Director of Technology
Crowley Ridge Regional Library, Craighead County
Jonesboro Public Library, AR
English/Psychology, University of Memphis, 1990–93
“Words,” 2013 campaign that relies upon typography to promote the library “in a way that’s more art than advertisement”
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images for Library Journal
Ben Bizzle isn’t just making waves in the library world—he’s made himself known to anyone with a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, or a YouTube account. In early 2012, Bizzle generated buzz around the Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library through an eye-catching billboard emblazoned with the words “Spoiler Alert! Dumbledore dies on page 596.” The ad made the front page of popular social news website Reddit.
Bizzle’s knack for generating provocative, meme-like content with a habit of going viral on the web has been invaluable in developing his library’s dynamic marketing initiative. He’s also promoted the library through e-cards that pair simple illustrations with witty quips (“Concerts on the Lawn…It’s the closest you’ll ever get to being a groupie”) and through several YouTube videos, including “Book Club,” a parody of Fight Club that author Chuck Palahniuk linked to on his Facebook page.
Though Bizzle pushes boundaries with his edgy, subversive humor, he says, “There’s a method to the madness, a reason for the ridiculous.” These unforgettable ads have roused patrons into actively participating in programming: from 2011 to 2012, concert series participation increased 100 percent (from 200 to 400 attendees on average), and foot traffic to the library has gone from 1,000 to 2,000 people per day over four years. Meanwhile ebook downloads have risen over 2011–12 from 12,000 to 31,000 downloads and Freegal MP3 downloads went from 10,000 to 22,000.
“[His] marketing campaign has taken a business approach to a library problem,” says Sarah Houghton, director of the San Rafael Public Library, CA, who recently worked with Bizzle on a case study involving Facebook ads and libraries. “He’s willing to be bold, to take those risks that others are not willing, or able, to take.”