Bookmarks, Posters, and Increasing Community Ownership at your Public Library

This March, with summer reading program plans dancing in my head, I decided to try something new: why not have a poster and bookmark contest to promote summer reading! The idea was not entirely my own. I heard that my friends at Platteville Public Library had hosted a bookmark contest the year before and that it had been incredibly inexpensive to run. (Thank you, Platteville Public Library!). Our city is just over 5,000 people, and our service population encompasses another 10,000 who live in the rural areas around our city. I am always looking for ways to increase our community’s sense of ownership in our public library, and few activities promote as much ownership as seeing your creative work displayed as a poster, or given away as a bookmark!   

In the past, our library purchased bookmarks and posters from professional library supply sources to promote the summer reading program. This year, we decided to use this opportunity to showcase local artistic talent by printing designs created by local artists. In late March, I created a registration form with the rules for the contest, and made this form available at our circulation desks, on Facebook, and on our website. We had four categories: K-3rd grade, 4-8th grade, 9-12 grade, and adult.

I was worried that we would receive almost no entries. Anytime our library does something new, it takes time for our community to know about it, and begin participating. However, two of our area art teachers saw that registration form, and gave it to their students as an optional assignment. With these teacher’s partnerships, our library received over 40 entries. After the entries came in, we taped the artwork to black construction paper, and using sticky tack, we attached them to a wall and placed a number by each entry.

I also wanted our community to feel ownership, even if they had not submitted artwork. So, I made a simple ballot and asked our circulation librarian to give the ballot to each patron when they came to check out their items. I also took pictures of all the entries and uploaded the photos to Facebook so patrons could vote via that medium.

After a month I simply counted up the votes to find out which designs would be our winner. I contacted a local print company in our city, and they were able to print 500 color bookmarks (2.25 inches by 7 inches) and 14 posters for about $100.

The contest was a huge success. We were able to submit the contest results to the local paper, along with an invitation to the community to pick up a bookmark to take home while signing up for our upcoming summer reading program. Great publicity for everyone!

This was a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to bring our community together around the goal of promoting summer reading. The bookmarks are now out at our circulation desks, and the posters decorate walls that had just a little too much white space. Our patrons have begun to notice them, and realize that they were designed by local artists. We will certainly be doing it again in the future!

I think the largest takeaway for me is to look for an opportunity, any opportunity, to allow your community to find a way to leave their mark in their library. Doing so bring people from outside the library walls in, and our library grows and strengthens because of it.

Here is the registration form we used (I am so sorry. I was not able to find the editable word document on my computer):

Here is the ballot that we used: Poster and Bookmark Contest Ballot

And, here are a few more posters:



























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