I work for the Public Library Services branch of the State Library of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. This organization supports and advises the public libraries of NSW. It administers the state government funding that’s paid to local authorities for their libraries, an annual grants program, and a range of professional development activities. We also work closely with statewide working groups from public libraries, and this is the story of one of our most successful campaigns.
In 2003, the NSW Public Libraries Marketing Working Group successfully applied for Library Council grant funding to roll out the “@ your library” public awareness campaign that was developed by the American Library Association. South Australian libraries had already adopted the ALA campaign, but in NSW we decided to rebadge and repurpose the campaign with more generic themes so that all libraries could easily buy in. Themes included Holiday Fun; Lifelong Learning; Read, Escape, Connect; and our standout winner, Library Lovers Day (LLD).
The Launch: Feb. 14, 2006
As with many great ideas, the genesis of LLD is lost in time, but here in NSW we launched our first LLD in 2006, claiming Feb. 14 for library lovers and renaming it in honor of their passion. To celebrate, public libraries across NSW gave away more than 50,000 love libraries” wristbands in green, blue, and orange and invited their clients to wear their hearts on their wrists. In 2007, the campaign went national under the auspices of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Public Libraries Australia (PLA) as their first combined advocacy event. (Today Australia, tomorrow the world!)
Our inaugural LLD in 2006 was a runaway success; the campaign had captured the imagination of all our public librarians. Our logo/image for this first day was a red Library Lovers Day heart, and this has been a recurring image through the years although it’s no longer the official logo.
We chose wristbands as a promotional giveaway for several reasons. In 2005, every teenage kid in the country was wearing them so they were considered a bit cool, they were inexpensive to purchase and cheap to mail, and they were unlike other more traditional library promotional items. We sourced and ordered the wristbands several months before LLD and delivered them to libraries in early February. Library staff and patrons alike snapped them up, and they were de rigueur wear for quite some time. I even shamelessly traded a set of wristbands for a latte at our local coffee shop! We also distributed heart-shaped stickers, bookmarks, and a list of fun ideas for LLD.
Today, LLD has its own website (www.librarylovers.org.au), designed and maintained by Sauce Design, the team who developed the NSW @ your library campaign (http://tinyurl.com/24qe4c9). The logo and templates for postcards and bookmarks are available on the website, which is used primarily as a clearinghouse for ideas, showcasing stories and pictures of LLDs from across the country. Our good friends at Southern Scene (www.southernscene.com.au) also sell a range of Library Lovers merchandise.
Publicizing Our First Library Lovers Day
We had already set distribution channels in place for the @ your library campaign, with mailings organized by a commercial mailing house, so getting the wristbands out to the libraries was easy. And we had a website, a blog, a network of “champions” in each library, and well-established email lists. Simply put, we had a captive audience for the campaign. The organizers at the State Library of NSW asked librarians to add their stories and photos to the blog and/or to write them up for inclusion in a lead article on LLD in Public Library News (www.sl.nsw.gov.au/services/public_libraries/publications/pl_news.html), which the state library publishes three times a year.
The publicity value for the libraries was extensive—almost every local paper across the state ran a story on LLD. Midsummer February in NSW may be a slow news month, but everybody loves their libraries, and the idea of LLD was quirky enough to appeal to even the most hard-hearted journalist. And over the years, the interest and support from local media have not waned. This is no surprise, given the fantastic events that libraries host each Feb. 14.
Library Lovers Day 2011 Activities
Every year, we are amazed at the original and fresh ideas the librarians come up with to celebrate LLD. This year, for instance, we had our first renewal of wedding vows. Deniliquin Library appealed to its local newspaper to assist in the search for a couple that wanted to marry or renew their vows there. The library was transformed by a wedding coordinator, the library manager made the cake, and Roger and Karen were declared husband and wife once again after 40 years of marriage (right).
At Hornsby Library, staffers dressed as characters from a Jane Austen novel and held a Regency tea party (right), complete with a reading from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Society members. (See photos on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/hornsbylibrary/sets/72157625919396185.)
A number of libraries asked their customers why and how they love their library and displayed the answers on LLD. Camden Library created a word cloud from the comments and posted that to its blog (http://camdencouncillibraryservices.blogspot.com/p/why-do-you-love-your-library.html). Participants at the Romance Workshop at Sutherland Library had great fun writing their love scenes, and the children at Wentworth Library went wild with the glitter and hearts on their handmade valentines.
This year’s competitions included “guess the date of the wedding dress,” Library Lovers trivia quizzes, “write your favorite author/book on a red heart to share,” and “review a book you love.” Staff at Lake Macquarie Library had new-borrowers’ packs that included information about the library and coming events, bookmarks, chocolates, and a blank Valentine’s card with a little message attached: “Thank you for joining. We know first dates can be daunting. Here are some events to consider for your second date!” Speed Read Dating (a mini book club where people sit and talk one-on-one about what they are reading) is also taking off across the state’s libraries.
An old favorite is a blind date with a book. Books are wrapped in colored paper (right) with a blurb or tantalizing staff review on the package; borrowers choose based on the descriptions, without knowing what the book is. Auburn Library packaged its books as if they were lonely-hearts ads in the personal columns, for example: “Heart-wrenching, soul-bearing novel seeks reader who likes a sad but satisfying read with good characters. Once you start me you’ll find it hard to put me down!” (That described I Know This Much to Be True by Wally Lamb.) Here’s another: “Bittersweet novel about love seeks reader with an interest in philosophy and romance. Must love comedy AND tragedy” (The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera). They followed up with a blind-date-style evaluation sheet with questions like “Would you go on another date with this author?” Many libraries encouraged their readers to “Go to bed with a book” or “Find the book of your dreams.” Beautiful displays of books and hearts and chocolates and flowers were featured in many libraries, and a huge number of Love the Library cakes disappeared on LLD.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
Over the past 6 years, we’ve learned a lot:
Putting a humorous spin on a familiar celebration captures the attention of the community and provides some extra impetus to our marketing.
The element of surprise is very important; libraries need to do unusual things to capture the interest of clients and local media.
One of the great successes of the campaign is the opportunity to be creative and to build a local event or display around a simple theme.
- Input from the local community about why members love their library can be used strategically to promote the library to municipal authorities, elected officials, and the wider community. Here are some of the comments from 2011:
“The Mullum librarians are the BEST XX”
“This library is a fine space”
“My favourite ladies—always a smile”
“This is my second home”
“Advice, peace and quiet”
There are opportunities to partner with the wider community and local businesses for sponsorship or in-kind support.
Many library clients come and go quickly, so providing opportunities to linger and to engage with staff and other clients can build community cohesion.
Don’t wait for people to come to the library. Take your Library Lovers promotion out into the streets and shopping malls.
Have plenty of heart-shaped chocolates on hand!
Everyone Gets Involved
Library Lovers Day has been an enduring and unqualified success story for NSW public libraries. Staff members love to get involved by dressing in red and pink, decorating their libraries, baking, and choosing and reviewing books. And the community members welcome the opportunity to thank library staff, enjoy a chocolate or two, and share their love of books and reading.