(from Maine Townsman, May 2003)
by Rachel Quenk, Children’s Librarian, Thomas Memorial Library, Cape Elizabeth
Many people, whether in Maine or across the country, do not know that libraries offer more than just books, and that librarians have specialized knowledge of how to find the resources to fulfill any given informational need.
Individual libraries have tried to get the word out about the services they provide to their communities, but those efforts have only reached a small segment of the people who could reap the benefits libraries have to offer them.
A major new statewide library awareness campaign, made possible by the Maine Library Commission and the New Century Community Program, seeks to unite Maine’s diverse libraries by providing a clear, consistent message that offers reasons for people to use library services. Maine Libraries: Something for Everyone is the new slogan that librarians hope will grab the public’s attention and convince non-users to give libraries a try.
Governor John Baldacci led the Maine Libraries campaign kick-off event on April 7 at the Maine State Library. In his address, the governor stated, “Libraries are at the heart of Maine communities. They serve the people of our state by providing a place to turn for books and information. But they do much more. Libraries expand access to technology by providing Internet access. They also serve as meeting places, and provide space for art exhibits and public forums. Libraries respond to many other needs in our communities. They help people acquire new skills, learn more about the world they live in, and provide resources for people seeking employment opportunities. Libraries do so much, but their contributions are not always widely known. Maine’s libraries, and their staff members, deserve our recognition and support. This is an important campaign for the future of our libraries, and for the people who benefit from their services.”
Promoting library services throughout the state is a challenge because Maine’s libraries — public, school, academic, hospital, museum, and other specialized libraries — have diverse collections, vary in size, and are scattered throughout the largest cities and smallest towns. But the effort is well worth it when you consider that Maine’s libraries provide ready access to information and resources that are difficult to find anywhere else.
Maine’s library collections are not limited to books and other print materials; resources also include audio-books, CDs, videos, DVDs, electronic resources, Internet access and instruction, community service programs, local history information, and all manner of lifelong learning opportunities. Maine’s professional, trained librarians and staff are available to help library users make the most efficient use of all of these resources. While each library tailors its collection to the specific needs of its community, interlibrary loan makes any library’s materials available to all users, no matter their location. Users may also access many library resources online at their own convenience. The slogan, Maine Libraries: Something for Everyone, was chosen because it truly does unite this vast wealth of resources into one, simple but honest statement.
District consultants from the Maine Regional Library System wrote the initial grant seeking the funds for the campaign, and a committee of librarians from all over the state representing public, academic, school, and special libraries was assembled to plan the campaign’s course. The committee then hired Shoestring Creative Group of Portland as the public relations consultant.
In addition to developing the slogan, Maine Libraries: Something for Everyone, the campaign has produced a number of ads that have been distributed to media outlets around the state. MaineToday.com has signed on as a media sponsor, and some of the campaign’s banner ads may be viewed at the top of its weather page. Some ads feature only text, such as “Get a Life: From story hour to art openings and community events, life happens at a library near you,” or “Get Dirty: Gardening ideas and inspiration found in books, magazines and online at a library near you.” Others feature campaign spokespeople—Mainers whose lives have been affected by using Maine libraries. One spokesperson used USM’s Small Business Development Center library to help start her own business; another was inspired to pursue a career as a magician by the resources he found at the Topsham Public Library. The ads are not the only major product of Maine Libraries campaign, however. The campaign committee sought to create a resource for the citizens of Maine that would exist long after the grant funding runs out.
The Maine Libraries campaign web site, www.MaineLibraries.com, in addition to providing library news and campaign promotional materials, provides the public with a searchable database of Maine libraries. A person in Gorham, for example, looking for consumer health information at a library nearby could enter a region or mile range and the information sought, and receive a list of libraries that fit those requirements. By clicking on a library’s name in the search results, she could find more information about that particular library, and perhaps be connected to that library’s own web site. In that example, the libraries that match the search might include area hospitals that have consumer health libraries open to the public, as well as public libraries, and maybe even school libraries that offer public services. Through the database, the campaign hopes to bring once-hidden resources to the forefront of the public’s awareness, thus increasing their use and expanding the public’s view of what a library is and what Maine’s diverse libraries have to offer.
The campaign’s web site also offers marketing resources for libraries. Campaign ads, logos, desktop wallpapers, and other promotional items can be downloaded from the site and used or adapted to suit a library’s needs. Some libraries feature campaign ads on their bookmarks, brochures, and flyers, and have put the desktop wallpapers on their public access computers. Because Maine’s libraries are so varied and diverse, the campaign is challenged to bring as many libraries on board as possible to help spread the word that Maine’s libraries truly do offer “Something for Everyone.”