How I promote e-resources with cheap (but effective) business-sized cards

One way to promote HIGH-tech resources using LOW-tech resources

Patrons used to ask how to access the library online and we would write usernames & passwords on scrap paper. They would scribble down our hours and contact information on a piece of scrap paper, only to crumple the paper up into their pocket. This happened over and over and over at the front desk and in orientations.

(Yes, the library does have a website that we referred them to, but patrons often wanted a quick take-away in print.)

It was both time-consuming and ineffective.

And so, I began to make business-sized cards with the library’s contact information, services and hours on them, as well as instructions for accessing electronic resources. I wanted patrons to be able to take the cards with them and use them when they needed them, so they had to be more substantial than scraps of paper, but also portable so that they could take the cards from the front desk or I could pass out at orientations and teaching sessions.

Enter one of the most-used and useful piece of equipment the library has ever purchased: a hand-cranked laminator to make our own business-sized cards.

Hand-cranked, useful laminator

We use a template on Microsoft Word for business cards (Avery 8371), print them on normal paper, laminate, and cut them. The cards are pretty flimsy, but they get the job done.

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View of the business cards from the front door of the library. Patrons see the cards as soon as they walk into the library, so this is one way they discover library resources.
From left to right: Front and back of the business cards with library services, hours, and contact information.

You may wonder why I didn’t use Vistaprint to make the cards. After all, Vistaprint’s cards would be more professional, and maybe even more cost-effective than lamination because the cards may last longer in people’s pockets.

I did order Vistaprint at first. I made a design, uploaded my file, and ordered about 500 business cards for $8.95 … and then a username or password would change, or I wanted to add another resource, and I was left with 450 out-of-date cards.

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From left to right: Front and back of cards promoting CE Direct

Even more often, the Vistaprint cards would become out-dated because I needed to make the cards more user-friendly. The challenge of designing the cards is the same as with writing any sign: if you include too many details, the font is too small and people become overwhelmed with too many words, but include too few details and people cannot follow instructions independently. I edited the cards many times, according to feedback I received from patrons at the front desk.

(I also tried white printable business card cut-outs from Avery 8371, which I then laminated as well. The result was much more solid than printing the cards on normal printing paper, but nowhere near the quality of Vistaprint. However, even these were too permanent and expensive in the beginning of the project. I do plan to begin using them again soon, though, for the cards that I have not needed to edit for awhile.)

Directions for accessing Nursing Reference Center. The next two lines are the username and password. We give them out when nurses ask for full-text articles.

The cards seem to be very effective. I often see patrons taking them when they enter the library or as they are waiting to have their books checked out. We encourage people to take them when they ask how they can access full-text articles or the library’s hours. I distribute them at meetings, orientations, and classes. More than a few people have explicitly said that they are very helpful and I have seen them hung up with tacks on bulletin boards.

My next steps are to distribute the cards on the floors so that people can access them without coming to the library or attending a class.