Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

We Need to Talk About LGBTQ Book Displays

A few days ago, an article surfaced that made it known that the director of Washington County libraries in Utah told their staff that they could not put up LGBTQ themed displays. Source: LGBTQ displays not allowed at any Washington County libraries. The reasoning is that the director didn’t want to alienate a part of the population, in this case meaning conservative community members who view the LGBTQ lifestyle to be sinful. The library’s position is that they don’t want to take a side in the debate, but the debate is about the basic humanity of LGBTQ people and by not allowing LGBTQ displays, they do in fact seem to be taking a side and proclaiming that a portion of the population they serve don’t deserve to exist in an environment that affords them basic human rights and dignity.

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I will be honest, I have been told at times that I could not put up displays for Pride and I have circumnavigated that request by putting up Pride displays that were less obvious. I have in my 25 years of being a YA librarian had two complaints about displays. One was for a Banned Books Week display and the adult complained that I was encouraging teens to be subversive and read banned books, which is exactly what I was doing. The second was for a display on social activism which highlighted books about teens being engaged in politics and the patrons complained that the library was “taking sides.” It was, we felt, a pretty neutral display that just encouraged teens to be engaged in their political lives, but we had enough complaints that I was asked by administration to modify the display, which I did. Displays are not beyond complaint and although most libraries have a materials challenge policy and process, they don’t for displays.

youareenough

In fact, a lot of libraries don’t have policy displays period. It’s something we’re expected to do, create space to do it in, and then we don’t do a lot of training or organization around the process. Displays are part of a library’s marketing plan. They are, more specifically, merchandising, and anyone tasked with doing displays in the library should study retail merchandising to get an idea about what retail outlets have found works and what doesn’t. This includes information such as where displays should be placed, how often they should be changed, and what constitutes an effective display. Library displays should be approached with the same intentionality that any other library business is.

Displays are, of course, a place where libraries are not in fact being neutral. What we choose to highlight or not makes a statement. Many libraries have also been told, for example, that they can not put up Black Lives Matter displays. Many of those same libraries will put up support your local police displays. This makes a statement to the public about who the library is and isn’t willing to support. Displays are not neutral. Every time we decide to put an item on display, we are magnifying that item over 100s of others that we could choose to magnify in our collections.

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Decisions about displays are primarily informed by the comfort and privilege of library staff. I have yet to meet a library administrator who wants to hear a patron complaint, and for just cause. What we can and can’t put on display is often just as much about the staff as it is about the communities that we serve. I’ll be honest, after the ordeal I went through when a patron complained about my BBW display and it went all the way to the board, I understand the desire to make safe displays. No library wants the PR that can come with a display challenge and no staff member wants to be the one standing before the board having to justify their display. The only time any of us wants to stand before the board is to be told that we are doing a job well done.

But if we truly understand librarianship, we must understand that a job well done means that we will occasionally be offending someone. According to recent statistics, approximately 50% of teens identify as LGBTQ. By saying that we won’t put LGBTQ teens on display, we are saying that we are willing to silence half of our teenage population. This is a group that has historically and continues to this present day to face widespread persecution and assaults on their mere existence. The rates of homelessness, bullying and suicide are incredibly high among LGBTQ youth. Our silence, our refusal to buy and amplify these voices makes us, libraries and librarians, complicit in these statistics. Let us always remember that helping teens find the books they need can, in fact, be literally life saving.

Anythink Libraries Anythink Libraries Visual Merchandising Guidelines

Visual Merchandising for Public Libraries

Building Displays That Move “the Merchandise”

Though to be honest, my ideas about LGBTQ displays are changing. It’s not that I think we shouldn’t have them, it’s that I think we need to be approaching the topic differently. Having a display of LGBTQ titles can still be seen as othering LGBTQ patrons. We are still separating them, drawing attention to their differences. I support more a movement towards inclusion. This means that every time we do a display in our libraries, we need to make sure some of the titles that are on our display are LGBTQ titles. That’s what inclusion looks like. So I focus less on having LGBTQ displays and more on making sure that I have LGBTQ titles on every display that I do. Doing a science fiction display? Some of those titles highlighted better feature people of color and LGBTQ people. In fact, if each display you do doesn’t feature LGBTQ titles, you’re doing your displays wrong.

When I read about this declaration against LGBTQ displays, my first response was that of course they should have LGBTQ displays and that it was a violation of everything we stand for as librarians for this director to declare that this library system couldn’t have them. My second thought was, no we shouldn’t have LGBTQ displays, but not because of the reasons stated in the press, but because every display a library does should feature LGBTQ titles.

Telling out staff that we can’t put up LGBTQ displays means that we are telling our staff and our communities that this group of people are wrong and shouldn’t somehow be celebrated. We put up Black History Month displays. We put up Women’s History Month displays. But when it comes to Pride month, we stay silent because this is a group of people we aren’t willing to celebrate and that silence sends a profound message to everyone who identifies as being a part of the LGBTQ community, including our staff. Declarations that we can’t put up LGBTQ displays because we are putting the comfort of one group of people above the literal humanity of another is a troubling practice.

No, it’s a deadly practice. It’s important for us to remember that the LGBTQ community still faces extreme violence, discrimination and death. Right now we have legislators discussing whether or not people should be able to deny basic services to the LGBTQ community because of their religious beliefs. This means that if the person who shows up on the ambulance wants to deny you life saving measures because their religion is anti-LGBTQ, then they would be free to do so.  It is no exaggeration to say that this issue is a matter of life and death, and public libraries who want to push aside a part of their community in this way are making and speaking proclamations about just who it is that gets to have a voice. It’s not a neutral decision, it’s a deadly one.

Rethinking Book Displays – Again

Display Coffin

I am very lucky in that I have two very artistic assistants who do displays for our teens. After 20some years doing displays, I was getting kind of burned out and to be honest, I wasn’t awesome at it. But my assistants are, so it was a task I was happy to delegate. We would work together to come up with themes and I would put together book lists, but my assistants did all the artwork. It was win-win and a great team effort. We were all proud of the displays we were doing. I mean, look at these awesome displays . . .

Display Teen Videogaming Display Once Upon a Crime display6 Display Stranger Thingsdisplay5

My assistants put together elaborate and artistic displays that often involved custom made letters, artwork and a lot of bling. They were amazing to look at. The only problem is, they weren’t doing what we needed them to do: nobody was checking the books off of the displays. We were doing displays to help get teens reading and books circulating, but the books were sitting there on the displays without being checked out. This became a concern. So we put our heads together and started asking what we could or needed to do differently.

After a lot of discussion, we decided that maybe it was because our displays were too good. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but think of what happens when you visit an art museum. You are taught to stand back and look at the artwork from a distance with admiration and respect. Look, but don’t touch. So we wondered if maybe patrons weren’t viewing our book displays in the same way that you might view art at an art museum: look, but don’t touch.

So we began a series of experiments. First, we pared down the amount of bling we had on our display, but still had a colorful background. We wanted to still have colorful, eye catching displays but didn’t want to intimidate our patrons and make them think that they couldn’t walk up to the display and check out a book. And thus our experiment began . . .

display3 display4Display Social Justice

This still didn’t create the result we wanted. One or two books would circulate, but on the whole our displays still weren’t moving books the way we wanted them to.

So then we decided to pare down our display to the very basics and put the emphasis on the books. We went with bare walls, a simple sign and books galore. When possible, we would include interactive elements, such as this what YA would you like to see on Netflix display where we invited teens to participate and share their thoughts with us. Or we are including buttons like the display below that has an “I Read Past My Bedtime” button to take when checking out a book from our Read Past Your Bedtime display. We even include signage that says things like, yes please check these books out and read them.

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At this bare minimum, we discovered that yes, the books were being circulated off of the displays more. In fact, in the Netflix themed display you see above, we filled more holes than we ever have on one of our YA displays. This made us very happy; our goal is, after all, to get books into the hands of readers.

We are going to be continuing this experiment for a while as we try to determine how best to utilize our display space to increase circulation and get YA books into the hands of teen readers. Let us know below by leaving a comment what you’re doing with your display spaces and what you have found to be the most effective ways to get books circulating off of a display.

The Display Must Go On: How We Developed a Display Playbook to Help Guide the Display Process

Displays are my arch nemesis. This wasn’t always the case, but after 22 years working as a YA librarian, I was beginning to feel burned out on displays.

Let’s be honest, displays take a lot of work. There’s planning, creating book lists, and then – what for me is the hardest part – trying to use non-existent art skills to turn an idea in my head into an attractive reality. I have often felt like when I do displays I see a Picasso in my head, but what it gets translated into is the art work of a toddler who can’t color inside the lines because of a lack of fine motor skills. It can be discouraging. It’s another one of those instances where you sign up to be a librarian but don’t realize that you also need to be an artist.

But then a miracle happened: I got assistants who WANT TO DO THE DISPLAYS. It feels like Christmas every day. But coordinating displays between two assistants takes a bit of organization and planning. Organization and planning that I should have been doing all along to be honest. Thus, the display notebook was born (inspired in part by our Circulation staff who also works at coordinating displays between several different people).

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Here’s what’s in the display notebook:

Part 1: Display Guidelines

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I’m a firm believer that it’s important for all of us to have a basic understanding of what we are doing and why, thus guidelines. The guidelines remind staff to make sure and do some basic checking before completing a display. This includes making sure each and every display contains diverse titles, for example. I rewrote the display guidelines from a previous position to fit the parameters for my new library. You can read them here if you would like: YA Displays and Merchandising 2017

Part 2: The Display Schedule

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We have a loosely agreed upon display schedule outlined for the entire year. We change displays every 2 weeks and the schedule lets each staff member know when they are doing displays. Some of the display weeks are already thematically designed. For example, there are certain events, dates or programs that are on the schedule that we know we have to do a display for. Other weeks are open ended. The staff for that display gets to choose their display idea, they just have to have it approved by the department head.

Part 3: A Record of Displays

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We take a picture of each display and print them off to be put in the notebook with the dates of the display written on it. This way, we know what displays we’ve done. We can repeat wildly successful ones if we so choose. But we can also look at these displays and fill in any holes that we might notice we have, whether that be a genre or a topic that we haven’t highlighted in a while.

Part 4: Display Ideas

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We do have a section in the notebook for displays that we want to do in the future. We also have a Pinterest board where staff go in and pin display ideas. We use both because sometimes you see something quickly online and aren’t in a position to pin it, but can easily print it off. You can see our Pinterest board on display ideas here.

As a side note, doing the displays also helps my assistants develop some better understanding of the YA collection. They are not librarians and they don’t really work with the collection, so building displays helps them learn more about the various titles in our collection. I create a list of titles for each display, but they physically handle each book and get some of the genre, themes, authors reinforced. While helping me do displays, they’re learning more about YA literature and our collection.

This is what’s currently working for my YA department. And look at this display, I never could have made this display promoting our Teen Videogaming program on my own:

displayThe display will go on!

TPiB: Self Directed Displays in Action

A few weeks back I posted about self-directed displays and how they are a life-saver for when things go wrong and you NEED something to pop. However, they are also particularly awesome for gaining interest in things you are already doing- whether it’s a program, or drawing interest to a particular collection, or anything else within the library.

I’ve started doing a self-directed contest style display every week for a month now, and the stats have proven that the time it takes to put it together more makes it worthwhile.  Taking a theme (Banned Books Week, Star Wars Reads Week, Playaway Collection, Teen Read Week), I was able to:
  • interact with current patrons
  • interact with new patrons
  • get the chance to sell programs in the library
  • draw attention to things we were already doing but patrons may have missed
  • actively gain statistics for a week-long program that took minimal staff planning time and funds
  • gain positive publicity within the library by piquing the curiosity
  • get patrons to come back to the library to find out a.) who won, and b.) what the next display is about
Curious about what I’ve been doing? Click through to see the pictures!


BANNED BOOKS WEEK


I took plastic jars like these (these are rice jars, but you could use any plastic container- as soon as we’re cleared for FY2014, I’m going to be upgrading to a more sturdy container and a shadowbox to give me more options), and took the labels off using goo-gone.  
 I then took one of our weeded copies of Captain Underpants, shredded it, and placed it in the jar. 

I then created my display, placing other challenged books from our collection, a sign explaining what was going on, and my entry form for patrons to guess the book. Those who guessed correctly were entered to win copies of the book. 
I had 23 entries.

STAR WARS READS WEEK

Using the same jars and inspiration from my co-blogger Robin, I used Reece’s Pieces cereal and a pair of Yoda earbuds that I found on clearance at a big box store. I buried Master Yoda in the *cough* Ewok poop, counting each piece.

I then created my display, using our library mascots, books from our collection, and props given away from the Star Wars Reads Day marketing team.

I ran it Monday through Saturday, ending it during our Star Wars Reads Day program. We had 25 entries.

TEEN READ WEEK DISPLAY

For Teen Read Week, I’ve taken a loose interpretation of Seek the Unknown. I have my teen movie night that week, and we’re having a teen reading contest throughout the system as well. Since my location is not open the Sunday TRW starts, I’m actually launching the contest early, and opening it up to all. This time, I’ve let loose the fluffy marshmallow candies.

The mascots are dressed for Halloween, and will be sitting around the container. Entries will be accepted through October 19, with the winner drawn October 21. The one who is closest to the correct number of marshmallow birds will win the birds.

Because for this contest, Bird is the Word.
 
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4thNIrzqUXs?rel=0]

Karen’s note: I can not tell you how much fun we have had walking around saying Ewok Poop.  My Tweens love it!


TPiB: Self Directed Displays for the Last Minute


We all have the best of intentions for our libraries and the most creative ideas. We’ve scoured the internet and pinterest, culled and shared ideas through listservs and friends, and made plans to do the most AMAZING things. And then that thing known as life smacks you upside the head and laughs and says, “HAHAHAHAHAHA, WRONG!” It could be that someone calls in sick, it could be that someone higher up needs something immediately, it could be that another section of the library got your funding, it could be that something in your personal life just explodes- it doesn’t matter why or how, but now your huge plans for a program CANNOT be pulled off.

So what do you do? You NEED something for the idea, you HAVE to have the statistics to recognize the work, and you WANT to have something there for the teens. Right?


We’ve got an answer: Self Directed Displays.


I know, you’re thinking:



Self-directed is what we at Teen Librarian Toolbox call what is typically called passive programming. The reason we call it self-directed is because passive programming actually has a negative connotation in managerial and adminstrative speak. If it’s passive, then they think that there wasn’t any work involved in the planning and implementation of the program. We all know that that is NOT true. What we’ve been trying to say for years is that this type of program is not staff directed (i.e. there is not a staff person to lead/guide/present). Therefore, if it’s not staff directed it’s a self directed program. 

And the easiest type of these are displays!

For a basic display (best for advertising upcoming new programs like Lego Clubs, Star Wars Reads Day, Halloween Festivals, Teen Nights, etc), you need:

  • an idea or theme
  • some type of container with at least one clear side
  • things to put in it
  • a flyer/poster to explain what you’re doing
  • a dedicated space for the time you want the display
For a contest display (even better to launch new programs, or to celebrate event weeks like Banned Books Week, Teen Read Week, new technology coming to the system), you would need to add in:
  • a form for entries
  • golf pencils
  • a dedicated place for entries to go (whether that would be turning them in to a certain area or a separate container)
  • a prize or two (which can be as little or as much as you like, be it waiving fines off the winner’s card, or an extra computer turn, or a free book, or donations from local vendors, or what’s in the container)
Containers can be as simple as something that you have at home. Karen has the idea of using those huge containers you can get from animal crackers or pretzels, but my staff get the flying heebie-jeebies when inanimate objects stare at them (I don’t know why, I like the googly eyes on my monitor, but then again, I like my staff happy). Since we’re at the end of our fiscal year, I’m going to plastic rice jars from home:
At the start of next fiscal year, I have plans to purchase some shadow box frames as well as hinged glass jars so that we have more options.

As for IDEAS, I have a running list. The ones that are coming up in the next month or so:
  • I’ve gotten beat-up copies of Captain Underpants from area garage sales, and am going to shred them and place them in a jar for Banned Books Week next week. According to the ALA, the series was the most challenged series for 2012. I’m including parts of the cover, and tweens and teens will have to guess what the book is in the jar. Of those that guess correctly, I’ll draw winners and they’ll get copies of the book as well as other freebie prizes that I have in my office.
  • We are celebrating Star Wars Reads Day 2 at my library, so I’m going to have a frame showing off buttons that we’ve gotten advertising the new Jedi Academy series, as well as a jar stuffed with origami yodas. Winners will get prizes that were left over from the swag box we got last year.
  • Teen Read Week is October 13-19 with the theme Seek the Unknown and I’m hoping that I can get some really weird alien candy or alien shaped toys to pop into jars. Being in Texas we never know what the weather is going to be, and the AC turns off when the library is not open- anything chocolate in those containers is going to melt (not to mention the staff will eat it), so I’m looking for inferior but less temperature-sensitive forms of candy. 
  • Halloween is always huge at my library, including a community festival in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation department in our shared building. We dress up, have games and crafts, and have a special day set aside for the festival. I think this calls for guessing how much candy corn or how many pumpkins are in the jar.
  • We recently got funding for the FY2014 year to start Makerspaces with Legos and Raspberry Pis. Advertising the start of a Lego Club by showing off the Legos in the containers, or making it a contest by guessing how MANY Legos are in the container, with the prize being the tween/teen who wins gets to set the theme for the first Lego program.
  • Advertising our new upcoming upgraded reservation system by taking an old computer keyboard and popping off the keys, and intermixing those with the old computer reservation slips, and a sign explaining what exactly it is.
  • Colorful fake leaves in a jar on display with a sign reminding people that we’re going to be closed for Thanksgiving. Turning into a contest, you could ask people to research and discover WHEN Thanksgiving became an official holiday, and cite their source.
  • My teens are extremely excited for November and December to come for the new movie releases. Thor: Dark World, Catching Fire, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug are only some of the ones that they are excited about. I can absolutely turn their excitement into programming stats by taking my self directed displays and getting something to go in them so they’re guessing or signing up for text messaging or email notifications of programs.
What ideas for self directed displays and contests/programs can you think of? Share in the comments below!

TPiB: 5 Things To Do With Post-Its In Your Library

With only a few minutes and a couple dollars, you can do some really creative and engaging things.  Check out these ideas, take a look around your space, grab some sticky notes and see what you can do!

Encourage teens to write poems to share on a wall or window, or encourage them to copy favorite lines and share them like the Durham County Library did.

Stick secret notes into favorite books for teens to discover, or add to.  Reading is social, even if it’s secretly social as this Post Secret submission reminds us.

Get some heart shaped notes and stick them on book covers for a Books We Love display, and add a line or two about why you love the book.  This could also work for star shaped notes to highlight Award Winners.
Nyan Cat!  Stacey at the Naperville Public Library explains how she did it, but you could use the technique for any other pixel art project you can think of.
Use them to write crib notes to yourself when you do booktalks.  It’s easier than note cards because it’s less to hold and allows you to pick up any book and instantly have your notes attached.  I can’t be the only one who can never remember how old characters are, or needs a few key words to jog my memory of the fabulous hook I want to leave for teens, right?
Got some more good ideas?  Share ’em in the comments!
-Heather

#mustacheyoutoread (Join the campaign!)

It all began because Kearsten, the teen services librarian at Glendale Public Library in Arizona,  Tweeted us a picture of a display she put together.  More accurately, she came up with the idea and her teen volunteers helped her put the display together.  It was simple really, but genius.  Her teens held up a fake mustache and a copy of the book they recommended and the slogan was: We #mustacheyoutoread.

So now we are on a campaign and we need your help.  We want to help these teens go viral.  So join us on Twitter please.  Tweet your book recommendations with the tag #mustacheyoutoread.  Bonus points if you include a picture of yourself with a fake mustache and the book you are recommending.  You can cut out paper mustaches or draw mustaches on your finger for the ever popular fingerstache.  Please include an @GlendaleTeenLib so the teens will see it.

Here are some of their pics . . .

Join me in supporting these teens, pretty please.  Tweet them today.  You can find Kearsten on Twitter @Kearsten or here at the beginning of each month with her booktalks.  Also, please leave them a comment.  If you do Tweet them, you can copy and paste the link to your Tweet in the comments.  Christie G. has been going to town with this and has a lot of fun pics.  And this was obviously the inspiration for our TLT holiday card.

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

First off, I realize not everyone has an iPhone and I apologize.  Also, I don’t know if the apps are available on other form platforms, but if they are – I recommend you check them out. 

When trying to come up with images to promote activities, reads, etc – well, sometimes I just can’t find something I think will work well so I have had to find an easy way to go out and create them on my own. I am not super talented at this, nor do I have a lot of time, so I need quick, easy and cheap tools.  Thankfully, I have found there are a ton of iPhone apps that help me fill the bill.

Along the way I have come to understand that teens love it when you use THEM in your images.  How fun is it to walk into your local library’s teen area and be able to say to your friends, hey that’s me?  It makes it feel more personal and cultivates that same sense of ownership that librarian’s try to achieve through advisory boards.  Check to see if your library has a policy for the use of photos, and then get creating.  You can create images to share online, in marketing tools and to decorate your teen space.  You can also ask your teens to create images and share them with you so that you can use them this way.  This is a great way to promote your teen area, teen services in general, or specific programs and events.

Made in Publisher using a variety of pics and some Wordle art

Imagine clicking on a short promo video for a library’s teen summer reading club and seeing your friends promoting it – it gives it a sense of fun.  It’s the ultimate way of tapping into teens and their peer orientation.  And the bonus is that teens are more likely to spread the word if they have that type of buy in.

So, here they are

1.Hipstamatic – This is my favorite camera app.  The basic package starts at $1.99 and then you can purchase additional film/lens/flash packs.  You want to be sure and buy the additional b&w package for some amazing b&w images.  This is a simple point and click camera, but it produces the most amazing looking images.  You’ll want to practice with it to find out what combinations create which affects, but they have a new contest feature on the app which gives some examples and they tell you which combinations were used to create each image.  The only downfall to this camera app is that what you see in through the image finder is not true to what is being taken, the perspective is a bit off.

Made in PowerPoint using a pic taken with Hipstamatic

2.  Pocketbooth – This app lets you create a 4 image photo strip like you would take in a photobooth.  It is easy and fun.  You can create this type of image using a variety of software editing tools pretty easily, but this app takes the pictures 1 after another pretty quickly like you are sitting in the actual photo booth.  You can choose black and white or color so there are options.

3.  Wordfoto – This app lets you take a photo and input a saying and then it recreates the photo out of words.  There are some ways of fine tuning the way it looks, but at the end of the day some photos work well in this app and other do not.

4.  Photo Shake – This app lets you input a bunch of pictures and create a collage.  This is a more extensive tool that takes a while to figure out how to use it successfully, but once you do it is worth it.

5.  Zombie Booth – Who doesn’t love zombies?  Take a picture of a teen and zombify them.  Yes, I know that isn’t a word.  Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, also has a zombie app but it is kind of lame – but the book is awesome!  I prefer this app.

6.  Adobe Photoshop – It is a more simplistic version of the popular software, you can do less but it is easier to use.  Great for adding a border or making a picture tinted.

7.  Photoforge – This app let’s you manipulate pictures more extensively than the Adobe app, but it is more complicated to use.

8.  Color Splash – This app takes a color picture, turns and black and white, and allows you to colorize a part of the picture for emphasis.  It can make amazing images.

9.  Super 8 – This is a video camera app that allows you to make old Super 8 looking movies.  It is a tie-in to the recent Super 8 movie.  You and your teens can make some fun promotional videos with this app.

10.  Comic Book – This app is a quick, easy way to put your pictures from your photo library into a comic book format.  There are a variety of layouts, word bubbles, and stickers to add.
Each app is just a tool, and are only successful if you use them.  So practice.  Then you can use your images on your FB page, webpage, blog, signs, posters and more.  You and your teens can get creative and have fun.  You can work together, have contests, and promote, promote, promote!
Please note: I am not involved in any way with any of these apps and I make no money from recommending them.  I just like to use them in a variety of tools because they do what I need them to do.

Another great part about creating your own images to use in promotional materials – you don’t have to worry about copyright issues.
And let me take a moment to make the unconventional suggestion that your library purchase an iPhone for library use.  Not only will this allow you to have one in house for the purposes listed above, but it gives you a library cell phone to use should you be in a program and need to call for additional supplies or help.  And really, with the wide number and variety of apps available, you can do a lot of things with it.  And no, I am not paid by Apple in any way.