Are libraries going to the dogs? We all know better than to believe those who deem libraries obsolete in today’s fast-paced, tech-driven environment, but we also know that we need to consistently demonstrate the ways in which libraries are essential, innovative, and—dare we say?—cool. So we were thrilled to welcome Snoopy, the absolute coolest customer, as the 2015 National Library Card Sign-Up Month spokesdog!
Snoopy has inspired all of us at Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library (CCPL) to expand Library Card Sign-Up Month into a dog-tastic extravaganza. We are crowdsourcing a “top dog” to be featured on an official CCPL library card, and we’re giving customers the chance to create their own customized library cards during a special pet photo shoot event. Even my dog, Grady, is looking forward to expanding the fame he’s acquired via my @sari_feldman Twitter feed to have his photo featured on a CCPL library card. But, in an age when customers can simply log in online to request and download content or use an app to check out material, why all this attention on the physical card?
We know that libraries need to create affinity for the “library brand.” The library card, used in all types of libraries, remains a symbol of our brand. It’s a daily reminder that the library is an open, trusted source that belongs to the cardholder; it’s the physical proxy that links the library’s core values of privacy, equity, intellectual freedom, and democracy to the individual library patron. This is perhaps why President Obama recently issued the ConnectED Library Challenge, which calls for library cards for all children to ensure access to a library. A library card is their key to the education, employment, entrepreneurship, engagement, and empowerment opportunities that libraries provide.
If the library card is part of our brand identity, we need to support the brand through strategic marketing efforts. Our profession has always placed a budgetary priority on service over marketing, yet we can no longer rely on earned media and nostalgic sentiment alone. We need to invest in actively marketing libraries to capture mindshare and move the needle on public perception of the value of libraries. The “Libraries Transform” public awareness campaign is built upon the premise that elevating consciousness of the changing face of America’s libraries and engaging individuals and communities will increase support for libraries from a funding and information policy perspective.
I will be on the road this fall visiting library associations in California, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, and New York. It is a speaking tour but an even better listening opportunity. I want to hear from library advocates about the ways they will use the Libraries Transform website and tools. I want to understand how we might better create momentum as we head into a public launch of our campaign in October.
I hope we will all be inspired by Snoopy during National Library Card Sign-Up Month. He is a dreamer who spends his days imagining life as a writer, a flying ace, and, of course, Joe Cool. At the same time, he’s a trusted friend to “that round-headed kid” and the Peanuts gang. Like Snoopy, libraries invite imagination and serve as a trusted resource to anyone (person or service dog) who steps through our doors. Let’s look to Library Card Sign-Up Month as a catalyst for all individuals in schools, universities, and communities to become card-carrying members of America’s libraries. Let’s dream big like Snoopy and expand Obama’s vision of a connected society where libraries transform individual opportunity and community progress.