Adventures in Library Promotion: Buttons

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since my last post, but for a good reason. In January I took a new position as the Head Librarian at the Toronto Botanical Garden‘s Weston Family Library, and since starting in this new role I have been busy, busy, busy. The TBG is home to the largest private horticultural library in Canada, and includes materials in the broad area of domestic horticulture. “What’s that, though?”, you ask? For the most part it’s floral arrangement and design, gardening, herbs, plant biology, ornithology, garden and plant history, literature, biography, landscape design and architecture, green roof information, sustainability initiatives, urban agriculture, balcony gardening, food security, wildlife, plant identification, etc. It’s an amazing specialized collection, and I’m thrilled to be working there.

One of my responsibilities as Head Librarian is to actively promote the library’s collections, services, and programs. I tackle this through a number of traditional means, such as brochures, bookmarks, on the web and using social media, but most recently I had a new and exciting idea: buttons! Now I know what you may be thinking… it’s not new (and some may not think it’s very exciting), but I’m ready to change your mind. Buttons are cute, inexpensive to create, trendy, and if done properly with creativity, they are a lot of fun. I should also state that I’m referring to 1″ buttons, not their 2.25″  “uncool” distant relative that we’ve seen throughout our lives. Also, some people call them “pins”, but I don’t.

A preface and some context to my newfound interest in buttons: Every year, the Word on the Street Festival takes place in participating cities across Canada. If you haven’t been before, it’s a celebration of books and magazines, authors, publishing, literacy and everything in-between. This year in Toronto it will take place on September 23rd at Queen’s Park Circle, from College Street all the way to Bloor. It’s a terrific and free event that draws hundreds of thousands of people annually. This year I was very keen to have a booth for the Toronto Botanical Garden at the festival to highlight the library, host author signing, promote the TBG’s adult and children’s education, and overall to get the word out about the organization. It has been a blast to plan and co-ordinate the activities for our booth, and I’m getting pumped for the 23rd to be here. In preparation for the event, I wanted to have something to give away at the booth that would grab the interest and attention of passersby, and work as a tool to promote our presence at the festival and as a destination in the Toronto area. Clearly, I chose buttons. Luckily for me, another department at the TBG conveniently had a button-maker on the premises.

I got the idea from the University of Waterloo Libraries, who have been doing this for the past year or so. Check them out here. In the beginning I was just making buttons with the TBG logo, ones that say “Weston Family Library”, etc. Standard branding. However, things got really fun when I had another idea, to create unique, one-of-a-kind buttons from our discarded books. My library receives a lot (thousands) of donated books on a yearly basis, and depending on the relevance, need, and shape they’re in, we either include the donation into the collection, or we sell them for a few bucks. Unfortunately for the used books that are not sold (usually ones from the ’70s or ’80s about gardening), we recycle them or re-donate them to a Value Village. Since we have boxes and boxes of books in the last category, I thought, “Why not make buttons from the images and text in these old books? They’re being discarded anyway!” There is some really colourful, comical, and interesting (albeit, often not useful and sometimes harmfully outdated) literature that we discard, so I’m glad we can reuse these materials somehow.

It’s become a real hobby, and I’m even considering buying my own personal button making machine just for fun. Check out some of the buttons I made below:

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Library Promotion: Buttons

    • Hi Linda! I think we’re going to give away the TBG buttons in the Library, and sell the buttons from discarded books for $1 in the TBG Shop. Hope to see you soon!

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