Celebrating significant library anniversaries is a great way to promote libraries and library history. It’s feasible to celebrate anniversaries as often as every five years and certainly every ten years. A significant celebration should take place every 25 years. Of course, fiftieth anniversaries and centennials call for even more elaborate celebrations.
Celebrations can occur for a variety of library anniversaries. These include the legal founding date of the library or organization, the founding date of a predecessor library with a direct connection to the current library, the anniversary of the library’s building or one of the library’s buildings, or the celebration of a significant event in the history of the library such as the start of bookmobile service.
Tips on celebrating anniversaries
- Validate and document the date of the event on which the anniversary is based.
- Link your anniversary to what was going on in your community during the year on which your anniversary is based.
- Start planning early! The more significant the anniversary the earlier you should start. Three to five years for a centennial celebration is not too early. Why not make it a multi-year event with a count down to the centennial year.
- Establish a planning committee made up of enthusiastic members. The committee should include community members as well as library staff and board members.
- Get your Friends of the Library organization involved.
- Involve outside groups and organizations such as the local historical society and the municipal government.
- Establish an overall plan with a timeline.
- The plan should include a strong public relations/marketing component.
- Some ideas for celebrating anniversaries
- Conduct a variety of events and programs throughout the anniversary year.
- Designate one day as the date for the “birthday party” or key special event. Have an open house. Invite dignitaries. Arrange for entertainment. Have staff where historic clothing. Heavily publicize the event. Prepare a printed event program.
- Develop and utilize a special logo for the anniversary.
- Establish an anniversary blog and seek stories from people in the community about the library’s past and their involvement with the library.
- Create a special page on the library’s Web site for all anniversary related information.
- Develop an exhibit of historical artifacts related to the library or to the community. Use old library photos.
- Arrange for regular stories in the local media.
- Arrange to have a history of the library written and place a version of it on the library’s Web site.
- 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.
The Wisconsin State Law Library, Wisconsin’s oldest library, celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2011. It undertook a year long schedule of activities to celebrate this important milestone.
To help celebrate its centennial in 1997 the Appleton Public Library created a “I Remember” scrapbook in which library patrons could write down their special remembrances of using the library. The scrapbook was cataloged and placed permanently in the library’s Wisconsin collection.
In 2000 the Madison Public Library celebrated its 125th anniversary. In collaboration with storyteller Dr. Bob Kann the library created a website on which Kann told a different story from the library’s history for 125 days. These stories led to a more comprehensive online history of the library which is located at Madison Public Library History.
Resources to Help You Celebrate
LHRT Guidelines for Writing Local Library Histories
The Hippest History by Bernadette A. Lear (Library Journal article)
Wisconsin Library History Links on the Web (includes examples of of local library histories)