Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Hubbub recap continued

Continuing my recap of our first Hubbub experience, I'm next going to share my thoughts on publicity.

Number one, as I mentioned in my earlier post, work with the campus entity that plans the official freshman welcome events. In my case, not only did I get to develop a new relationship with some terrific people on campus, we also got loads of publicity for our event. We were featured on the official schedule of events, and we were specifically mentioned in a number of orientation sessions. The K Week staff used the approach: "Want to bellydance in the library? Then go to the Hubbub party!" Of course they mentioned the free pizza and games and other activities for the shimmy-shy, but the bellydancing really seemed to stick with students. There is no way I could have generated this kind of buzz without the help of the K Week staff.

Since our target audience was freshman students (though any students were welcome, of course), we really couldn't do much advertising on campus until three days before the event. Move-in day was a Friday and our event was on Monday. On that Friday though, we hung a bunch of flyers in student hangouts on campus. The residence halls were covered thankfully as I attended the resident advisor resource fair earlier that week and distributed loads of flyers to the RAs. Many of the RAs were excited about the event (perhaps even a little jealous that we didn't do something like this their freshman year) and I invited them all and encouraged them to invite their advisees.

I also relied on our Hub partners to help spread the word. I really can't say enough nice things about my friends in campus IT. I know I'm lucky in that regard as the library-IT relationship at other schools isn't necessarily as good. The IT folks mentioned the Hubbub at all their orientation events and distributed flyers in the student computing labs. They were also a big help at the actual event (more on that in the future "staffing" post).

As far as electronic means of publicity, we did the standard press release which was posted to the main UK website. Though this probably didn't catch the attention of many students, perhaps it made faculty and staff more aware of the event. Along the same lines, we posted a library news item as well. I worked with our official UK PR contact to distribute the press release. We did in fact have several photographers covering the event as a result of this.

The student newspaper didn't cover the Hubbub, but to my delight, they featured us in a special insert guide for students the following week. When we opened the Hub in the middle of the spring semester, they wrote a very nice piece about the Hub. I wish we'd gotten a little Hubbub mention, but there are so many events going on that week, and the other coverage they've done has been good so I can't complain.

I had used Facebook before for advertising and decided to use it again for the Hubbub. Like any of our other methods though, it was difficult to judge how effective it was. We used Facebook in several ways:

Facebook flyer. This is probably the most common way campus groups advertise on Facebook. Buy a flyer and Facebook displays it to your audience. I'd bought a flyer last year and since then I was pleased to see that you could further tailor your audience. Since I only ran the ad Sat-Mon and didn't buy very many flyers, it was pretty inexpensive.

Facebook event. I created an event in Facebook and then invited my student and UK campus friends, had them invite their friends, and so on. I got a few questions from students as a result, so it was worth doing. In the end, this reached over a hundred people and didn't cost anything.

Facebook groups. K Week had an official group with several hundred student members so I posted to its wall a couple of times. I also posted to the wall of several unofficial student groups (and happened to answer a few questions about the semester schedule, designated safety paths on campus, library hours, campus mailing addresses). This is a little tricky as I imagine it is easy to cross the line from "helpful librarian" to "nosy old person lurking on Facebook." I didn't do very much of this but what little I did seemed appreciated. At least no one wrote anything nasty about me or told me to go away.

What would I have done differently? Next time I'd like to look into those campus "yard signs." Those are a real attention getter in my opinion, but I haven't investigated the cost or if approval is needed (likely) in order to display them on university lawns.

In the next post I'll talk about staffing. The team that makes it all happen is the most important part of throwing an event like this.

UPDATE: Hubbub recap part three

(Photos by Alice Wasielewski)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fun with Signs

I suppose it's a requirement to do something for Talk Like a Pirate Day. One of my former student workers shares his birthday with this ar-wesome holiday. Let's just say the "walk the plank" jokes are wearing a little thin on him (happy 23, Podge!). Anyway, in keeping with our fun atmosphere at the Hub, I did a little something at the desk.

In general, I'm surprised at the number of students who pay attention to our signs. The "No Shushing" sign really gets a lot of attention, especially from a few student groups who meet regularly at the Hub. The intent of the sign was to direct people who want a quiet space away from the basement (designated quiet study areas are on the third and fifth floors). Several students seem continually amused with the sign--in fact, I've even spotted "No Shushing" graffiti on our whiteboards that no library staff fess up to writing! On rare occasions we have had to ask some students to keep it down just a little, but we certainly didn't shush them.

In general, the whiteboards are a continual source of education and amusement for me. It's very rare that I have to erase something (phone numbers or things that *really* aren't fit to print). For the most part, the boards are used for student work--equations, debate lists, vocabulary words, sentence diagramming, anatomy drawings--really interesting academic work. Then there are the "Chemistry/Math/Louisville sucks" sentiments or the "I Love the Hub" sentiments (I promise I'm not the one writing those!). And that's just the beginning--I've seen more neat little drawings, odd haiku, and random expressions....We're going to start posting a regular whiteboard photo to our flickr set. I think you'll be amused as well.

(Photos by Alice Wasielewski)

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Hubbub recap, part one

On Monday, August 20, 2007, we invited all UK freshmen to our information commons, the Hub, for food and fun at The Hubbub. I'm thrilled to report we reached around 400 students in that two hour period.

I began planning in April by getting approval for the event and putting together a workgroup of interested staff to help plan. The five of us met a few times but conducted most of our business via email. I met early on with the head of New Student and Parent Programs, the group that coordinates the official freshman welcome activities. We set a date and time that worked nicely with the rest of the "K Week" schedule. Being part of K Week gave us a great deal of exposure: we were mentioned at a number of orientation sessions, we had easy access to the resident advisors for sharing flyers, plus we were front and center on all the official K Week schedule material in print and online. The people in New Student and Parent Programs were outstanding to work with, and our staff even got cool K Week t-shirts to easily identify us at the Hubbub and other K Week events. Bottom line: it is essential to work your event into the official schedule (Brian from Georgia Tech, home of a particularly outstanding freshman event, agrees).

As far as planning activities, our group had a lot of fun with this. We decided that the sky was the limit and came up with lots of fun, wacky ideas. At one point we considered setting up a makeover counter (I still think this is a good idea). We looked at renting a Money Machine for coupons and prizes but decided it was too expensive and labor-intensive. We considered a live band, but realized this might be a *little* too loud for the rest of the library. I'm envious of the wonderful things they do at Georgia Tech but realized that laser tag might be pushing it a bit for the first event--there's always Hubbub 2008! We settled on video games, Pop A Shot basketball, bellydancing, a Second Life activity, and the Palm Reading Librarian. We also utilized our whiteboards by hosting a Whiteboard Art Contest. Surprisingly the most successful event of the evening was the Palm Reading Librarian though we had a good number of bellydancers, too. Bottom line: it's okay to be far out and creative with your activities. Often those are the most successful.

You may be wondering how a Palm Reading Librarian could possibly be more popular than videogames played on wall projection. Well, the only snag of the entire event was that our video game vendor did not show up. I know. You'd think that we would have had a riot on our hands, but surprisingly, we made it through the evening without too much of a problem. I suppose copious amounts of free pizza can heal all wounds. We had considered having staff bring in video game consoles, but I was really nervous about the possibility of damage. What if someone flings your Wiimote across the room and it hits one of our lovely marble pillars? What if in the chaos of hundreds of students in the basement someone disappears with your Reaper? This was probably me being overly conservative on our first go at the Hubbub, but we all agreed that it was better to get equipment from somewhere. A couple of our video game stores in town bring equipment and games in for demos--they do it for parties, schools, church groups and the like, and were happy to do this for us. We scheduled months in advance, everything seemed to be in order when we checked in with them before the event, but then they failed to show up. The store manager kept assuring us that the staff were "on their way" but they never showed. Possibly they ended up gaming over at one of the frats as it was during Rush week. Bottom line: have more control over your game equipment. I've gone so far as to submit a proposal to purchase a few consoles for the library. Students could bring in games for a game night once or twice each semester.

Next post, I'll talk about publicity.

UPDATE: Hubbub recap part two

UPDATE: Hubbub recap part three

(Photos by Jacob Davis)