ALA sponsors Library Card Sign-up Month each September to remind kids and parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all. Promotional materials are available from ALA Graphics. See the @ your library® Campaign website for a proclamation, sample press materials and other helpful information.
1. Set an ambitious but realistic goal, such as registering all kindergarteners, first or second graders.
2. Take a picture of kids or families with their library cards to display in the library and later to take home.
3. Sponsor a library card sign-up competition for schools. Ask local businesses and community groups to sponsor rewards for classes with 100 percent library card sign-up.
4. Plan a Library Day at the zoo, ballpark or amusement park. Everyone with a library card gets in free or at a discount.
5. Visit classrooms to round up those without library cards. Dress up as a cowboy, superhero or storybook character. Tell stories and give out registration materials.
6. Give stickers or small gifts to children who check out their first books. Put a nameplate with their name and date inside a favorite book.
7. Recruit local businesses to give discounts or freebies to kids who "Show Us Your Library Card.”
8. Sponsor a party with a library card required for admission.
9. Ask the Board of Education, mayor, village president and/county board chair to proclaim National Library Card Sign-up Month.
10. Send a press release and public service ads directed at parents and caregivers to local newspapers, radio, and TV stations.
11. Arrange to have a letter and bookmark sent to parents of elementary children early in the school year to encourage them to sign up their children.
12. Give every child that registers a packet with tips about how the library can help them, booklists of suggested authors or titles to enjoy and a bookmark.
How some libraries do it
One of the best ways to reach "new" school-age kids is a library card sign-up campaign conducted through schools. Send home a card application with a cover letter in the school's weekly parent communication envelope. We've had these materials translated into three languages. We also offer free replacement cards (normally $2).
After the sign up campaign, as a reward for participating, each classroom schedules a field trip to the library for a fun-yet-educational presentation and library tour. Bus transportation is paid for through a grant. We offer a choice of three programs for each grade level, along with basic information about how to use the library. Library cards are ready to use when the class visits.
—Sandy Kallunki, Public Information Coordinator, Brown County Central Library, Green Bay, Wisc.
Our library’s Great Library Card Adventure rewards teachers, as well as students. Teachers receive a $3 drink coupon from Starbucks when they send in the library card applications from their classes. Students (both those who already have cards and those who sign up) receive Great Library Card Adventure stickers. Classrooms with 100 percent sign-up for library cards are entered in a drawing to win one of three collections of age-appropriate fiction and non-fiction books for their classroom. Classes with 100 percent registration that do not win a book collection receive a gift certificate to a local bookstore.
—Ellen Fader, Youth Services Coordinator, Multnomah County Library, Portland, Ore.,
We have a first grade initiative for library card sign-up each September, which is a partnership with our public schools. It’s called Mission G.O. (Grade One)! The month-long campaign targets approximately 6,000 first grade children in both public and private elementary schools.
· Encourage first grade children to use the public library.
· Issue public library cards to all county first grade children.
· Encourage family members to visit and use the library.
· Promote and celebrate National Library Card Sign-up Month.
· Forge and strengthen collaborative activity between schools and public libraries.
Community partners include all 16 county public school districts, 30 private elementary schools and the county commissioners as Honorary Chairs.
The campaign is marketed through participating partners, target audience, kickoff event, newspapers, radio station, cable television, posters, library website.
The Library System funds the $4,000 cost of the program. Sponsorship support is provided by a local foundation and bookstores.
—Mary Ann Heltshe-Steinhauer, Community Relations Coordinator, Library System of Lancaster County, Lancaster, Penn.