By Brian Walton, Principal Librarian for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library

Recently I had the chance to chat with Brian Walton from Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library about the marketing strategy they used to set circulation records in December to surpass one million checkouts for the year. What follows is a conversation with Brian about how they executed their innovative marketing strategy in their community.

Did your library/staff set goals for your marketing efforts? If so were they number specific, % based or other and how did you come to your goals?

Our goals were “ooh, let’s get to that millionth checkout!”  I don’t have great ways to tie marketing correlation with effects on circulation (though in this case there pretty clearly was one) so we didn’t really set a marketing goal to be honest. 

What marketing ideas did your staff come up with and how were they executed? 

We did a lot of marketing on social media, primarily facebook and twitter, which our social media person really hit it on.  Our biggest asset was the staff, though. I bothered them DAILY, letting them know how close we were and exhorting them to get their customers involved. I know one Branch put signs up and we tried to encourage every customer who seemed a likely user to try out OverDrive. We also put a countdown ticker up on our library homepage that we updated at least daily.

How did you get the word out and how was your staff involved?  

Couldn’t have done it without the staff. I know they were talking it up to customers in the buildings, and at least a few of us were using our private social media circles to stir it up. You couldn’t have a conversation with me from December 9 to 28 without me suggesting you go borrow something from OverDrive, and a few of my friends took that on as well. Leveraging some other community organizations was helpful as well. The keepers of our local museum’s butterfly gardens and environs created Curated Lists for us that they distributed to their Facebook and twitter followers. We created another Curated List on European History for the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and we did some thematic ones as well that we promoted through email blasts and on social media. Oh, and I totally borrowed from an upcoming media tie-in. We made our own Star Wars crawl, which I pestered the staff and my friends with:


Part of that, incidentally, was some pretty tireless work from Fritz (our OverDrive Account Executive), Jim (Our Partner Services Specialist), and Rachel (Our Collection Development Analyst) on OverDrve’s end. We were ordering daily, changing out the content on our main OverDrive website and swapping out the Featured Title sometimes twice a day. Fritz and Jim kept on top of things there, and Rachel was super-responsive when I said things like, “I need a cart with every Harlequin title that has “Christmas,” “Yule,” or “Holiday” in the title that isn’t already in the collection.

What was the reaction from your community/users?  

I’d say pretty good! We hit our millionth checkout of 2015 at about 4:30 on December 28th. By the end, fifteen of out of our 20 highest-circulating days ever were from December, and on our busiest day, we were averaging one circulation every 20 seconds. I didn’t have a lot of direct feedback from our users but what I did receive seemed like a community who was interested in getting to the million, and a few frustrated outsiders wanting to know why THEIR library’s OverDrive collection wasn’t as good as ours.

IMG_0847If you don’t mind, would you share your results with us?  As I said, we definitely made it to the one million eBooks, but I’d say the most gratifying is that we have kept some of that traffic. Our January is running about 13% higher than last January, which is frankly a bit higher than I’d expected it to be, and I imagine some of that is carryover from the big December push. Oh, and a friend of mine may have made me a sash to wear around the office (which I totally do.)