Wildcard Wednesdays

Marketing Digital Titles with QR Codes

A few years ago, our college gained access to our consortium’s OverDrive collection, which helped us radically expand our collection. As a community college library, there’s a limit to how many fiction titles we can purchase. Our primary mission is to support the curriculum, but we also value giving our students access to leisure reading. OverDrive allows us to do that while saving money and shelf space. We purchase titles for the collection, but we also benefit from the purchases of other members of the consortium, including several large public library systems.

Although OverDrive was a great addition to our collection, it hadn’t been seeing much use. We marketed the acquisition to faculty but had difficulty reaching students directly. Our solution? QR codes.

QR codes may not be as omnipresent as they were a few years ago, but they’re still useful, especially when your student body is frequently on their phones. Our staff uses Canva to design library signage, and Canva has a built in QR code generator! When working on a project in Canva, navigate to the apps section of the editor side panel. Plug in a URL, and you have a QR code ready to add to a design.

The Canva apps interface, showing QR code as the first popular option.

Where have we been putting those QR codes? Everywhere. From our print shop, we’ve ordered large movie-style posters displayed on a sandwich board outside the library building. Slides featuring literary jokes alongside QR codes to the books being referenced cycle through campus digital screens.

Six book covers decorated with blurbs and QR codes arranged in a display. The display sign reads Cozy up with a new book over break.

We’re also integrating our digital collections into book displays. While older displays were limited by what we had in our physical collection – which in turn limited the themes we could choose – now we bring in digital titles by propping up cardboard-backed cover printouts with QR codes. This lets digital books take up just as much space as physical books. We even did an all-digital book display in December, when students wouldn’t be able to check out print titles over the winter break.

Is it working? We haven’t gotten the latest usage stats for our OverDrive collection yet, but we’ve had several students ask about digital titles, and the campus vice president mentioned (unprompted!) how creative she found our digital slides. 

Overall, this has been a great way to give our digital collections equal visual presence in our library and draw students’ attention toward an underutilized resource. I may be a staunch opponent of QR codes replacing printed menus, but I encourage you to explore using them to leverage access to your digital collections.

Friday Finds

Ready Reference and Other Empty Shelves

photo by Ken Simon, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

One day long ago, ready reference shelves were full, bursting with directories, annuals, The New York Public Library Desk Reference, the current year’s course catalog, and more. But change was afoot. Now, many of those publications are only available online, or have ceased entirely. The shelves behind the reference desk in my library are now mostly bare — and empty shelves aren’t a good look. We’re in no position to remodel right now, so… what’s next?

A recent discussion in the CJCLS Community on ALA Connect, and on the LIBREF-L listserv, explored the dilemma of empty shelves, particularly those at ready reference. What do we do when a physical collection becomes obsolete? This is one area in which public and academic libraries can find inspiration from each other.

If you’re dealing with shelving with high visibility, Jozina Cappello of Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia has some display ideas:

  • Invite Design students to show off their work.
  • Highlight special make-up effects from Cosmetology students.
  • Partner with an instructor to have their class create a “history of” display for their subject area.
  • Encourage clubs and organizations to advertise and educate about what they do.

For shelving in easily browsable areas, Carol Beers of the Tulare County Library in California suggests rotating displays, highlighting “interesting collections of college staff, community members or students.” Why not add your institutional archives to the list of potential sources, too?

The ready reference shelves in my library are highly visible, but not easily browsable since they’re just behind the back of the reference librarian’s chair. What if the shelving is visible, but not easily perused up close? Sharon Blank, Assistant Director of the Screven-Jenkins Regional Library System in Georgia, suggests looking through common staff areas of the library building for items that would both be functional and look nice. For example, a glass punch bowl could be filled with library swag to hand out. “Our library system is small,” she writes, “and our budget for unnecessary stuff like decor items is even smaller, so we get lots of practice reworking whatever we happen to have on hand to meet whatever needs we might have.”

Maria Belvadi, Collections Librarian at the University of Prince Edward Island, turns to the broader (but also dwindling) entirety of the reference stacks: “One thing we’ve done is to use wooden dummy blocks with QR codes and printed spine labels with LC call numbers,” she says. The codes and labels bring attention – and access – to online resources that normally aren’t visible to those exploring the physical collection. With a little effort, those dummy blocks could be wrapped in pseudo-book covers to make their appearance more attractive and interesting.

Shelves could be filled using a seasonal approach, says Sarah Thogode of the Clay County Public Library. She’s thinking not of holiday seasons, but “seasons as seen by what the students/professors would be experiencing in the classroom.”

  • At the beginning of the fall semester, put out material to welcome incoming students – think titles about beginnings and fresh starts.
  • Homecoming season? Why not show off titles related to family traditions across the world, or race relations in divided nations?
  • In the spring, material on climate and gardening could be appropriate and eye-catching.

Sarah continues: “We would put the Reference material for those items on the Ready Reference shelves and let the professors know what we were doing so they could plan accordingly.”

Not all libraries have called it a day for the traditional ready reference collection. One responder, who chose to remain anonymous, says that their ready reference shelves continue to house dictionaries for all the primary languages taught at their institution, style manuals, the Statistical Abstract of the United States, writing handbooks, and (being a denominational university library) directories of churches and various versions of the Bible.

Sharon Blank sums it up best when it comes to bringing empty shelving back to life: “Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Don’t be afraid to put it to uses that it wasn’t intended for, and think outside the box!”

What’s your take on ready reference? How has your library made creative use of empty shelves?

Want to join the conversation? See How to Use ALA Connect Like a Listserv.

Still need to join our community in ALA Connect? If you’re not an ALA member, create a free login. With your ALA login, you can go directly to our community page and click the big blue JOIN COMMUNITY button up top.

Collections Marketing

Presidential Reads

Presidential Reads

by Lindsay Davis

Earlier this week on the CJCLS Blog, we shared some statistics related to reading habits of Americans and asked how you promote reading in your community and junior colleges. President Obama’s summer reading lists and song playlists have been popular over the years. These lists might make for an interesting book display or content to share on library social media pages.

Check out this list of all the books the President has recommended while in office, “Every book Barack Obama has recommended during his presidency.” A few days ago, The New York Times published “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books,” which offers a look into the impact reading has made on the President’s life. You may also be interested in reading “President Obama’s Reading List.”

Powell’s Books has put together a “Presidential Reading List” for President Obama and President-Elect Trump. What might you add? Let us know in the comments.

And for those of you who may be wondering about the reading habits of former presidents, we have you covered. In 2014, Buzzfeed put together “The Favorite Books of All 44 Presidents.” Also in 2014, Business Insider shared “8 Fascinating Stories About Presidents and their Favorite Books.”

Marketing Outreach Programming

Promoting Reading

Promoting Reading

by Lindsay Davis

A couple of weeks ago, we shared this photo that was originally posted on the Vintage Books & Anchor Books Facebook page. It generated interest and shock. We also thought it might not be accurate, and we found a 2014 revision. Read this to get the inner scoop. It isn’t as “juicy” as the first version, is it? (Let this also be a lesson in verifying information and not spreading misinformation. More on that later this week…)

Here are two share-worthy resources from Pew and Gallup that paint a different picture on the state of reading.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center released “Younger Americans and Public Libraries.” In the report, 88 percent of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79 percent of those older than 30. You can read the short version from The Atlantic’s overview, “Millennials are Out-Reading Older Generations.” In a poll that was conducted in December 2016, Gallup found that 48 percent of Americans ages 65+ read 1 to 10 books in the last year and 53 percent of Americans ages 18-29 read 1-10 books in the last year. Read more about the findings in “Rumors of the Demise of Books Greatly Exaggerated.”

How do you promote reading at your community or junior college library? Do you have partnerships with the local public library? Contests? Displays? Book clubs? Let us know in the comments.