2018 winners of the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award

The judges for the 2018 John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards competition announced eight winners.  Each winning library will receive a $10,000 award from the H.W. Wilson Foundation and will be celebrated June 24 at a reception sponsored by EBSCO Information Services during the American Library Association’s 2018 annual conference in New Orleans.

Milwaukee Public Library:  How could a library move away from the old stereotype of “shhh” and prove that the library is a modern, lively gathering spot enjoyed by people of all ages?  With a little noise – that’s how.  Library Loud Days were born.  Library Loud Days launched as a free, fun event series in July of 2016 with a hip-hop concert and street party at the main Central Library and ended in December 2017 with a smackdown in the stacks – a Mexican wrestling contest.

In the months following the initial launch of Library Loud, Milwaukee Public Library saw a 60-percent increase in library card registrations and a 20-percent increase in circulation.  The website, mpl.org saw a 40-percent increase in unique visitors. Now three out of every four Milwaukeeans are registered library users.  They’ve seen a 30-percent increase in program attendance, a 67-percent increase in database usage, and they’ve nearly doubled their social media engagement.

Rochester Public Library:  After seeing a Public Library Association conference session titled “How Two Libraries Quit Summer Reading and You Can, Too,” Rochester Public Library made the bold decision to stop their traditional summer reading program and invent something completely new. In 2017, they unveiled “Summer Playlist,” a new summer reading program to encourage more Rochester-area residents to read, explore, create and connect. Using a combination of word-of-mouth marketing, social media strategies and creative ad placement, involvement in the library’s summer program increased 52 percent over the previous year. In addition, 82 percent of participants gained a new skill, learned a new fact, or tried something new. The increased activity also led to 96 percent of participants reporting a positive experience with RPL and 53 percent of participants reporting learning more about their community.

San José Public Library:  In public libraries, fines can be the biggest barrier for many customers, and San José Public Library decided to do something about it. Their “2-Step Fine Forgiveness Program” was the Library’s first-ever, month-long return amnesty program. The multilingual awareness campaign was created to motivate customers who had overdue items to return them and have their late fees waived. The campaign included unique approaches to make the program welcoming to everyone and reached well over 800,000 people through social media, community outreach and news media coverage.  In just 31 days, nearly half of all the overdue materials were returned, over 12,000 people participated, and a total of $63,846.91 in late fees were waived, restoring account access to thousands.

DC Public Library:  Technology is all around us, and DC Library wanted its community to know and take advantage of the online music, books, classes and more that DC Library provides. Many of their customers were aware of the services but had difficulty accessing them. GoDigital was a campaign to share all of the district’s excellent services, and to develop an easy-to-use portal where all of the digital services and products were available. From social media to staff outreach, table tents and events, DC Library successfully increased digital service use throughout the system, especially in areas where awareness was lacking.

California State University San Marcos Library:  California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) is a young university wanting to connect with its vibrant community. No better way to do that than beer and libraries. Brewchive, a special collection, was born from the desire of CSUSM to share the story of the craft brewing industry and history in San Diego, increase awareness of its unique collection on craft brewing and connect the community with the library through camaraderie. CSUSM worked hand in hand with major and local breweries and brewers to create major buzz for the historical collection.  It also increased awareness through participation in a local festival, developed marketing tools and resources, and supported the development of a certificate program in the business of brewery engineering.

Arlington Heights Memorial Library:  The Arlington Heights Memorial Library took creative inspiration from social media themes in its 2017 One Book, One Village (OBOV) community read selection, "The Circle" by Dave Eggers, and built #beinthecircle, a communications campaign combining traditional marketing with a heightened emphasis on social media. Key to the success of the program was using “influencer” marketing to promote the program. They identified popular local social media users to push posts about the online book discussion and library exhibit to their followers. In return, they had an impressive statistical growth over the previous year’s OBOV which included 84 percent more social media engagement and a remarkable 55-percent growth in book discussion attendance.

Kitsap Regional Library:  Kitsap Regional faced a challenge that many libraries face today; decreasing financial resources. In 2007 and 2010, Kitsap asked its region and local community to support libraries by voting on a tax levy. Both years the voters said no. Kitsap didn't quit, they planned. Using a five-year plan, shifting the culture of the library and brand, reconnecting to the community and customers, Kitsap was ready in 2016 to ask voters to support their libraries one more time. The hard work and planning resulted in a yes vote with 65-percent support. Kitsap's community has definitely become superfans of their Library.

InfOhio Digital Library:  In April 2015, legislators announced that INFOhio’s funding of digital content for PreK-12 students would be reduced by $1.1 million—from $2.5 million to $1.4 million. INFOhio worked hard to restore the funding in 2015; however, the efforts failed. With this blow, INFOhio began investigating ways to educate Ohio legislators in a valiant attempt to reinstate funding for the next budget cycle in 2017. INFOhio’s goal would be achieved through one strategy: communication. With the creation of advocacy groups and a detailed communications schedule of weekly updates, messages, legislative visits and phone calls, #INFOhioWorks gave legislators the key ingredients to increase funding back to 2015 levels of $2.5 million.

About the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards
Inaugurated in 1946 by The American Library Association and the H.W. Wilson Publishing Company, this award is named after the first librarian to overtly make use of public relations to publicize library activities. The award is one of the most coveted and prestigious of the awards recognizing marketing and public relations excellence. The award selection is managed by the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), a division of the American Library Association.