How can we explain registering for programs in a way that encourages rather than discourages?
Library programming is not only about the big picture, it’s also about the small details. For example, Nann Blaine Hilyard, director of the Zion-Benton (Ill.) Public Library, recently asked the following good question on the Public Programs discussion list:
We’re trying to come up with a way to explain registering for programs that encourages rather than discourages.
I think it is very off-putting to say, “registration required.” We often say, “registration requested.” It is cumbersome to have an explanatory note for every program: “Please register so the presenter knows whether to expect a large crowd or a small one, and so that we will have your contact information if a natural calamity or some other circumstances causes a cancellation, but most of the time there will be space available so even if you decide to attend an hour ahead of time, we’d love to see you.”
Would “registration recommended” work?
Her question received an immediate response, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you. Some replies addressed cancellation notification:
We don't require registration for most things because we never have a “sell out,” but I have had people complain that they didn't know a program was cancelled due to lack of attendance. Thus, I have started putting a general disclaimer in our newsletter's program page (where most of our patrons find out about programs): Registration requested for programs or they may be cancelled without notice. In other words, if you register, we will know there are people interested and not cancel this program, OR at least we can call you to tell you it's been cancelled! This has helped us out on a couple occasions the last few years.—Tiffany Amschl, Head of Adult Services, Crete (Ill.) Public Library
We rarely take registration for adult programs and it is not a problem. Our Youth Department does take reservations and our copy reads: “registration required.”
Regarding your concern about a last-minute cancellation, you could always post that information on your Web site or maybe add it to the phone line and that would avoid having to call patrons.—Beth Keller, Marketing Specialist, Highland Park (Ill.) Public Library
While others addressed wording:
We just put “Preregister.” For most programs registering is not an issue, and patrons are used to doing so. For larger or special events, we usually preface it with something like: Due to space limitations, seating for the performances will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the location of your choice for preregistration or ticket information. Don’t miss out on this “must see” event of the winter season!—Donna Marie Smith, Systemwide Adult Programming Coordinator, Palm Beach County (Fla.) Library System
I like the call to action… “Guarantee your spot today by registering at…!” or “Be sure not to miss this spectacular program by signing up at…”—Henry McCoy, Marketing and Programs, Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, Columbus, Georgia
We often say “registration preferred” or “registration highly recommended.” If it's appropriate for the program, we do point out that we’d hate to run out of coffee, or that we want to be sure we have enough supplies/handouts/seats.—Anita R. Barney, Library Director, The Brookfield (Conn.) Library
We say, “Register Please” so it sounds like we’re asking for an RSVP.—Deborah Schneider, Public Programming Coordinator, King County Library System
And others added some practical information regarding registration:
We put “Registration suggested” when we know we are going to have a packed house. You really need to make one phone number responsible for this. When people call the library, often they think that leaving a message with anyone who answers is what matters. You need a good forwarding routine.—Maribeth Murray, Adult Programs Coordinator, Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock, Arkansas
WDFPL simply uses “Call the library to register at ___.”
Creating an online registration form is an interesting idea. Perhaps we can add that option after the first of the year. I understand registration is problematic for the public library community as many speakers require a certain number of folks registered prior to the program date. A programming librarian could stack the deck and add staff to the list, however today’s presenters also require attendee completed surveys or evaluation forms to support continued program funding/support.—Carolyn Wood, Adult Services and Technology Librarian, West Deptford (N.J.) Free Public Library
How do you handle program registration at your library?
P.S. Don’t forget that the Programming Librarian forum is a great place to ask questions like these—as well as the big-picture questions.