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Selling Community as Literacy

As I became the T-L for our library I asked myself – what can I do to encourage learner habits when it comes to how and why the library is used for literacy?

Literacy in high school is knowing your market’s motivations in putting down their phones and picking up a literacy learning tool. One of the best tools I have found being used are phones – once a reset in their use becomes apparent to the learner – back to motivations. Foundational research by Piaget and the theory of genetic epistemology – the impact of a learner’s developing cognitive process on the acquisition of knowledge (1929), Bruner’s theory of constructivism referring to the formation of new ideas or knowledge based upon prior or current ones (1977), and Feuerstein on mediated learning experience suggesting intelligence is dynamic and can be modified if given the right stimulation and environment (1980) (Mokhtar, Majid & Foo 2008). Therefore, literacy strategies in marketing for my library become habitual, cultural, and community designs to shift behaviour in the learners focusing primarily on optional or pleasure reading. The divide between elementary and high school library programs for reading is very apparent when studying the leisure reading habits of teens. No longer “forced” to go the library, it takes other strategies to change habits. Here is what I have found to work so far:

1) Genrefication or becoming a bookstore

The circulation has nearly tripled in my library this year by doing one simple thing – creating the right physical display and access to books that appeals to readers. By categorizing physically, the fiction titles in our collection under mainstream bookstore headings, and by replicating similar shelving style as found in those stores, the number of actual patrons has doubled. This is without additional promotions included (those are another strategy that comes up later). Signage, placing books cover out on shelves, and promotions (see below). In the future, I would like to bring in additional titles with specific theme focuses for a reading club – focusing on “the hotness” of an author or title. This ties in with a “coffee shop” approach to the front entry design of the library to invite casual reading areas where learners can eat lunch, have a coffee, or socialize.

2) Film Fridays – Cross medium exploration of story

Every Friday we show a film in the library to encourage existing patrons to return and bring in new ones. A display of books associated with the film is part of the marketing. For instance, watching a Star Wars TV show series and creating a display of Star Wars novels, graphics novels, etc. at the entrance to the library. This has had decent success in highlighting titles library members had forgotten about and requests for new titles.

3) Make it a destination – everyday is an event

This coincides with the last entry in that the library has become a place to visit because something is going on to lure members in for lunch time activities. Along with Film Fridays, we have popcorn and candy sales on Wednesdays and Fridays, table-top game and card game tournaments after school monthly. The crossover effect of these events is that there is tie in with a novel line (the games have successful titles in novel and graphic novel form). Networks are formed through these regular events as learners do not act in isolation, but within the membership of a community as a social constructivist design (Doge 2018). Further, there is a regular Dungeons and Dragons group that plays weekly, requesting new materials and novels increasing readership within this speciality and creating a positive influence on literacy (Kaylor 2017).

4) Membership has its privileges

One area I am implementing now to make the community formal in its approach to literacy is using the device of membership. The goal is to increase class leisure reading (resources classes all come to take books out), along with casual readership. Using incentives (candy/popcorn, merchandise – out LLC clothing line, gift certificates – Indigo, Amazon, etc., getting to go to the front of the line for sales, getting to choose new books for the library) by showing high volumes of reading activity. I use a bookmark as a measurement of actual reading done by patrons – the back of the bookmark has a place for leaving your name and a review of the book. These bookmarks are also used for monthly draws and creating a Top 5 list of People’s Choice Books presented in a distinct display at the front of the library.

Overall, I look to include students in the process of literacy campaigns and design. The students taking my Library Media and Design course lead the Library Advisory Committee in implementing literacy campaigns, furniture layout, library food selections, social media communications and marketing. This has created a culture of positive ownership as students encourage other students to use the library and its literary resources. I think that the authentic care and pride that the community has for their space has developed an overall increase in library interest, and in turn, circulation. I am left with follow up questions; Has the overall percentage if the school population as active readers increased and how can I measure this? Do the literacy skills learned from leisure reading translate into improved performance in classwork? As I reach upper limits on the use of physical space to create promotional events (for literacy), how do I take advantage of online presence to do the same?


Kaylor, Stefanie L. B., "Dungeons and Dragons and literacy: The role tabletop role-playing games can play in developing teenagers' literacy skills and reading interests" (2017). Graduate Research Papers. 215.

Dodge, Autumn M. (2018). Examining Literacy Practices in the Game of Magic: The Gathering.

Mokhtar, Intan Azura, Shateen Majid, and Schubert Foo. (2008). Teaching information literacy through learning styles: The application of Garnder’s multiple intelligences. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. 40(2) June, 93-109. DOI: 10.1177/0961000608089345

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