College & Research Libraries News

“The Throne”: Campus kudos for a unique library newsletter

by Pat Van Zandt

Who would have thought that a pub- lication mounted only in bathroom stalls in the main library would become the most popular library publication (and one of the most popular publications overall) on campus? But that’s what hap- pened with “Tire Throne,” an irregular newsletter issued by the staff of Swem Li- brary of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The idea for “The Throne” was shamelessly borrowed from Stall Talk of the University of Virginia Libraries. A Swem librarian attending a meeting there discovered a copy in the ladies room and took the idea back to her supervisors, who gave her permission to give it a try. After much brainstorming, the staff came up with the title of the publication to honor King William III and Queen Mary II, who chartered the college in 1693 (making it the second college in the American colonies). A logo of William and Mary on their respective thrones graces the masthead of each issue.

“The Throne” always showcases one or two interesting print or electronic resources available to William and Mary students. Other features have included brief (and always humorous and light-hearted) articles on famous librarians in history, including the Brothers Grimm, Casanova, and St. Jerome, as well as librarians in the movies (as in Party Girl and Desk Set). One issue invited readers to respond to an online survey about their favorite bathroom reading, with results featured in the next issue. The presence of a full-time graphic designer on Swem Library’s staff assures that each colorful issue of “The Throne” is visually as well as intellectually appealing.

We knew that “The Throne” was becoming popular when one of the editors was conducting a bibliographic instruction session. While waiting for the online catalog to bring back search results, she asked the students if they knew how many items the catalog had to look through. When one student tentatively answered, “About a million,” she asked how he knew that figure. The answer: “I read it in ‘The Throne!”’ Other students in the class chimed in with “We love ‘The Throne’!” Since then, a student newspaper survey has voted the Swem Library bathrooms the best on campus, stating that “what really sets these particular bathrooms above all the rest is the including of a … newsletter, ‘The Throne,’ that covers all sorts of hygiene and library trivia” (The Flat Hat, February 14, 2003, p. 14).

“The Throne” is an excellent ex- ample of how a small idea, given encouragement, can pay big divi- dends. “The Throne” is only distrib- uted within library bathrooms, so actual publication cost (paper and plastic wall-mounted covers) is less than $30 per month. However, the value of positive publicity for li- brary services and staff, combined with the opportunity to provide en- tertainment and enlightenment to patrons, is priceless.

“The Throne” began publication in June 2002 and continues on a more- or-less bimonthly basis. Current editors and writers of “The Throne” are Pat Van Zandt and Cyndi Mack (replacing Jessica Fischer); graphic designer is Karen McCluney. Other staff contrib- ute articles on occasion. ■

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