For immediate release | May 15, 2019

John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards Announced

The Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) announced today that eight winners will receive this year’s John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards. Each library receives a $10,000 award provided by the H.W. Wilson Foundation. The awards will be presented at a reception held by EBSCO Information Services during the American Library Association’s 2019 annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The 2019 John Cotton Dana Award Winners are:

Ypsilanti District Libraries

Recognizing that 25 percent of children in their community live in poverty and one-third of the community does not have home internet access, Ypsilanti developed TALK: Text and Learn for Kindergarten, a program sending text messages empowering its diverse demographic of parents to be their child’s first and best teacher by using a smart phone. Parents of children ages five and under sign up for biweekly text messages with simple, fun activities designed to build little brains and get kids ready to read and succeed in school. Research-backed messages encourage parents to “talk, sing, read, write, and play” every day with their children – interventions that have been shown to improve academic success and narrow the achievement gap. With innovative text message delivery and an engaging marketing campaign, TALK reached 1,030 children in 726 families in the first year of service.

Enoch Pratt Free Library

In Baltimore, the 2018 census showed more than 21% of residents live below the poverty line, labor statistics showed 5% of the community were unemployed, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library had more than 13,000 blocked library cards due to unpaid fines. The Pratt Library mapped out the branch locations where the most blocked cards occurred and found fines disproportionately impacted some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities.

After working with city officials to become fine free library, Pratt used its communication channels, including social media, to create a buzz that eventually got national attention leading the library to be named one of the Top 10 nicest places in America by Reader’s Digest and Good Morning America. In the six months after the Pratt Library went fine-free, print circulation rose nearly 49%, eMaterial circulation rose by 116%, branch attendance hit a five-year high and 2,000 more people signed up for Library cards.

Vancouver Public Library

In the Fall of 2018, Vancouver Public Library’s research confirmed that their rooftop garden still captivated Vancouverites even though it had always been inaccessible to the public. With an opportunity to renovate the top two floors where they created a gallery, a quiet reading room, and an eighty-seat theater, they also undertook redeveloping the rooftop garden as a publicly accessible outdoor, green space. These spaces, especially the rooftop garden soon became the focal point of messaging inviting patrons to “Get Lost in the Rooftop Garden.” Marketing efforts highlighted the fact that these new spaces offered places for collaboration, creation, and connection helping to change perceptions of what a modern library can be. Through their PR and creative marketing efforts, they generated 215 media stories reaching 36.5 million hits, increased web visitation, increased engagement through social media and also resulted in a 13 percent increase in visitors to the library.

Spokane Public Libraries

In July 2018, Spokane Public Library set a goal to educate 50% of Spokane’s population – 108,246 citizens – about the details of a $77 million bond measure that would be on the November 2018 ballot. If passed, the bond measure would provide funding for the construction of three new libraries and the renovation of four existing libraries.

In order to achieve this ambitious goal, the Marketing Department developed a campaign called “Imagine the Library of the Future.” In addition, they tapped into the Library’s biggest asset – staff – to speak to citizens about the measure. By the end of the campaign, staff members had reached more than 108,546 Spokane citizens with the message about “The Library of the Future.” This was supplemented by significant media coverage including five articles in The Spokesman-Review, television coverage on three local broadcast channels and Spokane Public Radio, and a Facebook Live Q&A about the ballot measure information.

Because of this campaign, City of Spokane Bond Proposition 1 passed on November 6, 2018 with 64.54% approval.

Greater Victoria Public Library

GVPL wanted to increase awareness of library services, especially their new virtual branch at They created an integrated “Change Your Mind” campaign, including custom graphics, websites, and a social media presence all designed by in-house staff. Additionally, GVPL partnered with a local coffee retailer who created 200,000 co-branded beverage sleeves that delivered “Change Your Mind” messaging.

They also created a social media quiz that “diagnosed” what kind of mind you have such as Creative, Curious, or Adventurous which then provided a curated list of books and e-resources AND a link to get a free library card celebrating your specific mind. Over 32,000 community members completed the survey.

At the end of the campaign, the number of users to the virtual branch increased by 20%, with an increased user time on the site averaging 2 minutes and 20 seconds as opposed to a 46 second average on the old site, and had 2.9 million visits to the new site. The library had also increased the number of card holders including young adults 25 to 34 years old. The integrated campaign earned media as well as new media partners, including the CBC public radio who gave the library a weekly spot all summer to talk about how the library changes minds.

Los Angeles Public Libraries

Becoming a new American citizen can be challenging and difficult to navigate; especially in a time where the processes and the outcomes of American citizenship are changing. Los Angeles Public Library created “The New Americans Initiative” and identified the key themes of opportunity, community, trust and citizenship to connect with immigrant communities and to drive awareness in the greater Los Angeles area. This ambitious campaign included comprehensive advertising across channels, the branding of library locations, office spaces, and producing “Know Your Rights” cards in 20 languages.

The campaign generated strong awareness and interest and included promotions in multiple languages and achieved more than 84.4 million impressions and 60,122 unique visitors on social media. The New Americans Initiative website saw 170,563 hits.

Saline County Library

With a goal of engaging inactive and non-cardholders and to establish relationships with local businesses, Saline County Library did just that with their 2018 library card campaign by taking Library Card Sign-Up Month and turning it into a community partnership. Creating a theme, “Power of the Card” that emphasized the unlimited possibilities a simple card could provide, Saline partnered with over 60 local businesses and residents to provide discounts at those business through the power of the library card. For a budget under $250, Saline’s new card encouraged the addition of 330 new cards being issued and 1,713 cards being renewed. The campaign not only drew in more patrons but also created new community partners with over 500 patrons using their library card to get discounts on anything from a tattoo to a steak dinner.

Delaware County District Library

In 2017, the Delaware County District Library knew that within the next 21-months they faced two major challenges: passing a funding levy that almost failed ten years prior and maintaining their own identity as they joined a 17-member library consortium. The “Your Library” campaign was developed around three goals: building awareness of library services, increasing number of cardholders, and ultimately passing a funding levy. Using vibrant visuals that focused on real library materials, they created posters, trade show pop-ups, bookmobile wraps, and a mailer, they created a campaign promoting the library as part of your daily life, with highlights including “Your Game Night,” “Your Recording Studio,” and “Your Next Career Move.” By the end of 2018, it was clear their campaign had been well received because Delaware County District Library cardholders had increased to 75 percent of the service area and the levy passed by a 30-point margin.

About the John Cotton Dana Public Relations Awards

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

About the H.W. Wilson Foundation

The Foundation was established by Halsey W. Wilson in 1952 to support the needs of company employees and retirees. Since 1957, The H.W. Wilson Foundation has focused on providing financial assistance to causes having the greatest impact on improving the spirit, mind and body of the greatest number of people through aid, support and cooperation with charitable, benevolent, educational and religious institutions. Major donors to the Foundation included Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Wilson, and the H.W. Wilson Company.


Fred Reuland

LLAMA Program Officer, Continuing Education

American Library Association

Library Leadership and Management Association