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Theme Strategy Program
Mid-Continent Public Library
Innovation SummaryMid-Continent Public Library has developed a Theme Strategy program to build staff and patron knowledge of underused, but highly relevant, resources. This has led to increased usage of select services as well as focused the Library’s communications.
As libraries everywhere strive to remain relevant, patrons need to understand the breadth and depth of resources available when they walk through the library doors or log on to the website. One of the major difficulties, however, lies in the sheer volume of services and products that most libraries offer. To overcome this challenge, MCPL had to think strategically about which resources patrons needed to know about, how to ensure staff understood the resources, and how to maximize the number of patrons who received the message.
MCPL created a program called Theme Strategy to communicate strategically selected resources to a maximum number of patrons. Theme Strategies attempts to connect with patrons by ensuring they receive a consistent message multiple times throughout their interactions with the Library. The program begins with the assignment of a single resource or service over a two month period. A two month timeframe was selected because it afforded the Library the opportunity to communicate with most users at least once, and regular users multiple times. Any selected program or service receives its own mini-communications plan. Because our staff is the most important marketing resource at the Library, staff education is a critical component of each plan. Staff members are provided with FAQ sheets, explanations, and talking points for the theme. Additionally, signage and handout materials are produced to help enforce the message within the branch. Online, MCPL focuses on the theme through a front page “ad,” the main site blog, and all social media channels. Other elements specific to certain services have included contests, heavy PR rotations, select advertising opportunities, and outreach efforts in locations from automobile shops to restaurants. Examples of selected Theme Strategies include Tutor.com’s Live Homework Help, historical databases, small business resources, and OPAC ChiliFresh customer book reviews.
MCPL has seen increased awareness and usage of nearly every Theme Strategy focus. The most simplistic to measure are online resources, and the results have been consistently strong. A few examples include Live Homework Help usage more than doubling, history database usage increasing by 80%, and online public comments increasing tenfold. Along with the increases in usage, the Theme Strategy program has provided an expansion of staff knowledge about valuable library resources. This greatly extends the value of the effort expended during the two month period and allows for the system to present a unified informational front.