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. 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. The year 2010 was the 175th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Carnegie who helped fund 65 libraries in Wisconsin. That was a great  opportunity to promote library history for those communities that benefited from a Carnegie grant. The Wisconsin Library Association will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2016.  This will 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. 

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

Appleton Public Library Wayne A. Wiegand library memorabilia Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries membership libraries School libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Manitowoc Public Library Helen Adams 22 Library History Orrilla Blackshear Amer Centennial WLA 125 campaign Council on Library and Network Development 24 Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Soughton Public Library Zona Gale Bob Bochfer Wisconsin Rapids American Library Association Library War Service Black River Falls Public Library Academic Librarians Wisconsin Free Library Commission Brown Deer Public Library hall of caly film CCBC trav Gilbert H. Doane Publications Marketing-Publicity WWI Library War Service Hall of Fame 2012 Hall of Fame 2015 Events Milwaukee Public Library background Nolan I. Neds Edward Asahel Birge White House Conference on Library and Information Services Clarence Brown Lester bed and breakfast Pewaukee Public Library Library Systems William J. Wilson Buttons Ripon Public Library bookworm Hall of Fame 2008 23 UW-Madison school of library and information studies 14 traveling libraries Anniversaries Richard E. Krug John Miller Chancellor Sarah Janice Kee Hall Brown County Library Library Buildings Library People Cornelia Marving Pierce Irene W. Newman Library e Academic Libraries Postcards Library Artifacts Campaign Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Hall of Fame 2015 Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Postcards Hall fo Fame 2012 Special libraries Gertrude Thurow library exhibit Milwaukee Art Museum Elroy Public Library John J. Jax Campaign Evansville Wisconsin Wisconsin Historical Society J. D. Witter James Huff Stout Hall of Fame 2016 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Hall of Fame 2017 Wisconsin Library Bulletin Robert Bocher Jerome P. Daniels Pinback buttons Hall of Fame 2018 27 Ruby Roeder books-by-mail Frank Avery Hutchins Klaus Linderfelt WLA 125 Dorothea M. Krause Eager Free Public Library People presentations Historical Register Hall of Fame 2018 Hall of Fame 2015 I Love Libraries library education National Bookmobile Day Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs Capitol Fire 1904 Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Digital Collections School of Library and Information Studies Hall of Fame 2013 buil WHCLIS WAAL Beloit Public Library caly film Cooperative Children's Book Center Inform Wisconsin National Library Week Louise S. Robbins Hall of Fame 2014 20 Suring Area Public Library Hall of Fame 2012 Matthew S. Dudgeon Library celebrations Bernard Schwab Lucy E. Smith Morris 28 T. B. Scott Free Public Library 11 Library people Postcards Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Beaver Dam Public Library Ice Storm Hall of Fame 2015 Wisconsin State Law Library Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Carnegie libraries campa Hartford Public Library Parcel post Lutie Stearns Public library systems Hall of Fame 2009 Campaign Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Tower Hill Wisconsin UW-Milwaukee Libraries Postcards Madison Public Library World War I Jane K. Billings ca Peter G. Hamon library legislation Milwaukee Public Library Library people Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends Events & Meetings Cam Public libraries Uncategorized Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries caly film Library Trustees Hall of Fame 2011 DeForest Area Public Library Hall of Fame 2015 Middleton Public Library Portage Public Library 10 Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Lowell W. Wilson 21 Library Buidlings cam anniversaries Eratus Swift Wilcox Public libraries Meter mail slogans Ruth Ann Montgomery WLA 125 Lutie Eugenia Stearns State Law Library Katharine MacDonald Jones Anniversaries archives American Library Association Hall of Fame 2012 Wisconsin Free Library Commission Dianne McAfee Hopkins Larry T. Nix McMillan Memorial Library campaign Hall of Fame 2010 Carl Spitzweg Clinton Public Library Events & Meetings Sandra Friedman Dolnick Wisconsin Library Association Brown Deer Public Library COLAND UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Wilbur Lyle Eberhart Charles Bunge Increase A. Lapham Oshkosh Public Library Delia Ovitz campaign Bookmobiles Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Woman's Congress Rusk County Community Library WLA 125 Superior Carnegie Libraries Gerald A. Somers Exhibits state historical society James Duane Doty S. Janice Kee Black River Falls

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo