A bold and original view of librarianship has been a hallmark of Stacie Ledden’s career. In 2008, as writer/editor and webmaster, she became an integral part of a team that relaunched the Rangeview Public Library, Thornton, CO, as the brand Anythink. Ledden, named Anythink communications director in December 2012, confesses to some initial reservations, wondering how patrons would react to a corporate-type logo (a squiggly orange design) on the library doors, or to librarians who called themselves “Wranglers” and “Concierges.” However, her efforts helped breathe new life into the once stagnant library and created a stir in the library community.
Ledden rarely plays it safe. When she took on the task of logistics and marketing for the Risk and Reward conference (R-Squared), an Anythink and Colorado State Library collaboration, in Telluride, CO, to encourage innovation and creativity in libraries, she found herself confronting a host of challenges, not least of which were a shoestring budget and her own limited experience, as well as a demanding full-time job at Anythink.
Despite hurdles that would have sent conference veterans running, Ledden dove in with enthusiasm and artfully employed what few resources she had to get the word out. She and a fellow R-Squared planner, Andrea Davis (a 2012 Mover & Shaker), took a memorable approach at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Dallas in 2012: they distributed cupcakes decorated with the R-Squared logo to attendees they approached randomly who responded affirmatively to the question, “Are you a risk taker?”
In addition, Ledden relied upon social media to build buzz. Through funny but thought-provoking e-blasts, tweets, and Facebook posts of articles, videos, and pictures, she got the library world talking about the conference. One arresting image (captioned “This fan is dying to get to Telluride in 2012!”) depicts a potential attendee sporting a mask and butterfly wings, holding a sign that reads, “Better safe than sorry may be the most dangerous thing ever said.”
Ledden also took the time to engage with those in the library world whose curiosity was piqued. “You would find her on Facebook during the wee hours of the morning responding to questions,” says Davis. Her thoughtful replies were “more timely than professional event planners’…who don’t hold down a demanding day job.”
Ledden’s willingness to think creatively paid off: R-Squared’s “brilliant guerrilla marketing strategy,” as Anythink director Pam Sandlian Smith put it, resulted in nearly 400 attendees and sponsors from across the United States, Canada, and even Sweden. With sessions that took participants out of the conventional world of PowerPoint presentations and included spray-painting logos, smashing a piñata shaped like a Carnegie Library, and reaching into boxes potentially filled with snakes and spiders, R-Squared shattered expectations of what a conference could be. “We have to start taking risks and shifting the perceptions of libraries so that they stick around,” says Ledden. “They’re too important not to.”