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Magazines > Marketing Library Services > September/October 2006

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MLS - Marketing Library Services
Vol. 20 No. 5 — Sep/Oct 2006

An Insiderís Guide to Entering the John Cotton Dana Awards
By Judith Gibbons

LAMA plans to document the 60th anniversary with a forthcoming book entitled A History of the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards, 1946–2006 to be published next spring.

Compiled by Amy Shaw and Peter Deekle, this book will highlight many successful entries and will include essays on the history and impact of the awards throughout the library community.

It will surely inspire your creativity for your on­going public relations efforts.

The opportunity to attend the John Cotton Dana (JCD) Awards Tea is one of the most coveted invitations a librarian can receive. The event is known for its ambiance and grand traditions. The JCD Awards have been presented by the American Library Association and the H.W. Wilson Co. since 1946, making them the oldest awards on the annual meeting’s docket. They are given under the auspices of the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) Public Relations and Marketing Section (PRMS).

The JCD Award itself consists of a citation and a check (donated by the H.W. Wilson Foundation), and is given to library programs that have creatively expanded public relations activities within their communities. The programs can be initiated by any type of library-related group, including Friends, associations, and consortia.

No matter what size the library, the entries are given equal consideration. The award is not for the program’s scale, but for the way that the librarians have creatively and effectively conducted their public relations efforts.

The Basics That You Need to Submit

Since I’ve won a JCD award and have also served on the LAMA PRMS committee, I can give you some insider tips on submitting effective entries. It takes time to assemble a good entry, so start planning now to enter the 2007 competition. The deadline is Dec. 8, 2006. Complete contest information is available on the H.W. Wilson Web site at

Each entry must include two copies of the following items:

* The application form, with the original signed by the library director

* A concise summary of the project

* A concise description of the project, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation phases

One copy of these items should be stapled together so that the judges can pull it from the portfolio to use.

Tips for Effective Entry Portfolios

Besides the information found on the Web site, here are seven insider tips to help you create a winning entry:

1. Planning really counts. As you begin to develop your project, immediately start a file with all the pertinent information. It is much easier to collect samples as they’re made than to re-create the materials months later.

2. Read and reread the instructions. Construct your essays so that you clearly and articulately answer the committee’s questions in the proper format. Ask colleagues to proofread the entries for clarity and typos. And then proof again.

3. Storyboard your entry so that you can present it in a logical fashion. Find a comfortable and succinct format that aids you in telling your story. Make sure that events fall in a logical progression and are submitted in a study presentation book or binder that meets committee guidelines.

4. Submit a sampling of the quality materials that you developed to get to the end result. Share examples of brochures, reading lists, invitations, and/or newsletters that made your event.

5. Provide photos. The committee doesn’t actually have to see a T-shirt, backpack, or piñata; good-quality photos will do just fine. In addition, you might provide copies of sample media publications that helped you reach your audience, such as video, Web snapshots, or DVD. Why not create an electronic portfolio on CD for the judges?

6. Review the entries of recent award winners for submission tips. Successful entries from the past 2 years are housed at ALA’s library; you can get them via ILL for the cost of shipping. This is an excellent way to see how winning scrapbooks are compiled and to see how previous effective public relations efforts captured the eye of the judges.

7. Make sure that you do not violate copyright or trademark law. Using unauthorized artwork or a mascot will subject you to immediate disqualification. When in doubt, submit permission from the owner of the trademark or copyright.

The judging committee welcomes all entries. The members appreciate the hard work that libraries such as yours do in furthering visibility and awareness. And, with a combination of planning and skill, you might receive congratulations from your peers next summer in Washington, D.C., at the tea celebrating the 61st edition of these historic yet timely awards!

Judith Gibbons is field services director at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. She holds an M.L.S. from the University of Kentucky and an M.P.A. from Kentucky State University. She is also a John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award winner and past committee member. Her e-mail address is
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