How to Get People Through the Library Door

Top image by The Daring Librarian  on Flickr.

Your (school or public) library may be stocked with thousands of gorgeous books, but getting patrons, especially children and teenagers, through the door can often be quite a difficult battle. Young people have so many other exciting ‘demands’ on their time - social media, gaming, YouTube etc -  that going to the library and choosing a book, let alone sitting down to read one, can be seen as boring and - dare I say it? - a touch ‘geeky or nerdy’. Some teenagers are happy to be called a geek but others are influenced by peer pressure and want to be seen as one of the cool kids or simply want just to fit in and not raise their heads above the parapet. How can we solve this problem? Well, unfortunately I can’t wave my replica Luna wand and make everything right, but I can hopefully give you some ideas that will help!

Have a digital photo frame showing a rolling display of new stock, interspersed with quotes about reading/books

Make the entrance attractive

One of the first things to focus on is your library entrance: does it look enticing, intriguing and beckon users in or is it plastered with out-of-date notices and tired-looking book posters? One idea that could work if you have windows near the entry would be to have a digital photo frame facing out, showing a rolling display of the front covers of new stock interspersed with quotes about reading/books. As a Whovian, one of my favourites quotes to use is this one from Russell T Davies, Doctor Who: 'You want weapons? We're in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!' On the Doctor Who theme, I have visited a library that disguised their front door as the door of the Tardis. It looked amazing and apparently was very popular with the students. If you don’t have windows to display the photo frame in, you could sit it on the front desk instead.

Use staff as role models

Regularly changing posters with staff reading choices and a one-sentence review can be effective, on the lines of ‘Mrs Humphrey just finished reading A Library of Lemons and it made her cry buckets’ (it really did!). Try to make sure that teachers and staff from all over the school are represented. After all, we don’t want reading to be seen as just an English department thing! Male PE teachers who read were a real boon to me in my previous job as librarian in an all-boys school.

Make the most of displays

Image of a graphic novel display in a library, by The Daring Librarian on Flickr.com
Once you’ve got them over the threshold, hit them with a face-out display of your most eye-catching stock. For primary into secondary age pupils, I would make sure I had a good display of Minecraft books, the Elementia Chronicles for example, to tie in with their seemingly undiminished passion for the computer game. Incidentally, there is an excellent book, A Boy Made of Blocks, that explores the relationship one dad builds up with his autistic son via Minecraft. I have found graphic novels or comic books to be the way in for many young readers and I would make sure my stock of these were attractively displayed - perhaps a visit from a graphic novel artist would go down well with your patrons, or a graphic novel creation club using a site such as toondoo.com, or using more paper-based activities.

For older kids, any books from vloggers (YouTube book bloggers who post videos about their reading choices) should be prominently displayed: Zoella’s latest book club picks for example. She has chosen fantastic titles this time: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. YA titles by Paige McKenzie have a full YouTube channel attached to them, and Joe Sugg’s Username graphic novels are very popular. Vloggers are so popular now, why not host a vlogger event instead of /as well as an author event? Young vloggers have celebrity status with many teens. Some public libraries have really embraced this idea of using the library for different events, even hosting live music events and I think this is a great way to show that there is life in our libraries.

Make the most of technology

Teenagers looking at books in the library during Steve Cole's visit to Buckie High
One essential piece of kit I would advise you to have is a screen and projector so you can have dynamic displays of book trailers, live author events or vlogger videos. I couldn’t have done without mine; it was in daily use. Running clubs can work well to draw people in - a create-your-own book trailer club would be excellent and you could use the results as peer recommendations afterwards. Using a site like animoto.com would ensure you get professional-looking results. I love this site and have used it on many occasions to create book promotion videos, book award videos or ‘you’ve read this now try…’ videos.

I hope you’ve found a few ideas here that will help you entice people in to your library - once they’re there you’re halfway towards getting them reading!

Check out some other inspiration posts about the work done by school libraries and public libraries.

Why not try showing some of our Authors Live events in your library? We have over 50 events with top children's authors, illustrators, storytellers and poets in our Watch on Demand section.

 

Bev Humphrey

Bev is a Literacy and Technology Consultant who also writes publications and web content for the School Library Association. Her latest publication is Amazing Apps for Primary Schools - check it out here.