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

School of Library and Information Studies State Law Library Parcel post Brown Deer Public Library Postcards American Library Association Library War Service Council on Library and Network Development Oshkosh Public Library Carnegie libraries 28 anniversaries Wisconsin Rapids Library People Lutie Stearns 14 hall of Milwaukee Public Library 22 Events & Meetings Campaign Library people Postcards Robert Bocher Portage Public Library Wayne A. Wiegand Hall of Fame 2018 T. B. Scott Free Public Library Library people Publications Klaus Linderfelt Frank Avery Hutchins Soughton Public Library James Huff Stout Buttons Jane K. Billings Cooperative Children's Book Center Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries American Library Association Public library systems trav Manitowoc Public Library Capitol Fire 1904 Suring Area Public Library Rusk County Community Library I Love Libraries Library Trustees Irene W. Newman Special libraries Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Milwaukee Public Library Tower Hill Wisconsin 20 Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Brown Deer Public Library Hall of Fame 2014 state historical society Hall fo Fame 2012 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Wisconsin Library Bulletin Superior Carnegie Libraries Hall Edward Asahel Birge Library Systems Hall of Fame 2012 background James Duane Doty campa Bernard Schwab 11 Woman's Congress COLAND Digital Collections campaign Nancy Marshall Library Buildings Bookmobiles Hall of Fame 2015 Library History cam John J. Jax WWI Library War Service Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries WHCLIS Hall of Fame 2015 Sarah Janice Kee Academic Libraries Gilbert H. Doane Inform Wisconsin National Bookmobile Day Carl Spitzweg Hall of Fame 2017 Hall of Fame 2016 Sandra Friedman Dolnick ca Dick Sorensen 27 Library Buidlings Anniversaries WLA 125 24 Wisconsin Free Library Commission Eratus Swift Wilcox Events caly film Richard E. Krug UW-Madison school of library and information studies Ice Storm WAAL Clinton Public Library Wisconsin Library Association Louise S. Robbins William J. Wilson Middleton Public Library Postcards Ruth Ann Montgomery Helen Adams Larry T. Nix Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries John Miller Chancellor Hall of Fame 2015 Dorothea M. Krause Bob Bochfer Hall of Fame 2015 Pewaukee Public Library caly film World War I Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Centennial Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Uncategorized Cam Brown County Library Charles Bunge Campaign Clarence Brown Lester Wisconsin State Law Library Library Artifacts bookworm Exhibits Black River Falls Public Library Library e WLA 125 Dick Sorensen Zona Gale buil archives Beaver Dam Public Library Dianne McAfee Hopkins library legislation Gerald A. Somers bed and breakfast Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs Jerome P. Daniels Ruby Roeder Hall of Fame 2015 Delia Ovitz Elroy Public Library Hall of Fame 2012 Lowell W. Wilson Hall of Fame 2012 Hall of Fame 2010 Hall of Fame 2018 Evansville Wisconsin 23 presentations Hartford Public Library White House Conference on Library and Information Services School libraries Nolan I. Neds Wisconsin Free Library Commission Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Amer Matthew S. Dudgeon J. D. Witter Historical Register membership libraries Wisconsin Historical Society Hall of Fame 2008 caly film Hall of Fame 2009 library memorabilia Hall of Fame 2011 Gertrude Thurow books-by-mail CCBC National Library Week Richard J. Sorensen Public libraries Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends 10 DeForest Area Public Library Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Black River Falls UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Lucy E. Smith Morris Peter G. Hamon Katharine MacDonald Jones campaign S. Janice Kee Milwaukee Art Museum UW-Milwaukee Libraries Postcards McMillan Memorial Library Madison Public Library Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Beloit Public Library Academic Librarians library exhibit Library celebrations Pinback buttons Anniversaries Hall of Fame 2019 Appleton Public Library People traveling libraries Cornelia Marving Pierce campaign Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians 21 Increase A. Lapham Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Public libraries library education Hall of Fame 2013 Lutie Eugenia Stearns Marketing-Publicity Campaign Ripon Public Library Eager Free Public Library Events & Meetings Wilbur Lyle Eberhart Meter mail slogans Orrilla Blackshear WLA 125 WLA 125

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo