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

NELA 2006 Recap

   October 24th, 2006 Brian Herzog

I just got home from NELA 2006, and had a great time. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • One of the best parts of going to conferences like this is meeting area librarians. I met many this time, including Jessamyn West (with who, I’m sad to say, I think I made a bad first impression), and Michael Golrick (on his farewell NELA attendance on his way to the greener pastures of Wisconsin). I also got to spend time with Lichen Rancourt, which is always enjoyable
  • Although the Internet Librarian 2006 conference was going on at the same time, many of the NELA sessions I attended focused on Library 2.0 gizmos. Of particular note were:
  • NELA’s Information Technology Section held a new technologies demo session, where I got to play with Microsoft Vista (which isn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and really might be tolerable), learn about creating podcasts with Audacity, and ask questions about PlayAway digital books
  • I happily attended a guerilla marketing session, which presented both good and bad ideas:
    • Ideas that have worked:
    • A nice-looking signboard in front of the library promoting events to passing drivers (studies show white lettering on a black board is the easiest to read)
    • Advertise when possible at local businesses, such as fliers at supermarkets, on-screen advertising at a bowling alley (on their scoreboard computers), etc.
    • Create informative library placemats for use at local restaurants (give interesting factual information, list upcoming events, talk about useful resources, etc.)
    • Get listed on regional tourist maps
    • Try an adopt-a-highway project, and get staff and local teens involved to help clean up the community
    • Simple paper fans to pass out in the library in the summertime, with library information or a clever "I stay cool at the library" message imprinted on them
    • Advertise upcoming events on craigslist.com
    • Distributing bookmarks to students listing databases and other "homework help" resources
    • Ideas that did not work:
    • Imprinted lollipops: no one wanted them, and the library was stuck with them for months and months
    • Metal bookmarks: they ripped the pages of books
    • Advertising on the local cable station: it gets the message out, but it is hard to keep up on new events and you have to keep on top of the cable company to remove old ads
    • Working with schools: this often meets with resistance from the schools, but they are a great resource so keep after them
    • They also provided some tips for making flyers:
    • Print on regular paper and cardstock, and use the cardstock versions when a crowded bulletin board requires the flier to stick off the edge (common in supermarkets)
    • Keep fliers short an content-focused - too much color or graphics will detract from your message
    • Keep library information in a consistent location (such as, always in a box in the lower right corner)
    • People read fliers in a "Z" pattern, so design your flier to put your important information where their eyes will see it
    • For training on Microsoft Publisher, they recommend SkillPath
  • I also had a few productive talks with many vendors in the exhibit hall:

So, all in all, a very productive conference. It’s even better since it was in Burlington - such a nice city. And I got to see the exhibits at the ECHO Center, devoted to promoting the science and public awareness of Lake Champlain.

Now all I need to do is put all this new knowledge and ideas into action when I get into work tomorrow.

burlington, conferences, library, nela, vermont, vt

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