Outside the Lines: Shifting Perceptions of Libraries

Outside the Lines is a weeklong international celebration of the creativity and innovation happening in libraries. Whether large or small, academic or public, any library can participate by hosting at least one event or campaign. The goal is to get people thinking — and talking — about libraries in a different way. Libraries are dynamic centers for engagement that help everyone in the community be their best. It's not enough just to tell people how libraries have changed; it's time to show them.

During our June webinar, we heard from Erica Grossman of Anythink Libraries in Adams County, Colorado. We also heard from Megan Glidden and Lune Axelsen of ImagineIF Libraries in Flathead County, Montana. The webinar provided examples of grassroots library marketing, including ways to use social media.

Libraries Reintroduced

To start off the webinar, Erica gave some background information about Outside the Lines. The initiative was started in 2014 by libraries in Colorado that wanted to shift the perceptions of libraries. They had the idea to create a statewide marketing campaign to help answer the question of why libraries are still relevant and important. The campaign grew in size each year and is now an international celebration.

To participate in Outside the Lines, libraries sign up at https://www.getoutsidethelines.org/. Participating libraries host at least one event that meets the following criteria:

  1. Gets people thinking — and talking — about libraries in a different way
  2. Showcases the library out in the community as well as in the library
  3. Highlights how the library is relevant to people's lives
  4. Represents the local community
  5. Is active versus passive — gets people engaged
  6. Is extraordinary and unexpected
  7. Most importantly, is fun!

In 2016, Anythink Libraries held a unique block party in each of the communities they serve. They were held in parks, new housing developments, and other locations to bring people together through food, games, and fun. The library used the block parties to get to know individuals in the community and also to show an example of what the library had to offer.

anythink Block Party

Using Social Media to #GetOTL

By using social media with an Outside the Lines campaign, you can reach a wider audience and spread the word about the library. You can use the hashtag #GetOTL across all social media platforms. Erica recommends developing a social media strategy that aligns with the goals of your library's campaign. Social media can reach new audiences, get responses from your community, and reach potential new partners in the community.

In Douglas County, Colorado, the library partners with local breweries, featuring commemorative pint glasses and a beer-naming contest. They leveraged social media to reach beer fans throughout the community and draw more participants into the library.

Douglas County, Colorado library uses social media to reach beer fans

Community Engagement

Megan Glidden shared several examples of the ways ImagineIF Libraries has engaged the community through Outside the Lines with hands-on interactive experiences. One example of this was their "listening chairs." This unattended activity consisted of a simple chair placed in a park with a box and a journal. It asked people to stop for a moment to listen and reflect. The journal served as a way for people to share what they heard. They received some great responses in the journal that served as a testament to the spirit of the community.

A chair placed in a park with a box and a journal. People are asked to stop for a moment to listen and reflect.

Megan emphasized the importance of planning and also that you don't need a lot of time or money to put on great community engagement experiences. ImagineIF Libraries has developed criteria for programming to help guide their planning and put a focus to their efforts. They also focus on ideas that can further expand their reach in the community, whether through reaching individuals or finding new community partners.

Social Media Strategy

Lune Axelsen spoke about the importance of setting goals for any social media campaign. She emphasized that using social media cannot be haphazard. The person overseeing social media needs to be fully invested and committed to the strategy. There should be a purpose behind every social media move. An important part of the strategy is identifying which social media platforms best match your library's goals. "With social media, it's not about quantity. It's about quality."

Lune shared several tips about using social media. She recommends using nice photos, having a budget to promote posts, and targeting specific audiences when paying for ads. She talked about the importance of following other users with similar interests and tracking popular hashtags to reach a wide audience. Lune gave an example of using the photo carousel feature on Facebook to show a variety of images. This can be a creative way to show the many types of programs the library has to offer.

Lune gave an example of using the photo carousel feature on Facebook to show a variety of images

Outside the Lines for 2017 is coming up in the week of September 10 to 16. Are you interested in participating? Watch the full webinar to learn more and gather ideas to try in your library.

Image 1: Anythink Libraries

Image 2: Douglas County Libraries

Images 3 and 4: ImagineIF Libraries