Read All About It! How Libraries Can Use Buttons for Creative Marketing

Jan 13th 2015

Read All About It! How Libraries Can Use Buttons for Creative Marketing

Library marketing can be challenging, with limited time, and even more limited funds, coming up with creative strategies that stretch the budget is paramount.

But while library patrons may have to speak softly, there's no reason that marketing library programs should be quiet, too! For librarians with something to say, buttons are a great way to get the word out about new programs and engage library-goers.

Encouraging Visits

With the evolving role of libraries these days, awareness campaigns can be an important part of marketing campaigns to get patrons in the door. University of Chicago Library educated new students and parents about the various branches in their system through a series of buttons handed out during orientation.


With a simple design featuring the name of the branch on a colored background, the buttons were originally made in various quantities corresponding to the popularity of each location. The designs became an unexpected hit, and the laws of supply and demand came into play unexpectedly, with the rarer branch buttons becoming de facto collector's items among library-loving students.

Promoting Programs

Buttons are a great way to promote library programs. Because of their low per piece price, you can get a lot of outreach out of a small investment. A bowl at the circulation desk will empty in no time, and buttons are lightweight and portable enough to travel easily to off-site events.

Using a Button-O-Matic machine to distribute buttons is another fun way to get a visitor's attention. Button-O-Matics can be rented for special events, or purchased for permanent installation at library branches. The coin mechanism can be customized to fit your needs, too-- go with free for wide distribution, or charge $.50 or $1 at permanent locations to earn back some of the button's cost.


The Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One Chicago" program used buttons to promote their 2011 book selection, The Adventures of Augie March. Prior to the announcement of what the year's book would be, a Button-O-Matic machine at the main downtown library branch distributed designs featuring an image from the book's cover and invited patrons to tweet their guesses for what the title would be.

Youth Appeal

Buttons are always popular with children and teens, which makes them a great giveaway to promote a library's youth programming. Students are quick to pin a button onto their jacket or backpack, increasing the reach of your message. Chicago Public Library used buttons' natural appeal when creating designs to promote their STEM programming, using a series of friendly robot illustrations to reward students involved in the program.


Engaging Visitors

As one of the premier research libraries in the country, the collection at Chicago's Newberry Library is something to marvel at. While special programming was the theme of Chicago Public Library's Button-O-Matic, when Newberry staff decided to rent a machine to the celebrations at their 30th annual book fair, the goal was to show off some of the treasures from the library's epic collection.


The Newberry button designs include imagery ranging from 19th century Native American portraits to 1920s cartoon characters and vintage newspaper advertising, all vended at random for visitors to enjoy. After the Button-O-Matic's success at the book fair, the library purchased the machine as a permanent addition to the retail store, allowing visitors to get a tiny pinback piece of the Newberry collection anytime.

There are endless ways to include buttons in a library marketing strategy. From spreading the word about programs and encouraging visitors, to showing off the depth and breadth of the collection, buttons do it all!

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