Library Snapshot Day: A Day in the Life of Your Library

Library Snapshot Day provides a way for libraries of all types across a state, region, system or community to show what happens in a single day in their libraries. How many books are checked out? How many people receive help finding a job? Doing their taxes? Doing their homework? This initiative provides an easy means to collect statistics, photos and stories that will enable library advocates to prove the value of their libraries to decision-makers and increase public awareness.
 

Creating a Library Snapshot Day in Your State or Locality

1. Why host a Snapshot Day?

We all know that libraries are busier than ever providing incredible service in these challenging economic times.  What if libraries went away, even for a day? What would the impact be on our state and the people we serve? What would happen if there were no libraries? The New Jersey State Library and the New Jersey Library Association held two “Snapshot Days” in 2009 and the statistics, photographs and stories gathered on those two dates provided indisputable proof that libraries consistently provide invaluable services to our community.

The idea for “Snapshot Day” emanated from the “Libraries Transform Lives Task Force,” instituted by Norma Blake, New Jersey State Librarian. The 40 members of this task force comprised librarians from all over New Jersey and from all types of libraries. Task force members met each month to brainstorm and generate ideas to demonstrate libraries’ worth. We wanted to come up with a simple, effective method to capture all the ways that libraries offer vital services every single day. We decided that we would ask library staff to document in statistics, stories and photographs “a day in the life” of their library. We knew that we could take this data and aggregate it and come up with powerful statistics that would show the positive impact libraries have on community members in every part of our state on a daily basis.

Participants have used the results of “Snapshot Day” to advocate with their mayors and council members, have published reports in their local newspapers and newsletters, and have shared statistics with their “Friends of the Library” members and other stakeholders. The New Jersey State Library created a poster celebrating “Snapshot Day” activities and sent the poster and a letter describing the day’s activities to each and every New Jersey legislator.

2. Snapshot Day committee

We recommend that “Snapshot Day” be orchestrated as a statewide effort. This ensures that the aggregated data will reflect the greatest possible participation and the highest possible numbers. To ensure success, the committee should include a representative from your State Library and from your state’s library association. Committee members should reflect every type of library present in your state: special, academic, school, government, and public. Representatives from each library sector will be able to mobilize peers and colleagues in their particular field of expertise and encourage participation from their colleagues. 

3. Getting buy-in

We were very successful in getting participation statewide for two reasons.  Libraries everywhere are in dire straits; budgets are being slashed and libraries are seeking ways to prove their value.  “Snapshot Day” offers participants neatly packaged, compelling data to help state their case.  The second reason for “Snapshot Day’s” success is the ease of participation.  Libraries are fabulous at gathering statistics on a daily basis, typically to be used only in annual reports or when filling out their Per Capita State Aid report.  “Snapshot Day” presents the captured data as a product that can be used in effective advocacy efforts. 

4. Choosing the date(s)

Our recommendation is that six months notice be given for the selected “Snapshot Day” date.  This allows plenty of time to generate interest among potential participants and it also allows libraries to schedule events that will attract numerous attendees.  In addition, this is an opportunity to send out press releases to your local news outlets about the upcoming event.  Schedule your date to coincide with popular library events, and give partner institutions a two-week window to work with around the chosen date so that they can maximize their impact at their locations.

5. Document your statistics

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Make participation in Snapshot Day easy.  Offer a data collection tool and choose a simple platform for sharing information.  Identify a contact person who can answer questions quickly and constructively. 

6.  Encourage participation

After the initial announcement, use multiple channels to send reminders and build enthusiasm.  Ask participating libraries to post a link from their library's home page to the "Snapshot Day's" results page.  Use a uniform image that can be downloaded by participants.  Feel free to use these samples, or create your own.

7. Collect data and photographs

Announce a short (about one week) collection window for participants to upload their data and photographs.  Make the process easy to use for both submitter and aggregator - there are many free online forms available that allow for submission of data, text, attachments (for images).

8. Share your results

The most important thing is to share Snapshot Day results as quickly and widely as possible, so it is important to use a platform that works well for you.  This may be in the form of a website, or it may be through a different platform such as Tumblr.  (See the example from Washington State).  The New Jersey Library Association created the original Snapshot Day and continues to showcase the incredible work of New Jersey libraries: http://snapshotdaynj.org/

Other states have been inspired by New Jersey's example and have added their own ideas and resources.  Here are some examples:

 

Planning your own Snapshot Day?

If you're planning to host your own snapshot day, please help ALA make the case for what happens in libraries across the country in a single day! It's easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Let ALA Know! If you are interested in hosting a Snapshot Day (or if you have any questions), or if you have already hosted one and would like to tell us about it, please contact Joaquin Falcon, ALA Office for Library Advocacy.
  2. Send ALA your results! Please fill out this form (Word document or PDF) and help ALA compile information about what happens in libraries across the country in a single day. Once complete, you can email the form to jfalcon@ala.org

More about Library Snapshot Day

The concept originated in New Jersey as a joint effort between the New Jersey Library Assn. and the New Jersey State Library. Soon after, many states began emulating the effort. At the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Advocacy Coordinating Group, in conjunction with the Chapter Relations Committee and COSLA, agreed to take this initiative to a national level, asking that states across the country find a date to conduct their own Library Snapshot Day.