Berkeley Public Library’s Branch-Out Celebration is a Great Success

June 09, 2014

Contact: Donna Corbeil
Director of Library Services
Berkeley Public Library

Berkeley Public Library’s Branch-Out Celebration is a Great Success

Berkeley, June 9, 2014—Berkeley Public Library’s big Branch Out celebration in April brought in the crowds, both old friends and some who had never been to the Library. Just five years after a landslide ‘Yes’ on bond Measure FF and an innovative Neighborhood Libraries Campaign partnership, Berkeley Library visitors flocked to these libraries of the future.

The Berkeley Public Library celebrated by inviting the public to a month-long, system-wide librarywarming. The Branch Out Celebration encouraged people to experience each of the new and improved Berkeley Public Library branches and to expand their own horizons via an array of FREE events and activities. This was the first time the library planned events around a theme and did targeted marketing to the public at this level, a month long and at all locations.

The Library did not do it alone. The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library and the Berkeley Public Library Foundation are already ardent supporters of the Library. A $10,000 grant in support of Branch Out from the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library provided funding to hire performers and speakers and supply refreshments. The Berkeley Public Library Foundation provided logistical as well as financial support, including the coordination of planning by Foundation staff, hiring and funding a non-profit communications consultant and funding media outreach and advertising.

Media Sponsors were Berkeleyside, East Bay Express, 510 Families, KALX radio station, The Daily California and the Berkeley Times. The Library appreciates and thanks the sponsors who helped spread the word about Branch Out. These partnerships worked very well and brought in patrons that have not used the library regularly or at all.

The Library hosted 180 events that attracted over 5,800 attendees. These ranged from storytimes and visits by noted children’s authors to several concerts and classes in 3-D printing. Especially popular with the community were the five after-hours events, one at each Library location. These brought in close to a thousand people. Total, the Library had over 111,500 visitors to all locations. Fifteen hundred new library cards were issued and over 300,800 library items were checked out or in—not counting eBooks. It was a busy month.

“Virtually,” the library received 1400 new Facebook “Likes” and there were over 3,000 online visitors to the Branch Out page created specifically for this celebration. Special posters, some in Spanish and in English, 6000 Branch out brochures and bookmarks were created and distributed throughout the area. The Library went outside its walls and showed up at the Berkeley Bay Festival, Off the Grid, Cal Day, Ashby Flea Market and the Berkeley City Preparedness Fair.

A survey taken from event evaluation forms showed that fifteen percent were first-time visitors to any Berkley Public Library. For twenty-one percent it was their first visit to that particular location and thirty-one percent had attended their first Library event. People learned about Branch Out events in a variety of ways: family and friends, local blogs, Library Staff, the Branch Out booklet, the Library website, email notices, posters in local businesses, Facebook, and flyers in the library.

Public comments from the surveys include:

  •     “Love the new South Branch Library; my kids love it and it’s great for my family.
  •     “Thanks! This was the most fun-filled April ever!”
  •     “It was awesome! So cool to see great music after hours and for free! Thank you!”
  •     “You guys rule!”
  •     “The Library should definitely have another barn dance!”
  •     “So awesome; this isn’t my grandma’s library!”

The Library staff worked very hard on this celebration. They are happy with the results. A few comment from staff:

  •  “I learned that the Library is willing to try a fresh approach to programs.”
  • “Staff really enjoyed showing off our branch to new patrons, we made many new cards this month! Our team really rallied around the effort, and   had a great time.”
  • “I think much of the success…was because staff were excited about it and enjoyed it themselves.”

“The staff and I feel that the month long celebration helped us get the message out that we are open! With the completion of the West Branch Library and an expansion of open hours in December it was essential we spread the word. Timing our celebration with National Library week was no accident. We wanted people to think of the Berkeley Public Library when they heard libraries mentioned – and I think it worked,” said Library Director, Donna Corbeil.

Staff is already planning events and promotion around several themes for the upcoming year. For information about upcoming events, please check out our website.