Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Communications and Engagement at West Vancouver Memorial Library: Successfully Promoting the Imagine IT Technology Fair

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Communications and Engagement at West Vancouver Memorial Library: Successfully Promoting the Imagine IT Technology Fair

Article excerpt

A recent winner from the ALA's PR Xchange competition lets us in on some of their secrets as they describe their process for creating and promoting their first IT Technology Fair. Perhaps it will stimulate similar ideas in your library.--Editors

For four years running, West Vancouver Memorial Library has come away a winner at the annual American Library Association PR Xchange competition, picking up a total of nine awards in seven categories that include all formats: print, online, and video. We're a single-site library serving a population of 45,000 with a communications department of two and a small printing budget. Yet, time after time, we produce materials that resonate in our community and beyond. How do we do it? Here's an example of how we recently planned and executed the promotion for our first technology fair: Imagine IT.

On April 29 and 30, 2016, more than seven hundred people came into our library over the fair's two days: regular patrons, first-time visitors, newcomers to the community and country, families, couples, siblings, friends, and politicians. Curious grandparents were led, hand-in-hand, by their grandchildren to experience virtual reality for the first time. Entire families lined up to have their picture taken in front of our green screen and then choose from a selection of whimsical backgrounds for their photo. 3D printers hummed nonstop, producing a wide array of objects, from whistles to visitors' scanned heads to model airplanes. On every floor and in every room, library staff and community partners introduced people to digitization technology, translation software, robotics, drones, virtual reality, the library of things (lending nontraditional library items, such as tools and instruments), technology for seniors, coding, and much, much more. The predominant response was for us to do it again. As soon as possible.

How did we create a successful fair that drew crowds beyond our regular patron base? How were we able to put it all together in just a couple of months? We accomplished this with a thorough communications and engagement plan with the following key elements:

* A strong brand

* In person engagement with key people in the library and the community

* Disseminating marketing efforts out into the community

* Community participation activities leading up to the fair

A STRONG BRAND

The technology fair was the key event in a community technology consultation plan undertaken to understand community technology needs and to identify responsive services, programs, spaces, and tools that would be embraced by the community and potential funders. Three groups were formed to work on this project: a key stakeholder working group, a staff advisory team, and a project team. Early on, each group was asked to brainstorm on a series of key questions:

* What is the most important thing to get out of the community consultation process?

* Who should we talk to?

* What do we think the technologies are that people want?

And, perhaps most importantly:

* What should we call our fair?

One group riffed on IT, and another on words like innovate, imagineering, reimagine, and see. Our library's deputy director and project lead, Deb Hutchison Koep, and communications coordinator, David Carson (the author of this article) took all the input away and worked closely to come to a name that would resonate across age groups, demographics, and levels of technology interest. They decided on Imagine IT: Conversations about Technology and Your Library, which evoked creativity, possibilities, and consultation, clearly framed within the lens of technology.

From there, Gabriele Raasch, the library's graphic designer, set to work creating a logo that evoked the intertwined nature of our role as both a community hub and a hotbed for new and emerging technology--beacons broadcasting multicoloured, overlapping signals represented this dual role quite clearly, and the use of different colours highlighted the diversity in our community and the various technologies available today. …

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