ALA Campaign Takes Flight @ the Local Level: Libraries Are Riding High with Marketing Might. (Public Relations)

American Libraries, January 2002 | Go to article overview

ALA Campaign Takes Flight @ the Local Level: Libraries Are Riding High with Marketing Might. (Public Relations)


When Melvil Dewey said in 1926 that a librarian's function is to give the public information, inspiration, and recreation, he could never have guessed that, three-quarters of a century later, his words would appear in a public relations campaign designed to showcase the value of libraries and librarians in the 21st century. But that's exactly what has happened.

Its official name is the Campaign for America's Libraries, known to most simply as "@ your library." Sponsored by ALA, the campaign is a five-year public-education effort designed to showcase all types of libraries--and librarians--nationwide. Libraries in all 50 states are participating in the campaign and using it in various ways, from creating new promotional materials and designing new programs to seeking support for new buildings and more funding. In its first year, the campaign has even gone global; with the help of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the Campaign for the World's Libraries, based on the U.S. program, was launched in August (AL, Oct. 2001, p.12)

Here's how "@ your library" is playing out in a few states around the country.

Arkansas says, "Can Dewey!"

Arkansas has taken Dewey at his word. With the theme "Information Inspiration Recreation @ your library," the Arkansas State Library, in conjunction with the Arkansas Library Association, has launched a statewide public-relations initiative to raise awareness of, and drum up support for, the state's 1,500 libraries.

"@ your library" was the key the state was looking for, said Carolyn Ashcraft, coordinator of extension services for the Arkansas State Library and immediate past president of the Arkansas Library Association.

"A recent study told us people really didn't understand how state and local support for libraries works in general and the role of the state library in particular," Ashcraft told American Libraries (Jan. 2001, p. 14). "This has been brought into focus much too clearly by recent efforts here to get an amendment on the ballot completely abolishing property taxes, which would pretty much put an end to public libraries!"

The state library and state chapter went about addressing these concerns. In fact, Arkansas was the first state to get on board the Campaign for America's Libraries on a statewide basis--even before ALA publicly launched the campaign during National Library Week 2001 with help from First Lady Laura Bush. The state library is very pleased about its progress.

"@ your library' has provided us with a creative, easy, and effective way to help our libraries conduct outreach," said State Librarian Jack Mulkey. "We want our libraries to realize that they need a local base of support to help with funding initiatives. This campaign has given us the opportunity to coordinate our efforts on a statewide level to help tell and sell the story of Arkansas' libraries to our users and to our policymakers."

In September, Ashcraft and Charles Beard, director of the Ingram Library at the State University of West Georgia and an active member of ALA's Library Advocacy Now Network, spent a week on the road teaching legislative advocacy techniques in each of Arkansas' five congressional districts. The state association hosted two workshops about "@ your library" at its annual conference, whose theme was "It's all @ your library." The new logo found its way onto a range of promotional items, and the original poster artwork was framed and auctioned off at the conference, with proceeds going to the statewide campaign.

The state library distributed free informational brochures to libraries across the state, plus press kits and public-relations packets, the content of which largely came from ALA's campaign Web site (www.ala.org/@yourlibrary/). Perhaps the biggest success story has come from the tiniest of items--a flashing "@ your library" pin. More than 17,000 have been sold to libraries nationwide, and the vendor is giving half the proceeds back to the state association. …

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