Think Outside the Barn

Sponsored by KLA Public Library Section and presented at KLA 2010 by:

Louise Greene louiseg@rpls.ws

Rachel Miller rachelm@rpls.ws

Louise Greene and Rachel Miller from Rolling Prairie Library System (RPLS), Decatur, IL presented Think Outside the Barn at KLA 2010.  The main thrust of the session was using local events for library marketing and advocacy.  Decatur is home to the biennial odd years of the Farm Progress Show.  The show is the largest agricultural exhibition of its type in the United States and attracts over 300,000 national and international visitors from more than 14 states and 5 countries.  The show is a perfect marketing and advocacy opportunity for rural libraries.  RPLS is one of 10 library systems in Illinois.  They are a multi-library cooperative and serve 264 libraries.  At the RPLS Farm Show booth, an agricultural theme is evident.  Hay bales, metal cornstalks, and bandanas are used to decorate.  Boxes of books are sent to RPLS via a courier as giveaways to booth visitors. Visitors also receive bookmarks highlighting library services and this gives librarians a chance to share library services and events with the public.

RPLS has had a presence at the last four Farm Shows in Illinois.  Over those four years RPLS has honed preparing for the Farm Show to a fine science: Planning, Marketing, Partnerships, Fundraising.

Planning starts as soon as the last show has ended.  Because of the large number of visitors to the booth, it requires a great deal of orchestration to keep things running smoothly.  A committee of librarians, system members, and volunteers steers the planning.  RPLS has established a clear goal/mission statement, a time with realistic deadlines, and estimates the fundraising goals.

Marketing is key to any successful library program and advocacy effort.  Internal advertising is done with system membership.  External marketing reaches the public through many different routes.  RPLS purchased several professional banners, flags, and lawn signs available for check-out by member libraries.  All materials are branded with the Think Outside the Barn logo and slogan, which are licensed with Creative Commons and available for use by other libraries. RPLS and member libraries use these materials in local parades, for book displays, and a number of other library events.

Each committee is formed on the basis of a diverse set of strengths. Library, civic, and other local organizations are welcomed.

RPLS is non-profit and is limited in its fundraising efforts.  The organizers have decided to explore many varied themes and firmly believe the trickle turns into a stream.  It costs over $1,000 to rent the Farm Show booth – the major expense.  Fundraising is an ongoing effort.  Ideas used are sewing library book bags from feed sacks, mugs, t-shirts, bookmarks and cards made from public domain agricultural themed book covers, quilt raffles, and more.

Find electronic resources to support this program here

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