A Public Library Electrifies the Community: Publicizing the NLM Exhibition “Frankenstein”

Circulating Now welcomes guest bloggers Nicole Hughes and Donna Smith, from the Palm Beach County Library System, in Florida.  Drawn from a presentation given as part of a bimonthly webcast series hosted by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine called “NNLM Resource Picks,” this post is first in a series of four exploring how libraries around the country build programming around NLM traveling exhibitions.

PBCLS Frankenstein Exhibit Monster Mash Costume Contest 1

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus has captivated audiences for over 200 years with its compelling story about a doctor trying to create life out of inanimate matter, as well as its exploration of what it means to be human and the ethical consideration of scientific progress. Fans of the novel, science enthusiasts, and the curious were invited to the Palm Beach County Library System’s Acreage Branch in Florida to explore the mysterious and intriguing story and its themes highlighted by the NLM traveling banner exhibition, Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature, from November 21, 2015 to January 3, 2016. Having hosted NLM’s Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine traveling banner exhibition a few years earlier, where nearly 1,000 people attended our Hogwarts Family Fun Day kickoff event, we knew the NLM exhibition would enhance the Library System’s mission to connect communities, inspire thought, and enrich lives. To generate interest in the community for the Frankenstein exhibit, we planned a Family Fun Day similar to our Harry Potter event, as well as a series of interactive activities that allowed participants to explore the exhibition’s themes.

Generating Excitement with Marketing and Publicity

Most of our marketing was done at a low cost and in-house. We created two fliers and posters, one for the Family Fun Day event, and one listing all the activities at the exhibit site and our other branches. These were displayed and distributed at all 17 library branch locations. We also reproduced the NLM brochure and poster. In addition, we created a booklet describing the exhibition, the Family Fun Day, and all the scheduled events held throughout the month. The exhibition was advertised in our print and electronic newsletters. The story also ran on our homepage and on our social media sites.

PBCLS Frankenstein Exhibit Book Display and Bibliography

The Acreage Branch staff used word-of-mouth marketing to generate excitement about the exhibition. We distributed the publicity materials at a local music festival and at a nearby grocery store. We also promoted it in the branch during story times and other events and to patrons who visited each of the service desks.

The branch also set up five different displays to complement the exhibit: one with fiction books and DVDs for all ages; one with nonfiction titles about Mary Shelley’s life and the cultural impact of the book and film adaptations; one about the science of genetics, DNA, and electricity; and one in the children’s section featuring books about monsters. We also created a bibliography of related materials that was available in print and online using Bookletters, a widget that links directly to the catalog so patrons can place holds.

Engaging the Public with Enriching Activities

Perhaps the best way we sparked interest in the exhibition was with related programming for kids, teens, and adults. We had previously selected Mary Shelley’s ground-breaking novel for Book Life, a series of book discussions and related events that typically take place outside of the library. However, when we became aware of Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature, we contacted the NLM to see if we could host the exhibition during the Book Life series. We thought this would be a good tie-in event to hold at one of our branches.  Book Life gave us additional opportunities to promote the upcoming exhibition in the 5,000 copies of promotional booklets we printed and by word of mouth at the events.

PBCLS Frankenstein Exhibit Frankentoy program

The community enjoyed the Family Fun Day, with 532 attending. Throughout the day, we provided games, a scavenger hunt, face painting, trivia contests, crafts, a costume party, movie, photo booth, and snacks provided by our Friends of the Library group. We encouraged staff and patrons to dress up as their favorite character from the book. We decorated the branch and turned the meeting room into a haunted mansion complete with casket. The photo booth included a backdrop and props in which patrons could share their selfies using the hashtag #pbclsitsalive. The craft programs included monster origami, Franken-art made out of recycled materials, creative coloring, and Franken-toys, a creepy but fun project in which patrons assembled their own creatures from dismantled toys.

Throughout the exhibition, we hosted Frankenstein-related programs, including a lecture on “Genetically Engineered Food: Explaining the Science Behind GMOs,” a movie screening, a book discussion, and a children’s Monster Mash-Up Story Time. Other branch locations showed various Frankenstein movie adaptions. The total attendance for all programs was 1,400 people, with approximately 2,800 visitors to the exhibition. 

In late 2016, the University of Washington, based in Seattle, Washington, which serves as the Pacific Northwest Region (PNR) National Network library, hosted a brief questionnaire, using Survey Monkey, asking librarians what they would want to learn about hosting a National Library of Medicine traveling banner exhibition. Over 250 representatives from libraries across the country responded with questions, ideas, and preferences. Their replies shaped this webinar.

Photo Nicole Huges PBCLS

Nicole Hughes is the Community Relations Manager for the Palm Beach County Library System, Palm Beach County, Florida. 


Photo Donna Marie Smith PBCLS

Donna Smith is the Assistant Manager of the Acreage Branch Library of the Palm Beach County Library System, Palm Beach County, Florida.



  1. Hopefully we can learn from bloggers Nicole Hughes and Donna Smith. And get better

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