or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Promoting Library Services Through Live-Staging

   April 1st, 2013

Real Person (not an actor) shirtMy parents downsized from a house to a condo last year, so we went through the process of getting the house ready to sell. Which means, each room had to be "staged" to show prospective buyers the house's potential.

But you know, I thought, why stop at just arranging pillows on a couch to suggest how comfortable it would be to take a nap in a sun-lit nook, or strategically placing chairs to show how enjoyable it would be to relax in a certain room? I mean, instead of just staging furniture and decorations, why not just use actual people to flat-out perform these nice homey tableaux? I call it "live-staging."

My suggestion was met with eye rolls all around, but I'm finally getting to implement this idea - at my library.

See, one thing that always astounds me in the library are the patrons who say things like, "wow, I've never been on this floor before," or happen to notice our very prominently-displayed public fax machine and say, "I had no idea the library had a fax machine!"

I'm always trying to think of better ways to publicize everything the library offers, and it occured to me that live-staging is the perfect method.

So, my library hired a group of actors to live-stage library resources.

For instance, one will very conspicuously (and enthusiastically) use the fax machine. Another will "discover" that the library offers ebooks and ask staff for more information in a very noticeable way. Two will play chess to promote our gaming table, while another will excitedly find out about home-access for our databases, and someone else will talk up an upcoming evening program.

Really, the possibilities are endless. And the actors are excited too - we've given them the resources we want to highlight, and general guidelines about how to get the attention of other patrons without actually being annoying about it. Otherwise though, they're free to ad-lib and interact with patrons and staff however they feel will best draw attention to these services (and we're not telling staff who the actors are).

So as not to be too obvious, we'll be rotating different actors and services, so our cast of actors is currently up in the hundreds. After all, we didn't want our patrons seeing "reruns" of the same "patron" learning over and over that we have a typewriter.

I can hardly wait to see how this works. It launches today and will run for the entire month of April. We did a benchmark survey last year, to find out which services people know about and use. We'll do the same survey again after this live-staging, and I am 100% positive patrons' awareness will be through the roof.

After all, we're paying for these actors with our entire year's materials budget, so it better work.

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11 Responses to “Promoting Library Services Through Live-Staging”

  1. Marc G Says:

    You had me right up until the part about spending your entire Materials budget… Enjoy your prank!

  2. Shayna M Says:

    Hmm, your entire book budget? Seems iffy. 😀
    Happy April Fools!

  3. John cohen Says:

    Is it wrong that I would prefer this not to be an April Fools joke?

  4. Beverley Says:


  5. Liam Hegarty Says:

    Good one!

  6. Joyce Says:

    Clever April Fool’s post!

  7. Jenny Says:

    Ha! Right up until the last line…nice one.

  8. Emily Says:

    oh man, I want this to be real too! It might be possible to work with a local college to get some theater students to do it for free. It’s basically a form of performance called Invisible theater.

  9. Emma Says:

    I also wish this were a true story…except for the part where it costs a whole year’s materials budget. Maybe you could do an exchange program with a neighboring library system–their staff does live-staging for your building and vice versa.

  10. judy Says:

    I like the T-shirt!

  11. Callie Says:

    This is hilarious! I wish it were true 🙂 Up until the last line, I was thinking “I can’t wait to read his follow-up posts on how this worked out….”