25 January 2008


This is such a good idea I’m sure you would like to try it. But check with its creator, Rebecca Metzger [Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, USA] , first.

For the past seven years, the Lafayette College Libraries have been creating and mailing humorous collectible postcards to students as a way of publicizing PRA (Personalized Research Assistance) sessions, which are essentially individual research consultations with reference librarians. PRA cards get the faces of reference librarians out to students in a comedic format that shakes up the stereotype of librarians as stodgy and serious, hopefully making us more approachable. The first PRA postcard came about informally. As a joke, one of the librarians mocked up a spoof of the film Conan the Barbarian and the tagline, "Make an appointment with a reference barbarian today!" It was basic humor, it was typical of the library staff at Lafayette, and it just kind of stuck.

"The postcards, which are mailed to all students a few weeks into each semester, feature the faces of reference librarians superimposed on movie or TV stills, thus appealing to the visual and pop culture interests of most youth. On the back of each card is a URL directing students to an online sign-up form and witty text advertising the service that plays on slogans from the movie or TV show. For example, the recent "Mary PRAppins" card reads: "We may not be able to get the chim-chiminey back in your chim-chim-charoo, but a Personalized Research Assistance session with a reference librarian can help you find the books, journals, and online resources you need for a well-researched project that will make your professor say: SupercaliPRAgilisticexpilalidocious!"

"After that initial postcard, student workers were brought on board to execute the Photoshop manipulation and layout of the card, as well as to coordinate the printing and mailing with campus Reprographic services. It's time-consuming work for them but more fun than shelving books, and it helps bridge the generational gap.

"For the first few years, a surge in appointments immediately after the mailing date was a clear indicator of the cards' impact. When the PRA cards hit their mailboxes, which are all located in one setting, there is a mass visual impact even if the majority of the cards end up in the recycling bin. As the branded service has become more integrated on campus, there's less of an obvious peak in appointments immediately after the mailing. Traffic to the online PRA sign-up form is steady now throughout the semester, and generated not just from the cards but from outreach during instruction sessions, reference desk interactions, articles in parent newsletters, targeted correspondence with honors students, word-of-mouth, and the library website."

Thanks to Jill Stover and her blog, Library Marketing: Thinking Outside the Book, for posting this.


Entire post: http://librarymarketing.blogspot.com/2008/01/


Some of the PRA cards: http://www.lafayette.edu/~library/pra/gallery.html

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