The Helen Plum Library in Lombard, Illinois opened a brand-new 50,000-square-foot facility in April of 2023. But the road to the Grand Opening wasn’t always smooth. After passing a referendum for the new library in 2016, the organization faced intergovernmental disagreements, construction challenges, supply-chain issues, and of course, a pandemic. Seven years later, the community was ready to see it open its doors, and they showed up. The library had 5,500 visitors in the first two days of opening. In this blog post, the Helen Plum Marketing Department shares their top tips for having a successful Grand Opening of new library spaces. Enjoy!

1.) Engage with the community

We generated excitement via video, blog, and social media posts highlighting the construction process and the new features that would be available when the space opened. Representatives from our team got out into the community to the local schools, civic groups, churches, and other local organizations with a presentation on the process. Always be prepared to answer questions regarding the funding for the project. Community members will also likely be interested in learning about green or sustainable aspects of the new project. Ask key members of your community to participate in a video if you are moving locations. We did a “pass the book” video as a way to symbolically move our collection from the old to the new location. We also developed a list of households near our new building to reach out to the ‘new neighbors’ and update them on demolition and construction at the site of our new location, along with answering questions about how their neighborhood would be impacted.

2.) Make partnerships

To truly emphasize our Grand Opening as a community-wide celebration, we partnered with local breweries and restaurants. Two local breweries crafted special library-themed brews to serve in their establishments. We teamed up with local restaurants to provide little bites throughout the Grand Opening weekend for visitors to snack on. Make sure to invite local community leaders and Library Association members to attend the opening festivities. It is also an opportunity for your library’s Friends group or Foundation to be on-site to sign up new members and introduce their initiatives.

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3.) Set expectations

Make it clear to both the staff and the public that everything in the new space may not be fully completed upon opening. When the new Helen Plum opened in late April, there were plenty of unfinished projects including artwork, signage, and other touches that now give the library life. Contractors continue to be familiar faces around the building even six months after opening. We suggest putting up “coming soon” signage in areas that may still be waiting on finishing touches as well as posting construction updates on your website, social media, and email newsletters.

4.) Plan for traffic

While we were elated with the turn-out during our Grand Opening weekend, we didn’t adequately prepare for the volume of people entering the space. Long lines formed for food and swag bags causing congestion in our entry area. Before your events, take out a pencil and a floor plan and draw out how you would like visitors to move through your new space. Consider multiple stations for giveaway items and tours that follow different routes through the space to avoid congestion.

5.) Mix it up

Utilize all of your marketing channels by repurposing the same content in new and interesting ways. That video footage you took can be repurposed into a YouTube video, a short Instagram reel, and quick story slides. Share content from visitors who tag you in their social media posts. And don’t forget that your staff is a channel – make sure they have talking points for frequently asked questions and can enthusiastically share consistent information.

6.) Honor the past

Many community members have fond memories of our old building. After it closed, we hosted a farewell event during which patrons could write memories on the wall of the old building. We also made sure to celebrate the history we brought with us to the new building. We installed our historic stained-glass panels from the original Helen Plum Library above our new entrance and have a photo mural of the original building inside the new library. We also brought a beloved statue from the old building to the new one, which delighted many of our patrons.

7.) Keep up the hype

The excitement doesn’t end after you’ve opened the new space. Keep up the hype with building updates about new artwork, programming, and patron stories about the spaces. Post video tours. Highlight “firsts” in the new building such as storytimes, holidays, and other activities. Commemorate anniversaries with throwback photos and videos of your Grand Opening.

The New Helen Plum Library

The New Helen Plum Library

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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By the Helen Plum Library Marketing Department

Emily Bradshaw, Content Coordinator

Steph Koblich, Graphic Designer

Kristie Leslie, Marketing Manager

Sue Wilsey, Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing

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