When we have a message we want to share with the public, we turn to our list of what I like to think of as tools, and decide which will best help us get the word out. Depending on the message, we use a combination (or all!) of these tools: social media posts, print and electronic newsletter blurbs, flyers, bookmarks, press releases, blogs, etc. But what I think is the most important tool is probably the one that’s been around the longest… actual word of mouth.
What I mean by this is an in-person, verbal invitation to attend a library program, use a service, check out a book, or investigate a digital resource. And for that, you must count on your staff.
Obviously, that is mostly done by staff members who answer the phones and help our patrons face to face in our buildings. But even staff members who work behind the scenes can be helpful. They interact with fellow residents, both professionally and personally at community events, meetings, block parties, backyard barbeques, and even the bus stop. Whenever a new neighbor moves onto my street, I always remind them to get a library card!
To make sure our staff is aware of what’s going on here at the Fox River Valley Libraries, we rely on a weekly communication we call Fox Tracks. Published every Wednesday, employees access Fox Tracks through Paylocity, the cloud-based software we use for payroll. It is used by nearly every employee to clock in and out, so we know they look at it every time they come to work. This allows us to avoid a barrage of “all staff” emails that can get lost in the shuffle or go unchecked by staff members like shelvers who don’t have a desk or their own computer and aren’t diligent about checking their email.
Content for Fox Tracks comes from any staff member who has information to share and is packaged up and formatted by me. It has become so routine that “let’s put it in Fox Tracks” is a common idea.
Here are some things we are able to share with staff so that they can share it with patrons, friends, families, or the person behind them at the grocery store:
- The status of the library. Keeping the staff informed took on a whole new meaning this year. Through Fox Tracks we kept everyone up to date on when we were open or closed, what service level we were at, how curbside would work, how long we quarantined materials, when the book drops opened, and so much more.
- Extra special programs and outreach. When it’s time for Winter or Summer Reading, Free Summer Lunches, or bigger ticket events, we share the dates, times, and logistical details. In the days of outreach (which will hopefully return soon!), we shared the details on fests, parades, and community events where we would set up a table or tent or park the van.
- New services or collections. Despite being closed for a large portion of the past year, we have managed to initiate a number of new services including Home Delivery, Curbside Pick Up, Cold Suppers, Book Club in a Bag, Take and Make Kits, Fox Picks (curated materials based on reading preferences), and Craft Kits, to name a few. All details are shared with the staff so they can promote them to others who cross their paths.
- Monthly departmental and financial reports. This information is generated monthly for the packets sent out to our Board of Directors. I will pick a highlight from each department for Fox Tracks and also include a link to the reports in their entirety. The staff enjoys hearing what’s happening in other departments, and it helps them speak knowledgeably about things outside their own group.
- Kudos. When we receive an email or comment card from a patron, we share it with staff…it’s a real morale booster and helps them know exactly how the library is helping the community. They can then share those stories.
The only way this will work though, is if your staff reads it. Consistent publishing has been an important key to the success of Fox Tracks. It took a few months for it to catch on, but now the staff has made it a habit, and some even look forward to it.
Our guest blogger today is Kirstin Finneran. Kirstin is the Public Relations & Outreach Manager at the Fox River Valley Public Library District. Kirstin is also a member of the My Library Is.. Advisory Team.