Keep on tackin’
November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:11 PM
Bulletin boards retain their niche
By Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter
From the bohemian streets of Paris to the grocery stores of Mercer Island, the traditional bulletin board has survived generations as a public venue for communication. Even with today’s ubiquitous Internet classifieds — Craigslist, Monster.com and Ebay, to name a few — downtown bulletin boards have retained their niche in modern society. Whether a colorful montage of entertainment posters or a corkboard feathered with business cards, the public information board can be found on city sidewalks, movie theater walls and park kiosks across the world.
Here on the Island, our community bulletin boards have a life of their own — from Pioneer Park to Hollywood Video.
Those who shop at Albertsons know that a giant bulletin board hangs above the shopping carts stacked at the store’s entrance. Those with a curious eye may even scan the board, looking for piano lessons or an upcoming garage sale.
There are currently more than 20 flyers and business cards tacked to the Albertsons cork board: “House Cleaning,” “Professional Care Provider,” “Violin Lessons,” “Math tutor available,” “Challah baking and spirituality workshop,” “Library Book Sale” — it’s all there.
One of the most colorful fliers belongs to Islander Lorie Lockwood, a licensed caregiver and personal chef. After launching “More than a Meal,” a service in which she personally prepares healthy meals for individuals in their home, Lockwood dropped by all three Island grocery stores — the North and South end QFC and Albertsons — to advertise via bulletin board.
“It’s a great way for the little people to get their word out,” the Island chef said. “One of my main clients pulled my card off the board at Albertsons. She’s been with me for two years now.”
Just last week, a benevolent friend tacked a few of Lockwood’s cards onto the board at Hollywood Video, she added.
The entrepreneur currently serves two Island residents, both of whom suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and therefore struggle to prepare their own dinners, and one off-Island resident. Lockwood recently posted a new round of “More than a Meal” fliers downtown and at the South end, hoping to pick up some new clients.
“I’m just getting back out there, and I expect to get some calls back,” Lockwood said. “The grocery store bulletin boards are a perfect place for me to advertise. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it would work.”
In addition to a business card with her contact information, Lockwood posts an illustrated flier with information about her culinary service and background. Lockwood often gazes over the array of “for sale” and “help wanted” postings on the Island’s bulletin boards, mostly to see what other services are out there.
“[Bulletin boards] really give a chance for the small businesses to advertise cheaply, and it’s pretty risk-free,” she said. “It’s part of community.”
In addition to downtown bulletin boards at Albertsons, QFC, Hollywood Video and a number of other businesses, the South end has its own information hot-spots.
Georgio’s Subs, located in the South end shopping center, boasts a bulletin board with more than two dozen business cards from all over, even as far away as Cheney, eastern Washington. Besides this exotic card for Cheney Municipal Court, there are a number of local postings — from Island math tutors to professional maintenance and repair services based in Seattle. Many of the flared paper phone numbers had been torn off the board, proof that employers’ postings are not in vain.
Shirley Schwartz, an Island piano teacher who posted her information at Georgio’s, said that bulletin board advertising has been “very helpful.” Eight to 10 people have contacted her through this venue, she added.
But Island businesses are not the only home for community information boards. Island Parks and Recreation also lends a helping hand to the public. The city has built a number of bulletin board kiosks in parks throughout the Island.
Although in the fall and winter these wooden structures are often bare (few flyers can withstand the Northwest rain and wind), during the spring and summer they are cluttered with concert announcements, summer camps and special weekend festivities.
But the Island’s most organized bulletin board system is surely Joblink, also a service of Mercer Island Parks and Rec. Just walk into the organization’s headquarters — the historic brick school building in Luther Burbank Park — and you will stumble across a glass window filled with nearly100 Island job postings. To the right of this display window, two clipboards hang heavy with off-Island jobs — from the University District to the Eastside — and a dish of scratch paper and pencils for note-taking. This Joblink service corner has a sister bulletin board at Mercer Island High School and another at Crest Learning Center.
According to Joblink director Cheryl Hudson, the career service is designed especially for students and low-income families looking for work on the Island. Advertising employers submit their name, a brief description of the job being offered, wage information and a contact number to Hudson. As part of the Joblink service, Hudson posts the notice on all three bulletin boards, and also goes over hiring and safety procedures — such as employee back-ground checks and filling out tax forms — with the advertiser.
Parks and Rec also offers its Joblink service online. Employers may choose whether they want their notice posted on the Web or on the more traditional bulletin board.
Although the Joblink Web site (www.mijoblink.org) is a relatively new project, the service itself has been an Island success for more than 30 years.
“I see our service as unique. We have such a wide range of jobs, and the service is free. Most cities don’t have a defined boundary as visual as ours,” Hudson said, explaining that Joblink is designed specifically for Island residents.
If an employer is based in a nearby Eastside or Seattle area, however, Hudson may also post the ad.
Like Lockwood and Schwartz, Hudson agrees that the community bulletin board is a much appreciated resource. Even in today’s Internet-savvy society, the old corkboard has not lost its place.
“There was a period six years ago when people thought we no longer needed [Joblink bulletin boards], but we got complaints and so we kept them going,” Lockwood said. “Now we go through 400 job postings a year.”
Rebecca Mar contributed to this article.