ILA Best Practices

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The Carol Stream Public Library took advantage of the buzz of the holiday season this year.  Our Marketing Committee, comprised of two staff members from each department, planned a Holiday Open House for the community.  The first step was to see if there was anything else going on in town on the day selected.  Once it was determined that no other group was doing anything that day (Park District, Village, etc.) the planning for the Dec. 8th, first ever, Library Holiday Open House began.  A variety of activities inside and outside of the Library were planned.  Staff member from every department participated and made the day a great success.  Activities included live reindeer, horse drawn sleigh rides, crafts, holiday movies, Victorian carolers, bell quartet, refreshments (provided and hosted by the Friends group), and of course Santa and his elves.  The Park District granted us permission to use the adjacent park for our sleigh rides and the Village provided us with an awesome Santa throne and barricades and cones for the sleigh ride route.  In addition, both government entities provided publicity on their electronic signs located throughout the community.  The Village posted info in their electronic newsletter and on their Facebook page.  Village Trustees also posted the event on their personal Facebook pages.The Open House was an opportunity to appeal to our non-users and lapsed users.  Using the grocery store trick of putting the milk in the back of the store, our refreshments were in the back of the Library.  Attendees needed to walk through the library to get their treats.  Staff put up displays of Library materials throughout the Library using props and lights to showcase and highlight our materials and services.  Over 1100 people attended the event which ran for three hours.  The Mayor and many local Trustees from the Village, Park District and more were in attendance.  Patrons posted their pictures on their Facebook pages with Santa at the Library within hours of the event. The goodwill we created in the community cannot be measured.   We were able to take advantage of the good cheer of the holiday season and create a community gathering place.  Please visit our Facebook page to few the photos

Susan Westgate, Carol Stream Public Library


Like many libraries now, we’ve invested in a number of online learning tools:  Mango Languages, Atomic Training,, Testing & Education Reference Center, Learn4Life, etc.  You may have things like Universal Class, Learning Express Library, Brainfuse, etc.

Like many libraries, we put these under the Research > Databases section of our site, under a tidy little category called “Online Learning.”  Fair enough, I suppose.

But they’re really not of a sort with the Ebscos and Morningstars of the online world, are they?  They’re not really research.  They are explicitly skill-building tools and I expect most of our customers either won’t look for or discover them under “Research.”  In the long run, I’ll be looking for a way to improve their visibility on our site, but I’d like some comments about your own libraries’ practices in presenting this new breed of online product.  Does the “Research” option work for you?  If not, what top-level menu category do you put it under?  Do you perhaps have a top-level menu entry just for those products?

Also, are there any libraries (Illinois or elsewhere) you think are doing a great job of highlighting those products on their sites?

When I asked a similar question on the Dig_Ref listserv back in 2012, it was suggested that I take a look at two particular sites:

  • Atlanta-Fulton PL: Note the eCampus link mid-homepage.
  • Scottsdale PL:  Note the Research & Learning menu item, although they don’t have a specific catch-all category within the R&L categories.

Also, it’s easy to just say we should put our online learning tools front and center on homepage, but clearly, lots of products and services fight for that visibility.  How do you fit online learning into your website priorities?

Also, I see this through the lens of a public librarian.  How do academic/special/school libraries deal with these products?

I look forward to the discussion!

–Bill Pardue /
Arlington Heights Memorial Library / ILA Best Practices Committee

Like lots of public library staff, the we at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library like to make book/DVD/CD recommendations as part of a “Staff Choices” blog. We’re on the way to opening that up to quite a few more staff members, so we thought we should try to have some consistency in our entries, while still allowing for posters’ personal perspectives to shine.

Our main concern is that we wanted the posts to be fun and engaging, not merely plot summaries followed by read-alikes, etc. Still, we need to balance that sense of personality and fun with a degree of professionalism. With that in mind, we came up with the following blogging guidelines (which are posted on or staff wiki).

Do you have something similar at your own library? How do you approach shared blogging?

“Staff Choices” Blogging at AHML

The Staff Choices blog is a dynamic virtual destination designed to help customers discover, learn about, and engage around books, movies, TV shows, music, and games. A variety of bloggers will lend their unique voices to describe materials in ways which identify the library as a credible source, invite engagement, and ultimately promote circulation. While there is a focus on popular materials and current topics, bloggers may also introduce lesser known items which may attract community interest.

  1. Focus on books, movies, TV shows, music, games, and other popular materials in our collection. Topics should be of interest to you and your potential audience.
  2. Be positive, friendly, and conversational. Write as if you’re talking with a friend without being too personal. Express honest opinions without bashing a book or author. Humor is always good!
  3. Political and religious viewpoints of your own should not be expressed (no agendas) and posts should be free of any potentially offensive stereotypes (racial, ethnic, sexual). Stay clear of endorsing or taking a stance on controversial topics, but you can state the facts in order to tell people about an item.
  4. Capture the reader’s interest immediately with the title of the post (not necessarily the title of an item) and your first line.
  5. Be as concise as possible. Keep your blog post under 400 words. Bulleted lists help break up long paragraphs and make it easier for readers to see a lot of information at a glance.
  6. Make links meaningful. Do not use “click here” or use an entire URL as your link text. Link to specific items and searches in the catalog.
  7. Add images and videos when appropriate. Include one cover image, even if mentioning several items.
  8. Choose at least one “blog term” to help organize your posts and make them findable by readers.
  9. Use bold and italics sparingly; do not use underlining for emphasis. Do not capitalize “library” unless starting a sentence with it.
  10. Proofread before you publish. Make sure your post is grammatically correct and free of typos.

–Bill Pardue
Arlington Heights Memorial Library

Last week I had the opportunity to visit one of the companies that we purchase a limited number of books from each year. It was a really fascinating experience. The owner of the company as well as the regional manager and the vice president of sales met our group of twenty library staff members then proceeded to spend the next four hours with us. They gave us a tour of their facility, answered a myriad of questions and gave us time to wander around the warehouse. It was a librarian’s dream come true. This local company has always been family owned, has several green initiatives in effect and places customer service as one of their highest priorities. In addition, they highly value children’s literacy and donate as much as possible to children who may otherwise  never own a book. Sounds like the perfect company, we should use them for everything, right? Well, the thing is, their materials are more costly than those we get from the big book jobbers. And that is where the conundrum lies.

In this age where our time is at a premium, more and more demands are being placed on us, and our budgets may not be as big as they used to be, where does the personal touch come in? Are we willing to sacrifice excellent customer service from a company where a live person always answers the phone for a 40% discount somewhere else?  Do we stop seeing book representatives for the simplicity of standing orders and the ease of a selection process that only requires a computer and can be done at any time of the day or night? And conversely, should we still value that face to face time with representatives even if they no longer have the love or interest in their products but are just trying to reach their quota?

As we being this new year, is the personal touch still important?

Let us know the Best Practices in your Library! Email your blog posts to or send us a message on Facebook.

The ILA Best Practices Committee is reorganizing and is active once again. We are reestablishing this blog to publicize best practices around Illinois and in the library profession. We are hoping you will share yours with the rest of us!
We look forward to hearing from you.

Robin & Anne

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