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7 ways to promote your library's online resources

How do you persuade kids (and teachers) to use authoritative online sources and not just “Google” the information they need? How do you teach your users to see the library as a portal to trusted sources?

Online resources do not jump out at students and staff and scream “use me” any more than our library books jumped off the shelves. Digital resources also need to be promoted and displayed. The Indispensable Librarian, 2nd ed, 2013

The librarians I know are masters of promoting books to kids. Displays, contests, book talks, author visits, posters, and other far more creative tactics move books off the shelves and into kids hands and hearts. We've had about 500 years experience in getting people to read, so we should be good at it.

But lately I have heard a different frustration expressed. After investing significant amounts of our library resource dollars in commercial online products, they too often go unused or underutilized.

Wouldn't you think that today's "digital native" [insert cynical snort here] would just automatically find and use full-text magazine services, online encyclopedias, subject specific databases, e-books, video content providers, and other digital sources of information that are vetted and reliable? 

"Oh, you mean there are other places than Google, Wikipedia and YouTube to find information?"

Can we apply some of the same techniques for promoting print resources to digital resources? And what new techniques do we need to use? Here are a few starter ideas...

  1. Library orientation programs must of course demonstrate online resources as well as the physical ones.
  2. Introductions to online resources are best done during research units themselves—when students actually need the information they contain.
  3. Any bibliography or webquest prepared for a unit should reference electronic tools as well as those in print.
  4. During inservices, at teacher meetings and in newsletters, teachers need to be informed about and trained in using these digital resources.
  5. Library webpages should clearly mark links to their digital resources, either on the homepage or on a separate page that has a clear link from the home page. A note by the link that tells the user any special instructions for accessing the resource not only helps the user but also cuts down on questions. The library’s webpage with links to its digital resources should be the default page when any web browser is launched on every library computer.
  6. Students and teachers can be subtly reminded of the schools’ online resources if guides in the form of posters are visible near workstations. Bookmarks with this information may yet have a few years of viability left.
  7. Contests, including scavenger hunts, can raise the visibility of commercial online resources. Tie your contests to a single database at a time, doing smaller contests, more often. We have Battle of the Books. How about Battle of the 'bases?

Just because it doesn’t fit in a display case, doesn’t mean you can’t make it visible.

I am very interested in effective methods librarians have found to lead students to good online resources.

Readers, help me out with this one! Thanks.

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Reader Comments (9)

I've found #2, 'Introductions to online resources are best done during research units themselves—when students actually need the information they contain' to be the single-most effective method of promoting our library's online resources, as well as other resources.

Thanks for covering all the bases, Doug. This is a solid blueprint.

March 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Lindsay

As an elementary school librarian a big part is making the parents aware of all the resources available from the school website. I have bookmarks made with the online resources (including passwords) and give them to parents at open house, kindergarten round up, school tours and next week with each book fair purchase. They are helping pay for the databases and other online subscriptions, I like to remind them about them so they get used. : )

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOkle Miller

Hi Okle,

May I quote and credit you in an upcoming column on this topic? Great idea!


March 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

This is a great blog post which I think the readers of our newsletter would really enjoy. May I link to it in our "Sector News" section of the next newsletter?



March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Rushworth

Hi Sarah,

That's great. Thanks. If you would, please mention my book The Indispensable Librarian, 2nd edition, is available for pre-order and will be out in May or June.



March 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Really a informative and useful blog..using your tips am gona implement the same on my own library..

September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSantosh ghildiyal

When we know a school project say on Japan is happening we will email the children in that age group or the guarantor that the library has information and staff waiting to assist and also post on our Facebook site that our site has links to tools and ere sources to help.

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDion

Hi Dion,

Good suggestion. Thank you.


May 4, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

In academic libraries, the other way you can promote the use of electronic resources is to engage the lecturers and have eResources as part of the course reading list

January 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Nhendodzashe

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