Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

Marketing Library History

A basic tenet of good library public relations is to seize every possible opportunity to penetrate the consciousness of the general public and community leaders with a positive message about the library. The over arching theme of library history public relations is that the library has been in the business of changing lives and improving the quality of life for the residents of your community for a long time, and that it continues to build on that heritage.

After a basic or compete library history has been compiled (or even before), the library should take advantage opportunities to put your library's history in front of the public.  Special library anniversaries are obviously a major opportunity, but those don't come around that often. Other occasions that lend themselves to promoting your library through history include national events such as  National Library Week, Archives Month. Preservation Month, ALA Preservation Week, National Bookmobile Day, and National History Day. The library can tie its history into other major library anniversaries. In 2000 libraries throughout Wisconsin and the nation helped the Library of Congress celebrate its bicentennial. This year is 175th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie who helped fund 65 libraries in Wisconsin. This is an opportunity to promote library history if your community benefited from a Carnegie grant. The Wisconsin Library Association will have its 120th anniversary in 2011 and its 125 anniversary in 2016, both provide opportunities to tie your library's history to this influential library organization.

The library doesn't need to have a major anniversary or occasion to promote its history. Library history can be incorporated into the library's ongoing marketing plan especially using Library 2.0 techniques. 

Some ideas for using library history to market the library are provided below.

Traditional Marketing and Public Relations Techniques

Any of the traditional marketing and public relations techniques for promoting libraries can incorporate library history. There is a tremendous amount of information readily available about these techniques.

Although they have not done so to any great extent, state and national library organizations could provide leadership in using library history to promote libraries. The American Library Association sponsorship of National Bookmobile Day  and Preservation Week are two models for doing this.

Marketing Ideas for Your Library's Website and Blog

Include something on the masthead for your website relating to the length of time the library has served your community.  Examples: "Serving the Jonesville Community for over one hundred years" or Making a difference in the lives of Jonesville's residents for more than 5 decades". If possible link the statement to an online history of the library.  This would be especially appropriate for the celebration of a significant anniversary.

At a minimum place a library history timetable or basic history on your website. Use the two click approach. After opening the library's home page it should take only two clicks to get to a library history. It would normally be included in the "About" or "About us" or "About the library" drop down menu. Home - About - Library History. A good example of this is the website of the  L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in Eau Claire.

If your library has a blog, you're probably aware that its success is dependent on regular, interesting posts. Why not create some posts related to your library's history and intersperse them occasionally with your other posts. If you already have a good library history, pull some stories from that history. Examples of library history posts can be found on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center home page and on the Library History Buff Blog.

Create a separate blog for special anniversaries. Although most libraries don't have at their disposal the resources of American Libraries, that publication developed an excellent blog to celebrate its first 100 years. In 2000 to celebrate its 125th anniversary the Madison Public Library collaborated with storyteller Dr. Bob Kann to create a website on which Kann told a different story from the library's history for 125 days. You can invite library users to share their memoirs of using the library in the past on a specially created blog. The Appleton Public Library did something similar to celebrate its centennial in 1997. The Library created an "I Remember" scrapbook in which library patrons could write down their special remembrances and the scrapbook was placed online.

Digital Collections

Many libraries are digitizing special collections and loading these into local and state digital collections. Very few are digitizing their own library history collections. The Marathon County Public Library is an exception. See the Libraries and Schools in Marathon and Lincoln Counties collection at http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.EducationFacilities . Once your library history collection has been digitized, images can be incorporated into a number of other marketing efforts including the use of Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. 


Make use of your written library history on Wikipedia. Using guidelines from the web based encyclopedia Wikipedia develop an article on your library's history. Google and other search engines almost always return Wikipedia articles in their highest ranked search results results.

Library History Exhibits

Exhibits, both physical and digital, can be used to make library users and the public aware of the contribution the library has played over the years. These can be in conjunction with special anniversaries and occasions or at any other time.

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center sponsors a Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit that features a variety of vintage library souvenir items. This exhibit or parts of this exhibit is available to Wisconsin libraries under certain circumstances. If a library makes use of the WLHC exhibit they are strongly encouraged to publicize the exhibit using local media and their website. Contact Larry T. Nix at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for more information.

A library can develop its own exhibit featuring various in-house artifacts and artifacts from other sources. A good first step is doing an inventory of the artifacts in the library that could be used for this purpose. Thse artifacts could include basic historical documents, photographs, library souvenirs (postcards, china, spoons, paperweights), library tools, equipment, and supplies of the past. The use of an old traveling library book box in a display at the Crandon Public Library led storyteller Stuart Stotts to write Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin. An entire exhibit was built around a Tabard Inn Library revolving bookcase at the Menasha Public Library.

When the Fond du Lac Public Library hosted the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit, it developed its own exhibit of "then and now" photographs. This is a great approach to an exhibit.

More information about library exhibits can be found HERE.

Postal Souvenirs

Work with the local post office to create a pictorial postmark related to the library's anniversary.  Create a souvenir envelope to go with the postmark and include an insert with the history of the library.  

Popular Tags

Library People Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries campaign Hall of Fame 2009 presentations Library people Bookmobiles Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries bookworm Hall of Fame 2012 background National Bookmobile Day UW-Milwaukee Libraries Library History Digital Collections Hall of Fame 2014 Campaign Oshkosh Public Library Library Artifacts Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends Hall of Fame 2010 Brown County Library People Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Zona Gale Hall of Fame 2008 anniversaries CCBC Milwaukee Art Museum Frank Avery Hutchins Milwaukee Public Library Exhibits Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries WWI Library War Service Bernard Schwab DeForest Area Public Library School of Library and Information Studies Clarence Brown Lester Library people Postcards Cornelia Marving Pierce Middleton Public Library Events & Meetings Katharine MacDonald Jones Anniversaries Wisconsin Library Association McMillan Memorial Library Wisconsin Free Library Commission buil Ruth Ann Montgomery Sarah Janice Kee Woman's Congress Carl Spitzweg Public libraries campaign Anniversaries Library Trustees Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Library Systems Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Eager Free Public Library hall of Library Buidlings Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Tower Hill Wisconsin John Miller Chancellor T. B. Scott Free Public Library Marketing-Publicity Postcards Beloit Public Library Events Postcards Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Lutie Eugenia Stearns Postcards Campaign Library Buildings ca Evansville Wisconsin Madison Public Library Elroy Public Library Cooperative Children's Book Center S. Janice Kee Milwaukee Public Library library memorabilia Hall of Fame 2012 archives Uncategorized Hall of Fame 2011 Hartford Public Library Library celebrations Gerald A. Somers Wisconsin Historical Society Hall fo Fame 2012 Wisconsin Rapids Historical Register Delia Ovitz cam bed and breakfast traveling libraries Hall of Fame 2012 Edward Asahel Birge Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries American Library Association Library War Service Beaver Dam Public Library National Library Week Special libraries School libraries Richard E. Krug Carnegie libraries campa Hall of Fame 2013 Hall Publications Campaign J. D. Witter Academic Libraries Pewaukee Public Library campaign Rusk County Community Library Ice Storm library exhibit Suring Area Public Library

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo

Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Logo