The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) of the American Library Association (ALA) is sponsoring the first Preservation Week May 9-15, 2010. The theme for the ALCTS Preservation Week is "Pass it On". It is a great theme and can also be considered a plea from the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee as it relates to Wisconsin's library heritage. Our library heritage consists of archives, artifacts, architecture, and the memory of those librarians and library supporters who have handed down the legacy that is today's Wisconsin library community. There are lots of ideas on the Preservation Week website that can be used to highlight and promote your library's heritage. Why not undertake some of them this year.
As part of National Library Week this year there is going to be a National Bookmobile Day on April 14. On the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website there is a bookmobile page which chronicles some of Wisconsin's bookmobile past. National Bookmobile Day provides an opportunity for any library that has had bookmobile service in the past to communicate that legacy to the public. There are some wonderful photographs which show the heritage and contribution of the bookmobile to public library service in Wisconsin. Why not see if you have any of these and show them off on National Bookmobile Day. If you still have a bookmobile how about a bookmobile open house. The image above shows Racine Public Library Librarian Muriel Marchant with a vehicle that was referred to as the "library car".
Each new year provides opportunities to enjoy and celebrate library history. Here is a preview of some of those opportunities in 2010.
The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center will continue to promote and celebrate Wisconsin's library heritage with its ongoing activities including this website, its library memorabilia exhibits, and the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.
National Library Week which occurs April 11-17 is a great opportunity to make your community aware of your library's heritage. This year's theme is "Communities thrive @ your library." The Menasha Public Library will be having a special exhibit related to their Tabard Inn Library bookcase in April as part of their celebration.
The American Library Association will launch its first Preservation Week May 9-15 with the theme "Pass It On". The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) of ALA is coordinating this effort. How about a focus on preserving and/or highlighting your library's historical artifacts and archives.
Every five years the Library History Round Table undertakes the sponsorship of a Library History Seminar. This year the event will take place September 10-12 in Madison, Wisconsin. The Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison is coordinating this event. Library historians from around the country will gather to hear presentations on the role of library records as a source of data and information for print culture and library history research.
October is American Archives Month which provides an opportunity to highlight and display library history archives.
November 25 will be the 175 anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie which makes 2010 a great opportunity for communities, libraries, and institutions that have benefited from Carnegie's gifts to celebrate his legacy. In Wisconsin 60 communities received Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings and two colleges received grants for library buildings.
A number of Wisconsin libraries will celebrate significant anniversaries in 2010 which provide an opportunity to celebrate library history. Here are a few suggestions for doing that.
The second group of individuals was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in October at the WLA Conference in Appleton. This included Charles Bunge, our first living inductee.
The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit was displayed at the South Milwaukee Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Library, and the Door County Public Library. The exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Library was the most extensive exhibit that we have undertaken. An exhibit was also prepared to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Eastern Shores Library System. The WLHC also had an exhibit table at the WLA Conference in Appleton.
The Wisconsin Historical Society created a new gallery in its Wisconsin Historical Images collection featuring photographs of public libraries from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission with the assistance of Richard Wambold.
The unveiling of the Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese! publicity promotion takes place today. The promotion is part of the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) Foundation. It is another in a long history of library public relations efforts in Wisconsin. In 1896, at the American Library Association Conference in Cleveland, Lutie Stearns, Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame member, said: “There is no stratum of society not reached and influenced by some form of advertising. 'Nine-tenths of the world would rather be interested than educated, and the other tenth likes to be interested too.' The librarian, then must first interest the masses, to bring them within her doors, and then attempt to educate. 'She must first capture the eye. The eye is the sentinel of the will. Capture the sentinel and you will capture the will. The feet follow the eyes.' It is the untiring, unremitting, keeping-everlastingly-at-it-and never-taking-no-for-an answer appeal to the eyes of the people that will bring them within your portals.”
It was not until 1938 that the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) got around to establishing its first formal Publicity Committee. In 1958 the National Book Committee and the American Library Association conducted the first annual National Library Week campaign with the theme “Wake Up and Read”. In 1964 under the leadership of Gerry Somers, Director of the Brown County Public Library, WLA was given the first $1,000 Grolier Award for most effective state National Library Week program in the nation.
As a spin off of the 1962 National Library Week campaign in Wisconsin, Mrs. Bruno Bitker of Milwaukee provided the leadership for founding in 1963, the Friends of Wisconsin Libraries or FOWL. That organization was the model for the national Friends of Libraries USA which was also founded in Wisconsin.
In 1961-62 the WLA public relations committee initiated a statewide effort to “spread the word of what good library service is and can be, with a special effort to reach persons of influence.” In this effort the PR committee worked with a television station in Wausau to develop TV slides and audios, it prepared and distributed flyers explaining regional library service, contacted clubs and other organizations about including free library advertisements and articles in their publications. It prepared an exhibit of public relations materials for the annual WLA conference, and conducted public relations workshops at all the district library association meetings.
The 1970s saw the creation of a multi-year library public relations effort in Wisconsin funded with grants from the Library Services and Construction Act. This public relations project was called the Cooperative Library Information Project or CLIP. It was directed by Meriam Edsall. A major outcome of this effort was the creation of Wisconsin’s annual summer library program which became a model for the nation.
In 1995, the Council on Wisconsin Libraries (COWL) put together an ambitious cooperative public relations effort involving COWL, WLA, and the Wisconsin Educational Media Association. It resulted in the theme “Wisconsin Libraries – More than books. More than ever.” This PR effort received support from a professional public relations firm and three years of LSTA funding totaling $55,000. A highlight of this campaign was several celebrity TV ads paid for by commercial sponsors.
In 2000, the WLA Public Relations Committee coordinated Wisconsin’s celebration of the bicentennial of the Library of Congress by promoting Second Day of Issue Events around the state in conjunction with the issuing of the Library of Congress postage stamp. The committee also promoted the involvement of Wisconsin libraries in the ALA @your library public relations campaign.
In 2004, the Library Advocacy Round Table of WLA came up with an idea to tie in library promotion with the local, state, and national elections for that year. This resulted in the “I Love Libraries and I Vote” campaign and the designation by the Governor of February as Library Lovers Month in Wisconsin.
In 2005 the WLA Foundation embarked on the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries to promote a wider understanding of the value and importance of Wisconsin’s libraries. This effort has utilized a variety of public relations materials and techniques to promote Wisconsin's libraries. The Wisconsin Libraries Say Cheese! public relations effort is just one more way that Wisconsin is following Lutie Stearn’s advice to “keep-everlastingly-at-it”.
Note: Much of the content of this post was included in a presentation that I made at the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries Conference in the Spring of 2006.
I just became aware of a list of "50 Reasons to Love Your Local Library". I like number 33 which states: "Your local library is a part of your heritage; your parents likely went there, and perhaps their parents before them." It's not clear to me how you can love libraries and not love library history. People who use libraries, people who like libraries, people who value libraries, and people who appreciate libraries can be and often are oblivious to the history of libraries, but if you love libraries you ought to love their history. I think the "I Love Libraries" campaign and website of the American Library Association is a good approach to promoting America's libraries. It should have a library history component, however. A few years ago, the Wisconsin Library Association launched the campaign "I Love Libraries and I Vote" to demonstrate to decision makers that people who feel strongly about libraries are active in the political process. Part of that campaign involved mailing postcards similar to the one above from the Beloit (WI) Public Library to elected officials. On the back of the card, the sender provided a personal message on why the library was important to him or her. One of those reasons could have and should have been that the library has a legacy of making a difference and changing lives in the community. That legacy is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Note: This blog entry also appeared in The Library History Buff Blog.
Note: This entry was also posted on the Library History Buff Blog on Feb. 10, 2009. More on bookmobiles in Wisconsin can be found here.
We wish to express our appreciation to the following individuals and organizations who have achieved the designation of Founding Contributor to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center by making a special contribution to the WLHC. These individuals and organizations are helping the WLHC to get off to a good start in its efforts to promote the heritage of Wisconsin libraries.
Appleton Library Foundation
Lori A. Belongia
Dan C. Calef
John Eldred/Heather Eldred
Beatrice (Bea) Lebal
Ruth Ann Montgomery
Friends of Neenah Library
Larry T. Nix
T.B. Scott Free Library, Merrill, WI
Lowell W. Wilson
The WLHC is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. All members of WLA are automatically members of the WLA Foundation. Those members who wish to provide additional support for WLA Foundation programs are encoraged to become a participant in one of the contributing Circles of the Foundation. The Founding Contributor designation for the WLHC is a one-time contributing opportunity. For more on how to become a Founding Contributor click here.