Have a Grand Opening Ceremony – It’s Important
One of the key steps to starting a Little Free Library is the Grand Opening Ceremony. If you don’t know what that is, a Grand Opening Ceremony is an event where the Library steward invites his or her community to celebrate their brand new Library. It may involve a ribbon-cutting, snacks, story time for kids or other book-related activities.
We encourage every new steward to have one because it accomplishes several important things:
- It increases awareness of the Little Free Library in the neighborhood and community. After all, if people don’t know that your Library exists, they’re not going to use it.
- It brings people together. Little Free Libraries are about community connection and sharing a love of reading.
- It encourages a sense of shared ownership. This is really, really important because, let’s face it, your sole purpose in life is not to take care of this Library. You have other things going on. If you try to be the only person who constantly stocks it with books, cleans it and keeps an eye on it, you’re going to burn out. You need other people to help you!
Rhonda Adams is the steward of Library #33601 in Zionsville, Indiana. “I have been very active in our newly built Rock Bridge neighborhood over the past 10 years and I’m an avid reader,” Rhonda said. “When a Little Free Library popped up in front of our elementary school this fall, I knew I had to put one up in my neighborhood. Since I love to involve others in the community, my mind started running through all the things I could do to have more people involved in this project.”
Good Promotion Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s A Simple Series of Steps
Rhonda managed to get around 150 people to attend her Little Free Library’s Grand Opening and just about the whole town knew about it, which is one of the most wildly successful events we’ve heard of!
She didn’t do anything crazy or exceptional, either. In fact, she followed a simple series of steps that just about anyone can take. OK, if you live in a seriously tiny town or on a remote mountain top, then you’re right, this may not apply to you. But even if your town has just a few hundred people, you could still get Rhonda’s results. Here is the formula she followed:
- Brainstorm the resources that are already in your area. Service groups, local businesses, schools, your Home Owner’s Association (HOA), the public library, community centers, food banks, dog parks — all of these people would be interested in spreading the word about a Little Free Library. Rhonda contacted her local HOA for support, then she reached out to the local newspaper to get an old newspaper box that she transformed into a Library. Next she contacted her neighbor’s Girl Scout Troop and asked if they wanted to decorate the Library.
- Plan some book-related activities to have at your Grand Opening. More people are likely to come if there will be fun, family-friendly things to do. Rhonda provided ice cream bars, had a big book swap, set up a table where kids could make bookmarks, and had a local author come and do a book giveaway. Talk about fun!
- Use social media to spread the word. Rhonda created a Facebook page for her Library and posted updates. She also posted on Nextdoor.com. These are free resources that you can use, too. In addition, you could try posting on other local Facebook pages; your HOA and other local businesses and groups probably have their own pages where you can post. Instagram and Twitter are other social media outlets you could use.
- Tell local media. That means TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, online calendars, email lists (schools, especially, often have email lists where they announce local events), neighborhood newsletters and any other outlet you can think of. Rhonda used the press release that we offer on our Stewards Resources page as a base and she customized it to suit her needs. She sent that press release, along with an adorable photo of the Girl Scout Troop who decorated her Library, to every news outlet she could think of. She created posters and put them up around town. Pretty much, she went bananas with it, and it paid off.
Here’s Exactly How She Did It
“First, I contacted our HOA to get approval for our Little Free Library. They loved the idea and gave me $100 to work with. Since it was going to be in a common area near the bike path, I knew it had to withstand the Indiana winters, and that I wasn’t going to be able to keep constant watch over it.
“After looking on Pinterest for ideas, I decided to contact the Indianapolis Star newspaper to see about getting a newspaper box. They sold one to me for $25. Awesome!
“My neighbor is the Brownie Troop Leader to many neighborhood girls, so I contacted her asking if the girls would want to paint it. They were ecstatic! We decided on a Dr. Seuss theme because there are some great quotes about reading and the kids did a Seussical play at school this spring. Another neighbor created the quotes for the sides using vinyl lettering. I posted on our local Facebook Marketplace site that I was looking to buy a bench to repaint and put next to our Library, and I found one for $20.
“After I acquired the newspaper box, I set up a Facebook page for our Library, and invited all of my neighbors to “like” the page. This is where I posted pictures of the progress and thanked people for their book donations. I even had 3 publishers send boxes of books after sending out around 50 letters. I also added our neighborhood on NextDoor.com and invited people to “like” our new Facebook page on there as well.
“Once I started thinking about the Grand Opening, I knew more of our small town of Zionsville should be involved. We have a local published author, Amy Sorrells, who lives in our neighborhood. After asking if she would like to come and sign books, we set the date to promote her new book as well as the Library at the Grand Opening.
“Next, I asked a new artist in town if she would like to come and make bookmarks with the kids, and promote her new business that caters to kids art classes. I then invited our new ice cream shop to bring their ice cream cart and sell ice cream.
“I did a lot of advertising for our Grand Opening. I created a Facebook event and invited everyone local, including posting it on my own wall. I posted an event on NextDoor.com and also promoted it on our neighborhood Facebook page. I then made a press release and emailed it to our local Zionsville Times Sentinel Newspaper, the Current in Zionsville Newspaper, and the Indianapolis Star Newspaper. I went online and added our Grand Opening event to the online event calendars for Indy Child Magazine, Indy with Kids, and three local television stations. I also hung a few posters around town.
“The week before our event, the Current in Zionsville Newspaper called me for a phone interview and asked me to send a couple pictures. They ran the article the day before our Grand Opening and had the date, time and location mentioned at the end of the article!
“Our two hour Grand Opening was a huge success. I’d estimate that had about 150 people come during that time. After all the advertising, I honestly think most of the people that came were from my neighborhood. I know some family friends came from other neighborhoods nearby, but most were from here. The kids were, and still are, really excited to have a Little Free Library in our neighborhood. I’m hoping it is well used and gets more kids, and adults, excited about reading!”