As a staff member of a small library, your list of tasks can seem endless, as you have to do many different tasks. But you still want to promote your library, since you want people in your community to use it. So how can you find time? To answer this and many more questions, Angela Hursh shares her marketing tips for small libraries and her 6-step plan to promote your library when you have a tiny staff.

This article originally appeared on Angela’s blog, You can find the original post here.

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Small but mighty

The house I grew up in was surrounded by cornfields.

The nearest town was four miles away. It featured a grain elevator, a tiny country store, a barber shop, and a post office. A traffic light was installed after a tractor damaged the bridge from the town to the surrounding area.

I’m a product of small-town America. So small towns fascinate me. So do small libraries.

According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ annual Public Library Survey,  57 percent of libraries in the United States have five or fewer staff members. 27 percent have one or fewer full-time employees!

If you are working in a small library, you are doing everything, from working with readers to cleaning the bathrooms. Promoting your library is likely just one more thing on your to-do list, something you’ll get to if you get time.

But of course, we want people in our community to use our library. We need them to use it. So how do you market your library when you are pressed for time or staff resources?

Marketing is really not a job for one person. But that’s the reality for so many of my readers.

So here are the very focused, strategic steps you should take to consistently and effectively promote your library if you are working alone or with a tiny staff.

Be SMART about your goals

Set one, SMART goal.

You will need to be hyper-focused in your promotional efforts. Pick one thing you want to work on. Then set a Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goal for that work.

The village of Wayne, Ohio has a population of about 900 people. It is very much like the small town I grew up in, with one notable exception: it has a library!

Driving through town a few weeks ago, I noticed the library has purchased an outdoor locker so patrons can pick up holds when the library isn’t open. They want people to use the locker, of course. So, they’ll want to promote it.

I don’t know anyone on the 7-person staff of the Wayne Library. But, if I were working with them, I would encourage them to set a SMART goal like this:

We will get 30 people a month to request their holds pickup via the outdoor locker. We’ll do this by promoting the locker on our website and by specifically asking patrons if they’d prefer to pick up their holds via the locker when we place holds for them. This goal is important because it will prove the value of this investment and will increase circulation. We’ll track and record the total the number of locker users at the end of each month.

You can see this goal contains specific numbers. It sets the context for why this promotion is important. And it lays out how the staff will measure success.

A SMART goal will help you organize your promotions and keep you accountable. It will give you a sense of direction for your work.

Focus on tactics that work best to reach small communities

Make a list of all the ways you can promote your library: your website, email lists, social media, in-person interactions, print, partners, signs… etc. Then take a highlighter and pick the 2-3 things that work best for your community. Those are the tactics you should use to reach your SMART goal.

Every library community is different. And small libraries often find promotional success in places that are different from their larger counterparts.

For example, if your library is located by a major road, use outdoor signage to attract the attention of passing motorists. If your school is a significant community hub, ask teachers to send home promotional bookmarks and fliers in kids’ backpacks. If your town has a little restaurant where residents come for breakfast every Saturday, ask the restaurant owners to give out a promotional print piece like a bookmark or flier with the check.

Live and die by an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar will help you decide what, where, and when to publish. After those decisions are made, the editorial calendar will help you assign tasks and keep up to date on deadlines.

First, you’ll create your calendar. Then you’ll decide how to populate it with content that will ensure you reach your promotional goals.

Repurpose content

When your staff is small, you’ll need to work smarter, not harder. A smart way to maximize your time and efforts is by repurposing content.

Repurposing content is the act of finding new ways to recycle your existing content. It’s basically taking one piece of content, say an email newsletter, and re-formatting it for different mediums like social media, a blog post, and an email

You can do this with any piece of content, from your website graphics to your annual report. Break the content down into pieces and spread them across all your available platforms. In this way, you can make sure everyone in your community sees your message. You also can make sure the work you are doing right now will have maximum impact.

Here’s an example of how to do it.

Schedule ahead as much as you can

Technology can be your best friend if you are working on promotion all by yourself. Schedule your emails, blog posts, and social media posts as far in advance as possible.

There are several great social media schedulers that have free plans. This post is an excellent list of each of those options.

For blogs, I recommend WordPress. You can get a free account and you can schedule posts to go out whenever you like. Plus, patrons who follow your blog will get an automatic email every time you post. That means you don’t have to create an email to let them know you’ve published new content.

You will have to invest in an email platform. But once you do, you can create and schedule emails to go out to your patrons as far in advance as you like.

Learn from larger libraries but don’t compare your success

The success or failure of a library’s marketing has nothing to do with the size of its staff. In fact, I would argue it might be easier for a small library to create successful library promotions.

Small libraries have more freedom to experiment. Their staff tends to be personally connected with patrons. They have a deeper understanding of what their community wants and needs from their library.

So, follow those large library systems on social media. Sign up for their emails. Look at their websites. Visit large libraries when you travel. Make a list of ideas that you want to try at your smaller library.

But remember, the key to success is a library’s ability to connect with its own community. Any library can do that, no matter how large or small the staff.

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

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Angela Hursh