving in. Instead, let’s be optimistic–at least where libraries and librarians are concerned. There are a lot of great things that are happening out there and a lot of ways to turn a lot of glass half-empty scenarios into glass half-full scenarios. And no, I’m not saying to ignore reality, rather I’m saying let’s bend reality into what works for us.

Case 1: Jeff Jarvis’ amazing article Let’s Junk the Myths and Celebrate what We’ve Got.
I love this article. Jarvis could be describing how many librarians feel about the Internet and new technologies, couldn’t he? He completely underscores what I try to get across in this blog: yes there is junk on the Internet, but there is so much potential too.

Case 2: Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere
Everyone just has to get on board with the fact that blogs are not going away anytime soon. In fact, more are coming online every day. So libraries and librarians need to continue to get out in the blogosphere and engage others. It’s not enough to have a website and think that we have a web presence to the extent we need. Nor should marketing only occur through the library’s website–we need to be more than a website to our patrons in order to stay relevant.

Case 3: Library Quote #1 & Library Quote #2
There are two great photographs of pillars inside a library with library quotes on them. How cool an idea is that? The photographer, unfortunately, kept all rights reserved instead of using a Creative Commons License so I did not directly paste them in this blog. I encourage you to check them out though. But if you don’t want to click through, the quotes are as follows:
“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library” Shelby foote
“I don’t believe that libraries should be drab places where people sit in silence, and that’s been the main reason for our policy of employing wild animals as librarians” Gorilla librarian sketch-Monty Python

Always remember, never take yourself or your job too seriously. If we can still have fun, we can stay relevant and be optimistic about our place and task in the grand scheme of society.

As I always leave my students with a final thought for the day, I’ll leave you with one too that will help you keep your optimism. “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” ~Mark Twain

Comments welcome. Stay optimistic and curious and you will be able to find creative ways of doing the work of the library.