Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Promoting Your Databases

Even with discounts, databases can still be an expensive resource and many libraries comment that they are underused.  In order for them to be used, however, both patrons and staff must know they are there.  Some bookmarks, an email, or a widget on your website won't be enough.  It will take some time and require various methods so your patrons and staff are exposed to your message in different ways and multiple times. Databases need to be promoted.

First off it's important that staff knows their library has a database and they have been trained on how to use it. This enables staff to recommend a database, show how to use it or hold classes on certain databases. Many vendors offer ongoing webinar training on their products to review changes and updates and libraries can contact their reps or Califa to set up trainings or webinars for their staff.

Some libraries promote databases at staff meetings where a staff member trains everyone on a database. This has the additional benefit of providing staff members with the opportunity to hone their presentation and training skills.

Los Angeles Public Library has been promoting 'Featured Resources' for a few years now. Every month they choose a database which is highlighted on their Research & Homework page and they have a sign next to the reference desk in all their branches promoting that month's resource as well. 

Pasadena Public Library has created subject guides to promote their resources. They also feature monthly databases, which are listed on their main subject guide page. Some vendors will provide t-shirts, buttons or bookmarks that can be worn or handed out during such a promotion.

Cross promotion is another great way to not only remind patrons but staff as well of additional resources. In a reference book, the career center, or in the stacks where popular items (books, DVDs, CDs, audio books) are often checked out a library can place brochures, bookmarks, posters, signs or QR codes suggesting specific databases, e-books or streaming services. Again many of these materials are provided by the vendors.

Also in database classes staff can promote related databases or e-books. For example if a library is holding a class on a language database, they can also let patrons know they can access foreign films or music through a streaming service or check out an e-book in that language. 

A library should define an acceptable activity level or cost per use. This provides a benchmark to assist in the evaluation and to see if the promotions had any effect. If those databases aren't seeing much use, make sure you're giving them a chance, after all you have spent a lot of money on them. Unfortunately "Build it, and he will come" doesn't always work; sometimes you need to tell them about it. And not just once, but often.

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