Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Almost Famous: How Your Library Can Get In The News

The three speakers at this session were Gretchen Vanbensusen, editor of Whatever, the weekly teen section of the Asbury Park Press; Andre Butts, the program director at NJN, and Nancy Dowd, director of Public Relations for the Ocean County Library.

Each had very useful advice for libraries interested in developing relationships with their local media outlets & getting coverage of their events.

Whatever is published each Tuesday, tabloid-style, and is written by & for the teens of Monmouth & Ocean Counties. Whatever includes articles about movies, books, and music, and always runs a weekly calendar of teen-friendly activities. Gretchen had the following words of wisdom for would-be PR gurus:

  • Give your local paper advance notice of library programs (i.e., not the week of, but a month ahead of time!), so the paper can assign someon to write stories about the events.
  • Know who to direct your e-mail to: contact your Features Editor first.
  • Gannett papers have a mandate: Real Voices, Real Paper, which means they're actively seeking stories about and from the people in their own back yard.
  • Know your paper's deadlines, know what the paper wants, be specific & to the point, using bullet points, and providing the Where, When, and What of your story. Hold the adjectives, please.
  • Good candidates for advance coverage: events that attract lots of people (100+) annually.
  • When soliciting print media for coverage, think now about next year's coverage and take photos of an event you're thinking of repeating next year.
  • Know what format & resolution newspapers want the artwork you provide to them -- JPEG? TIFF? How many dpi?

Andre Butts of NJN related the following:

  • NJN is very interested in what libraries are doing, and what their users' interests are.
  • He schedules NJN's prime time programming 3 months in advance, so if you're looking to dovetail your programming with theirs, make sure you contact the station far enough in advance to make it worth your while.
  • Andre suggested getting in touch with Donna Goldberg, NJN's Outreach Coordinator.
  • Andre also recommended accessing PBS Teachersource and PBS Parents for activities that create links between NJN's programming and potential library events.
  • NJN is unlikely to cover library events because the News Director understandably prefers to cover issues that have major statewide impact rather than local news. However, a really great, newsworthy event at a local library could get coverage.

Nancy Dowd shared some really creative tips for cultivating long-term relationships with local press:

  • PR isn't so much Public Relations as Practicing Relationships.
  • There's no need to cover exhaustively every media outlet in your area -- let each person on staff develop & build one relationship with one member of the media, ensuring that each relationship is a strong one.
  • Think about pre- and post-event coverage, and which would work best for your events.
  • Post press releases to your library's website -- in fact, have a separate area just for press releases!
  • Create pages of quotes on each event -- these are testimonials from staff & audience members (ask them for permission to be quoted in the paper first), provide names & telephone numbers, and then hand the sheets to the reporter -- you've just done a chunk of work for them!
  • Include links in your press releases to a visiting author's webpage (first making sure the link is a live one) -- one librarian in the audience, Tim Niland of Old Bridge Public Library, mentioned that his library's blog has been really useful to reporters writing stories about events at Old Bridge.

Next year, I'd love to see a hands-on workshop on writing effective press releases!


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