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The strategy that drove over 2,000 patrons to one library event

Welcome to episode 002 of Library Figures. In each episode, we interview a new guest and hear about one of their favorite marketing strategies. In this episode, we’ll be speaking to library marketing expert Kimberly Crowder, about her strategy for promoting key library events. She’ll be sharing with us how she and her team managed to attract over 2,000 people to the opening of their new Center for Black Literature and Culture.

“1,000 people was the target, but 2,000 people came. I will also tell you more than that came, but they didn’t get in.”


This is a great episode with a lot of information. Whether you’re promoting a single large scale event or a whole bunch of small monthly programs, there’s going to be something in this episode for you. One of my favorites takeaways personally, was learning how Kimberly used a Facebook event page to successfully generate a total 4,479 responses for her event. I don’t know about you, but most marketers I know struggle to get any more than a 100 responses. Kimberly opens up her playbook and shares this information along with many more strategies you don’t want to miss.

Takeaways from this episode:

  • The promotional strategy Kimberly used to double their attendee goal;
  • How they determined the right audience to target for their event;
  • Successfully using Facebook to drive awareness;
  • Leveraging influencers in your community to create buzz;
  • Use your marketing skills to tackle a crisis and set expectations.

For more ideas on promoting library events check out this episode on boosting event attendance or Piola’s library event calendar.

By the way, if you’re curious what it looks like when you ask a crazy talented marketer and her team to promote your library’s event than check out this short video.

It’s with great pleasure that we that we introduce you to episode 002 of Library Figures with Kim Crowder.

Read the Episode Below

[00:00:32] Tyler Byrd:
Hey, all! Welcome back for episode two of Library Figures. I’m really excited again today to introduce you to Kimberly Crowder. Kimberly was introduced to us by Angela from episode one. When I asked at the end of episode one, off the air, I said, “Hey, Angela, who would be the perfect second guest for us to interview?” Without hesitation, Angela gave me Kimberly’s name, and then pretty much immediately fired off an email introduction to the two of us. With that much enthusiasm, I’ve got to tell you, I personally was really excited to meet Kimberly, talk to her, and hear more about her experience in some of the things that she’s doing. Currently, Kimberly is serving as the marketing director for Indianapolis Public Library, but before that, her experience is really varied. Everything from public relations at Whole Foods to being a journalist for some local publications. A ton of experience when it comes to marketing and communications across the board, and she brings all of that experience into today’s topic about how they leveraged communication and some really cool tools to be able to promote their events, and drive more traffic, and a waiting list, where they actually had to turn away people. With that said, I want to jump in so you guys can hear the episode, and we’ll take it from there. Thanks for joining us for episode two, and let’s get to Kimberly.

Kim, thanks for joining me on the show today. Do you want to start off and introduce yourself to the guests and listeners that we have that might not know who you are?

[00:02:07] Kim Crowder:
Absolutely! Hi, I am Kim Crowder, currently director of communications for the Indianapolis Public Library. We have 24 branches. If I am not mistaken, of course you asked me this question and I should totally have these numbers off the top of my head, I’m the worst, but I will tell you for instance we have over ten million visits to our website. We serve Marion County, which is the largest county in Indiana.

[00:02:32] Tyler Byrd:
Nice. Ten Million visits to your website, is that a month or year?

Discussing library event promotion with Kimberly Crowder

[00:02:37] Kim Crowder:
You know what? That is a year.

[00:02:42] Tyler Byrd:
That is really good. You’re doing almost a million a month, just shy of that. That’s impressive! Nicely done.

[00:02:50] Kim Crowder:
We’re working on a website redesign, so we’re hoping that is either going to increase or people are going to really find what they need when they come to us.

[00:02:59] Tyler Byrd:
That makes sense. That seems like, if you’re doing ten million a year to your website, I would venture to guess it’s probably significantly better than traffic to any single branch. Would that be right?


She's redefining how we think about library websites.

[00:03:11] Kim Crowder:
Oh, yes. 10.2 million visits to our website a year. Two million circulation for our electronic materials, four million walk-in visits a year, 171,025 active library cards.

[00:03:25] Tyler Byrd:   
We had talked a little bit beforehand about some of the strategies that you’ve been using when it comes to events and kind of an overarching idea that you’ve had, that you’ve actually implemented when it comes to events, and marketing, and messaging. Do you want to give us a high-level overview of what you’ve been working on and what you’ve been doing?

[00:03:43] Kim Crowder:
Sure. You know what? I will specifically talk about what we have done in digital marketing, because I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to do, particularly with social media, with our website even though we don’t have a new, shiny website yet, some of the things that we’ve been able to do with the website thus far, and then all of that is part of our overall marketing and strategic strategy, where we do public relations of course, focusing on really the metrics about how people are finding information about the library. How are people getting to our website? Is social media driving that? What does that mean? How do people need to receive information from us in that sphere? That’s been a large portion of what we’re working on, here. Then, the last piece of that is a diversity inclusion in our marketing and communications overall.

[00:04:35] Tyler Byrd:  
Walk us through that. What’s that look like right now?

[00:04:38] Kim Crowder:
Right now, some of the things that we’re working on, and really a lot of this conversation will be driven by a specific event, which is the grand opening of our Center for Black Literature and Culture. I really wanted to talk about that, because it was campaigned. It was a campaign, so we had a beginning and end [Laughs] that we could very well measure, specifically the amount of attendees. So, our metric that we really wanted to hit was 1,000 attendees. No matter how much media we got, no matter how much social media we got, if the people didn’t show up, we didn’t do a good job. I am proud to say that we actually ended up doubling that.

[00:05:18] Tyler Byrd:
Wow. That’s good. To give us an idea, what would it be beforehand? What’s an average event look like?

[00:05:24] Kim Crowder:  
Let me explain what the Center for Black Literature and Culture is. It is basically a space in our central library, it’s a large space that’s dedicated to, as you can imagine, African American history and culture. That being said, for a regular event, it just depends on what we’re doing. If we are looking at an author, for instance, if we had Jeff McKinney, we’re looking at over 800 people. If we’re doing a story time, it could be down to 12. That number is so large. It just depends on the type of event we’re doing. This, I would equate to something like a branch opening, when you think about libraries wanting to open a new branch. Any of these methods can be used and scaled, no matter what type of event you’re really looking at.

[00:06:08] Tyler Byrd:
That sounds good. When it comes to a branch opening, would you say that’s similar to the book event, where you’d have maybe 800 people that you’d be targeting for or would be an average?

[00:06:19] Kim Crowder:
For an author talk? For us in particular, a branch opening, again it depends on the size of the branch. We could have a mid-sized branch, or if we’re opening a massive-sized branch. Why don’t I say that, if we’re opening a massive-sized branch, then we would probably do it within a week’s time, how many people we would want to travel through the doors. I have to tell you that, at this very moment, I don’t have that number for you. We’re actually opening some branches pretty soon, so we’re looking at strategy.

[00:06:51] Tyler Byrd:
You shot for 1,000, you got 2,000, that is really, really good. What was the strategy you used to get there, and how did that actually play out?

[00:07:02] Kim Crowder: 
The first piece of that, that I’d like to talk about, is our target audience, because I think that there are, would be some ideas about who the target audience was, considering this is the Center for Black Literature and Culture. It is not just African American. The way that we looked at target audience was not in the way of demographics, they need to make X-amount of money, or they needed to live in a certain part of town, because we just couldn’t do that. This was more of a, not only was it citywide, but we knew that we would pull in people, maybe from the state, but also outside of the state. We’re in an area where you can hop over to Kentucky or Illinois super easily. We really thought about this in the way of interests. What would groups be interested in. For instance, history, culture, local Indianapolis history but also Indiana state history. Diversity, black history, and we thought about the live speaker, who was Roland Martin. People who would be interested in that type of literature, because he’s a book writer, as well, or his type of commentary as well.

[00:08:14] Tyler Byrd:
That makes sense. I like that, because I think all too often organizations get in this place where it’s about what they feel is important, or what they like, or the messaging that feels right to them. You took it from very much the approach of, “What is it that our target audience is looking for, and what’s going to provide value to them, and what do they want to see?” That’s probably going to get them in the door better than if we took it from our perspective. Is that about right?

[00:08:39] Kim Crowder:
I agree with that, and I will tell you, in thinking that way, we were able to create messaging and look for ways to communicate with audiences that connected with those messages much easier instead of kind of doing the shot in the dark about, “Oh, if we knew that audience, what would they want?” It was, we know people have these interests. Here’s the information we know that they’ll want to know. It was just a much easier way for us to take things into a bite size, but also to create larger messaging so that all of these audience could connect with the same message over, and over, and over.

[00:09:16] Tyler Byrd:
That makes me think, we do this a lot in projects where we talk about guiding principles. We really try to work those out before we start any messaging, or any design, or strategy, or anything. Everything that we do, we bring back to those guiding principles, and say, “Hey, are we meeting our, are we still in line with those principles?” Because those are what will drive the success of what we’re trying to achieve overall. It sounds like that’s what you were working on as well, is here’s some of the values, here’s what our customers want to hear or patrons want to hear, or what they’re interested in. Then, how do we keep coming back to this on even, it sounds like, a social media post for an individual post basis.

[00:09:54] Kim Crowder:
Absolutely. I love that. It always answers the question of, “Who are you talking to and what do you want them to do?” Those are your main, just two questions. How do you make it super sweet and simple, and how do you always make sure that you are answering that question over, and over, and over again? You can say it in different ways, but you’ve always got to answer those two questions.

[00:10:18] Tyler Byrd:
Hey all. I wanted to share with you real fast about a webinar that we’ll be putting on the third Thursday of this month. For any of you out there that are struggling with your library’s current website, we’re putting together a webinar that’s going to cover some of the best tips and tricks that you can implement on your side to help with too much content, or poor content organization, ADA accessibility, and how to help people with disabilities use your website effectively. General design tips for how to improve the user experience and the user flow, and really overall how to make your website something that’s a little bit more patron-first and patron-centric. We want to give them the best experience possible, and we really want them to have something where they feel like it is the same experience they get if they came into a physical branch. At the end of the day, your website is really just your digital library branch, and it’s important that, for those patrons that are using digital services through your library, that they really are getting the best experience possible. Again, if you’re interested, head on over to That’s You’ll find the newest webinar series that we’re putting together, and I think it’s going to be a really big help for any of you out there that are looking to improve just a little bit, that user experience online. All right, let’s head back to our interview. Thanks!

[00:11:44] Tyler Byrd:
So, now you know what your customers are looking for and you have a strategy for it. Can you walk us through, what did one of the posts look like as an example that, do you have a post that was really successful, where you applied this as a methodology? And, you could say, “Hey, this is how we applied it, and this is the success we had.”

[00:12:01] Kim Crowder:
What was super successful for us was creating an event in Facebook. What we were able to do in that was, we almost created an RSVP party. People who responded, I’ll say this, for just alone, that Facebook event total responses was 4,479. I mean, bananas, right? If I’m not mistaken, more than half of those people actually said, like most of the people were saying, going. It wasn’t even like, “Oh, I’m just interested.” You take the interested, and you’re like, “Eh, maybe.” People were coming, and that was just online. That was not including the people who were hearing about it in other ways, just traditional advertising and print, radio. I’ll get to some of that, but we really found that, when we did that event post in general, we saw the level of interest immediately. I will tell you, a lot of the people saying, “I’m coming,” we saw that in the first few days. This wasn’t something where, of course it lived for a while, but in the first few days it went bananas. What we were really excited about is we saw how many people were sharing this information but also having conversation within that post. As we started to see how people were communicating, they were tagging friends, they’re going, “Hey, I’m going to this.” We started saying, “Oh, there should be an incentive for people who are following this.” We started using that as a sneak peek place. For folks who were loyal to us in that way, who were loyal to this event, we would leak little things here and there that we weren’t leaking broadly about what you would see and find in the center, or what you would see and find on the day of the grand opening.

[00:13:59] Tyler Byrd:
That is a cool idea. That is a really cool idea. I’ve seen some really, really big events that don’t even come close to getting that many people to RSVP on Facebook. Matter of fact, most people I know have zero success with Facebook events at all. This is really cool. I love the idea of rewarding the customers so that they stay engaged. That engagement is going to create more visibility amongst all of their friends and their peers on Facebook. It’s a great way to reward them, but also they continue to promote event. Nicely done.

[00:14:34] Kim Crowder:
Thank you. I’ll give you one example of that. You can’t see the Center for Black Literature and Culture. It’s really a gorgeous space, but imagine you’ve got these giant windows across one side of the room, and we put giant pictures of different black historical figures that were from Indiana or Indianapolis. We really tried to stay with Indianapolis, and then we grew that a little bit. You think about people like Vivica Fox, or Babyface, or Etheridge Knight, people that were really well-known, and for instance with Etheridge Knight’s image, what we did was we took a picture of it before it was out, even before it was hung, and that was one of the things that we previewed to people inside of the event. I will tell you that it received more than 100 likes in a matter of minutes and more than 227 likes total, 13 comments, and 25 shares overall.

[00:15:37] Tyler Byrd:

[00:15:38] Kim Crowder:
Yeah. It was like bait, literally, that’s how we would use things as bait. We would leak just enough information to get people excited, and then what we found is of course it revved the conversation again and again. As people commented, we made sure that we commented, so that we had that dialogue. I will tell you now, as opposed to when I was younger, the way that I see marketing and communications is it really does have to be a conversation. You can’t, anymore, have this separatist or non-relational experience with a customer. It very much so has to feel like the customer is a part of this conversation, and that the conversation is driven by them. You’re just like a spectator, and you’re adding here and there.

[00:16:29] Tyler Byrd:
That is so spot-on. I agree with you 100%. I love how you just continue to fuel that conversation by adding more content and that interaction. Too often I see people create either a website, or a social media post, or an event someplace, and they put it up there, and then they just leave it, and they think it’s that Field of Dreams movie. If I build it, they will come. They don’t come. It doesn’t work that way.

[00:16:53] Kim Crowder:
Not anymore, because you’re interacting with social media in particular all the time. Whether that’s Instagram, or Facebook, or Twitter, whatever your poison of choice is, you’re always, always interacting with it, and so that’s the new expectation of people, and so we looked at it as, it was our own personal channel. We could do PR, yes, and we were going to get PR on it, but we knew in these platforms we could control the messaging immediately. That also meant we had to do that when crisis hit, because there were a couple times when we had some things not go as planned, and so we were able to jump in and immediately message to people directly. I see your face, and you’re going, “I want to talk about that.”

[00:17:44] Tyler Byrd:
This is true. You can see me. [Laughs]

[00:17:47] Tyler Byrd:
Yeah, fill us in. Was this pre-event, that things were going wrong, you were postponing the schedule, or was this during the event, or what was that?

[00:17:57] Kim Crowder: 
There were a couple things. There was some miscommunication between us and one of the folks who was running the event for the CBLC, in that they created an eventbrite where people could go in and sign up for tickets. We’re a library, and so there was no payment, and we just didn’t want to limit people to tickets, because we knew that everyone wasn’t on social media. What we did was, basically, we found that people were saying, “Yes, I want a ticket. I want a ticket.” Or, we saw people commenting and saying, “Oh, I got two tickets,” and we’re going, “Oh, my gosh, this can’t happen.” So, we got rid of that, but we had to continue to tell people, “This is not a ticketed event.” Make sure you come early, because space is limited. Here’s what time door’s open, so making sure that people had that information regularly, and then, I will tell you, on the day of event, so I told you what? 1,000 people was the target, but 2,000 people came. I will also tell you more than that came, but they didn’t get in.

[00:19:00] Tyler Byrd:  
I’m curious how many came with tickets that didn’t get the message, because that would be such a big hurdle to overcome. When it gets out there, it’s hard to control sometimes, and if all the sudden you have people that think they still need that ticket, and they’re either showing up with the ticket, or not showing up because they couldn’t get a ticket, they thought. I imagine you still had that as an effect to some extent.

[00:19:21] Kim Crowder:
We didn’t hear so much that people were like, “Oh, I have my ticket, I didn’t get in.” Thank goodness. I think we caught it early enough. It was pretty much in the very infancy stages of starting to promote it. What we did here was, “I’m really upset I didn’t get to come in.” I showed up at the time they said the event was. We had people lining up at the door hours before. That was where we saw people be most disgruntled online, and really creating this messaging that, and oh my gosh, I have to tell you a story, that I got hospitalized a few days before the opening. I wasn’t at the opening. My team is running it, but I sat on social media so that, I could handle the crisis communication side of it. It was pretty…

[00:20:11] Tyler Byrd:

[00:20:12] Kim Crowder:
Yeah, because you go, “Oh, my gosh! I did all this work, and I can’t be there,” but also I think it was great in that I had to focus just on that part. My team was able to do other things on property, and I was able to focus on the social media piece, so we did have people say, “I didn’t get in.” The way we messaged that, of course, we said, “You know what? We’re so sorry. We’re so excited that everyone, that, you know, the community is excited about this, however we understand your frustrations.” We didn’t run from it. That’s the first thing. I know a lot of people in crisis communications tend to run from it. We answered immediately. We apologized. We said we know that this is a burden to you, please know that we would love to have you back anytime. Here’s when the center is open, and we’re looking forward to having you. Tying back to that message, we’re so sorry, but the only way we know to make it up to you is by coming back, because it is still your center, and you are still invited to come experience it even though you didn’t experience it in the way that you felt like you wanted to.

[00:21:16] Tyler Byrd:
Yeah, and then they don’t feel completely left out, too. They get to still come back to that, which is nice. It creates a little bit of awareness there, for that, “Hey, it is going to be open moving forward for you,” as a resource. I think that’s a good way to leverage that into a positive. Let me ask you this. Looking back, was there anything that you would do differently or that you thought would work out that didn’t work out, and you wouldn’t do again?

[00:21:40] Kim Crowder:
I don’t know that it is necessarily that we wouldn’t do it again. We learned the proper way to promote. We had some preview events that we did, and some of this I learned, I used to be in Houston. I’m originally from Houston, Texas, so anybody listening, hi y’all! [Laughs] Then, I worked for Whole Foods market. I was the community relations manager and media relations manager for Whole Foods market in Houston, and so when we would open up a new store, we would have a preview, and we would invite folks just from social media to come see it, so that they could help spread the word to their networks. Really super successful. I could do a whole other podcast on just one of those, but in particular, for this one, we thought, “We want to do that for a library, because people don’t always think about libraries in ways that folks are really excited that this is coming to their community.” It’s not just your congressman or your folks who have been staples in the community for the last 30 years, it’s younger people who are young professionals, mover and shakers, some people who are editors for hot magazines, and so those are the people we wanted to touch, but we knew if we did, because we did a breakfast for some of those folks that my CEO was tied into, which was great, but we knew the likelihood that they’re going to wake up in the morning and come to a breakfast before work is probably super thin. Let’s get people at night. Let’s give them a drink ticket or two. Let’s get them to come out. We’ll play music, and also really make the environment more relaxed, and run tours, and just have it available for them to ask people. Also, put in an environment where they know they’ll see their friends, or they’ll see people that they want to get to know. We originally tried to use an email marketing platform to send out an email blast, because we went through and basically gathered people’s information from social media on our own. We found that, frankly, we did not get the response that we needed that way. We had to go back to old school grassroots.

[00:23:51] Tyler Byrd:
When you say that, you went to their LinkedIn profile and tried to find their email address, and then you put them on your email list, and email them, and that didn’t work?

[00:23:59] Kim Crowder:
Nope. What ended up working was contacting them through LinkedIn, contacting them through Facebook, just sliding in people’s DMs. Contacting people on Instagram. Sometimes it took phone calls from partner organizations where we knew people, and also just telling that one person in an organization that we knew was important to get this word out to, and they would pass that along. We had a hashtag for the night, IndyPLCBLC, so Center for Black Literature and Culture. We had that hashtag available, and we encouraged people to take as many pictures as they wanted, use the hashtag, make sure they talked about it, and it ended up being about, I think we had over 70 folks come out… I’m sorry, about 50 people came, but they represented all kinds of different organizations throughout the city. We had a lot of artists, which was really great. Just people who were interested in, again, the culture, the history of Indianapolis, the black culture, and it was just a really great way that was different for us, to have conversations with folks who may not always show up to a library, but they may download audiobooks on their phone.

[00:25:18] Tyler Byrd:
Yeah, so this essentially, you’re talking about influencer marketing, and you’re using that as a pre-show, essentially. You were letting them into this space, was it? Beforehand, and then they were creating all the vibe and the content for you, and pushing it to their markets that look to them as influencers, and then wanted to come see it, because they had been there, and saw how cool it was from the perspective of the person that they appreciated.

[00:25:44] Kim Crowder:
That’s exactly right.

[00:25:46] Tyler Byrd:
That’s perfect. How early on did you do that? Is that pretty much in the beginning, or did you do it multiple times, or was it right before the event?

[00:25:54] Kim Crowder:
Sure. We ended up doing three events. One, as I mentioned, was our CEOs and more of the stately folks. Then, we did the influencers, and we also had a media preview. We did those two to three days out. It wasn’t this long, “Oh, you get to see it, like, three weeks before.” The reason we waited until it was close to it, we know people really need to ramp up and be reminded about things. Also, to create that immediate excitement. You can live with excitement for two days, but three weeks ago, maybe I remember, maybe something else came up, but we knew that if we could get people excited closer to the event, the more likely they were to remember that and to come out.

[00:26:42] Tyler Byrd:
Let me ask you this. Is there a piece of advice that you would give other libraries that are looking at event marketing and trying to be more successful? What one piece of advice would you give them?

[00:26:53] Kim Crowder:
I would say start with that audience. Know who your audience is, and make sure that you don’t pigeon-hole your audience into the traditional sense of what demographics are, that it would be more behavioral. Especially for libraries, where we don’t always get to have all of the data that for-profit organizations get to have about their customers, the best way that we can really get to know our customers is through behaviors and through interests. Then, in that, just because this ties right along, then create those messages around knowing the interests and the behaviors of those audiences that you choose.

[00:27:39] Tyler Byrd:
Awesome. Thank you for that. Kim, if we had someone out there that’s listening, that wants to talk to you and pick your brain a little bit more about this topic, how can they get ahold of you?

[00:27:49] Kim Crowder:
Absolutely. Pick my brain. They can find me at kimberly(K-I-M-B-E-R-L-Y).crowder(C-R-O-W-D-E-R), or you can find me at work at kcrowder(K-C-R-O-W-D-E-R) “Indy”

[00:28:11] Tyler Byrd:
Perfect! We’ll put both of those in the show notes. If it’s okay with you, I’d love to get a link to the event on Facebook, and maybe some of those social media posts, and we’ll put them up there as well, for people to be able to come, and check out, and download, and kind of see as examples, if that’s all right.

[00:28:25] Kim Crowder:
Absolutely. We’d love to do that for you.

[00:28:28] Tyler Byrd:
Awesome. With that, we’ll go ahead and wrap it up, and Kim thank you again so much for joining me on the show today. I really appreciate it.

[00:28:35] Kim Crowder:
Thank you, Tyler! I appreciate it, too.

[00:28:40] Tyler Byrd:
Before we head out, just a couple more quick things. If you know somebody that you think would be a great guest on this podcast, and you’d like to hear us interview them, I’d love the opportunity. Send me their name and their contact information at, that’s I’ll do all the hard work of reaching out and getting them scheduled, so that all of our listeners will have the opportunity to learn more from them about the great marketing strategies that they might be using. We’re constantly looking for new guests and great guests on the show, and I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet with your connections and get them up here to learn more. Second, if you’re enjoying the podcast episodes, and so far you like what you hear on Library Figures and the content, head over to iTunes. You can subscribe to the podcast to get future episodes. While you’re there, if you could give us a five-star rating, that’d go a long way in letting us know that you like the content, and you like the show, and we should continue doing it. Until next time all, I look forward to being on the air again in the next great interview we’ll have up. Take care! We’ll see you next time.

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