The Hennepin County Library of suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota has become a wonderful model for me of how to do marketing and service right. The more I learn about their initiatives and service offerings, the more impressed I am about HCL librarians' creativity and innovation. One project in particular called TeenLinks captured my attention. TeenLinks is a suite of services designed for library patrons ages 12-18. Recently, TeenLinks underwent some renovations and the new version debuted in October 2005. To kick off the new-and-improved TeenLinks, HCL devised some interesting promotions.
The TeenLinks coordinator, Meg Canada, was gracious enough to take the time to describe how TeenLinks developed and how they promoted the revamped service. There's much inspiration to take away from the work of Meg's team! Here's what Meg had to say:
"Promotions for TeenLinks (http://www.hclib.org/teens) following our redesign
TeenLinks offers homework help, book reviews, activities, and Web sites for teens, 12-18 from the Hennepin County Library (HCL), located in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota. In existence since 1999, the site appears as a homepage on 105 dedicated TeenLinks workstations throughout the twenty-six libraries. The site receives between 9,000 and 10,000 hits each week.
As the TeenLinks Coordinator, I work with a team of six librarians for site selection and review. Another group of ten librarians (Teen Reads)work on booklists. In addition, Teens Online is a volunteer teen advisory group who work with the TeenLinks Coordinator during the school year. Currently, 14 teens work on their own pages and content for TeenLinks and also advise on all other areas of TeenLinks. New teens apply for these positions each year and represent all geographic areas that HCL serves.
In November 2004, we were ready for a second facelift. Our graphic designer, Web administrator, and the aforementioned groups met to work on the new look and feel for TeenLinks. In October 2005, during Teen Read Month at HCL, the new site was launched. Among the changes to TeenLinks: homepage has more content including new books which change each time the user refreshes the page, photographs of teens, and new weekly features such as the News Flash blog, quick poll, and events. The site's organization has also shifted to organize information into four categories: At Your Library (library information), Do Your Homework (homework help), Read On (reader's advisory), and Teen Topics (selected websites).
To promote the site Web Services received funding from Library Foundation. We consulted our teens and decided to do two promotions to begin in conjunction with Teen Read Month (October). Many libraries have special promotions for Teen Read Week, however at HCL, we celebrate all month.
We purchased 10,000 silicone gel bracelets in Bright Blue(Pantone 801 and #00CCFF) debossed with "Read Me" and "http://www.hclib.org" in Impact (the TeenLinks font). The bracelets were distributed throughout the system to the twenty-six libraries and were quickly snatched up by teens.
The second promotion is a series of mini-buttons which have labels from the site. Each month from October 2005 through April 2005 we are sending a new batch of buttons to each branch. The attached graphic shows the text on each. "Ask Me" will be the final button in April (in time for prom). A librarian in jeans posed for the shot and our graphic designer added the buttons with a glow which lead to the text "Free Radioactive Buttons (well, ok they're not radioactive)." The first two rounds of buttons are gone (days after they arrived) and we will continue to send them monthly for the next four months. November's buttons were not sent until the 4th, and teens were already requesting them.
As for long term. I will evaluate our statistics and the quality of participation in the site when the buttons are all gone."
Kudos to Meg and her team for involving patrons in this process and coming up with a fantastic service that appears to be filling the needs of its users! If you haven't explored Hennepin County Library's web site, you may want to do so to unearth other ideas as well. Thanks again to Meg for sharing her experiences and images!