Maria Sosnowski

Maria Sosnowski

GLL'S MARKETING MAVEN: Summer 2022

Law Library Director
Clark County Law Library

Maria Sosnowski

In keeping with our theme of marketing for small government libraries – one, two, or three person shops that don’t have large marketing budgets, we’ll be spotlighting Maria Sosnowski, Director of the Clark County Law Library in Vancouver, WA.  Maria has partnered with the Clark County Communications Specialist to create and distribute press releases.  We’ll also discuss Maria’s success with marketing on community networking sites like Nextdoor.

1. Maria, for a two-person shop, the Clark County Law Library really punches above its weight when it comes to press releases. I often see your press releases picked up by national-level news aggregators like AALL’s KnowItAALL. How did your partnership with Clark County’s Communications Specialist come about and how often do they distribute press releases for you?

The county has a wonderful Communications Specialist, Joni McAnally. She puts out regular FYI newsletters to county personnel and handles publicity for the county. I was always vaguely aware that she was out there, but I read a book called Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian which made me think about what I could realistically do as a part-timer. (While there are two of us, we only add up to .92 FTE.)  I reached out to Joni and learned what she had to offer. Making that connection helps me spot marketing opportunities.

We do press releases when we have something that the public should know, maybe 2-6 times a year. With COVID-19 we announced our remote hours, and we announced when we reopened for walk-ins, and we just announced that we are going back to being open in-person 5 days a week. When we have a new form kit, or an update to a form kit, we announce that. We raised our prices on some of the kits a few months ago, and we announced that and suggested that people come buy them before the price increase. Any excuse to get the library out in front of the public will do. And Joni helps me decide what is “worth it” or not.

2. Can you describe how the partnership process works? Do you (or the county) have a set promotions calendar or schedule? Who drafts the text of the press releases? What’s the typical start to finish process?

We do things on an as-needed basis, with no set schedule. Press releases can be drafted by me or by Joni, although she usually does them. I’ll provide a link to what I want to promote, or give her bullet points I think are important, and she puts it together. Then she sends it to me in draft and I can make any changes I want or offer ideas for her to consider. I defer to her greater knowledge on structure and organization, and she defers to my content knowledge. This process takes a week or so depending on her workload. Once approved, she posts them. She also gives advice on timing of posts.

3. This never would have occurred to me, but you’ve also been able to create buzz for library services and events on Nextdoor. Do you have any tips/ best practices for making posts rise above all the usual noise of package theft and complaints about dog poop on community networking sites?

I would love to take credit for this, but the selection of where to post these releases is left to Joni. I tell her what I want to be statewide and what should be local. For example, we have form kits that we sell with permission from the King County Law Library, who authors them. I always tell Joni to keep those local so as not to compete in King County. So she selects local newspapers, Nextdoor, the county Facebook page, etc., for those. Other things can be broader, so those get posted to statewide sites.

4. What are your current marketing challenges and solutions?

I think the hardest thing about marketing is recognizing opportunities and then doing the work to use them. We are all so busy just running our libraries that it’s hard to step back and see that something is a great marketing opportunity. One thing I’ve done to promote more awareness of our services is to use Google. I created a business profile, and I have our products posted there, and I try to make a post every 2-3 weeks. These are short and easy to do. For example, a recent post was: Adult guardianship law changes took effect for 2022. We have updated our website so you have the latest information. Click "learn more" to go to our guardianship page.

5. I know you’ve been expanding your website. Is this part of your marketing strategy?

Our former website was very basic, mostly functional FAQs and location/hours. Being physically closed during COVID-19 gave us time to completely rebuild our website. I’m fortunate that my coworker, Linda Swenton, loves working on websites and wasn’t put off by the 100 pages or so of instructions. We’ve been working on filling the website with accessible content on popular topics to help patrons find more of what they need without a trip to the library.

Much of marketing is word-of-mouth, and patrons who find our website helpful are certainly telling their friends and family about it. I also link to our website in every Google post. Joni mentions the website in the press releases. Check it out: https://clark.wa.gov/law-library

6. On a completely different note, I noticed that you do freelance indexing? Can you explain what you do and how you trained for that?

I’ve been writing indexes for books, periodicals, or statutes for about 17 years. It complements working in the library, as indexing is solitary. With my background (law degree and practicing law) I do a lot of legal indexing. You can learn more and see examples of my work at my website: www.index-plus.com

I trained by studying with a professional indexer and taking a training class through the American Society for Indexing. In a nutshell, I read the book, creating index entries as I go to capture the terminology but also the concepts in the book. Indexers think about terminology people might use, make connections between related topics with cross references, and pull together scattered material. Quite a few indexers are current or former librarians as there is some overlap in the skills needed.

7. What’s the best way to spend a day off from work?

I love to cook or bake, and I love to curl up with a good mystery. (My cats love when I read too!) I read several books each week and enjoy reading a series by an author and getting to know the characters over many books.

8. What are you currently reading/ watching?

I just finished Find Me by Alafair Burke, and just started The Secret Room by Sandra Block. I seldom read nonfiction because that feels too much like work, but enjoy a good mystery whether it’s a cozy, a procedural, or a psychological thriller.