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National Library Week activities for academic libraries

By Michael Binder

Director of Libraries Western Kentucky University

Last year was the “Year of the Reader at Western Kentucky.

Early in January 1987, many of us at the Western Kentucky University Libraries became aware of the designation of 1987 as “The Year of the Reader” by both the Congress and the Center for the Book, and that ALA would be promoting National Library Week with two themes, “Take Time to Read” and “The Year of the Reader.” Also, we had been encouraged by the Kentucky Library Association to develop plans for 1987 to promote both “The Year of the Reader” as well as the Kentucky

Library Association theme, “Take Time to Read, Kentucky.”

We saw the development of a year-long program focusing on reading, books and libraries as a golden opportunity to promote our library at our campus.

Early in February, I appointed a “Year of the Reader” Celebration Committee. Eleven library faculty formed the team for what became a planning committee for both our “National Library Week” celebration and our “Year of the Reader” promotional campaign. Each separate activity had its own subcommittee composed of additional library faculty and some support staff.

We were fortunate that the enthusiasm was high for these promotions and that the Committee’s first meeting resulted in an effective and realistic plan for the year’s celebration activities. It is a credit to the Celebration Committee’s foresight and imagination that their plan held up well throughout the year. Not only did the activities they recommended take place but additional ones were planned and implemented as well.

A vital part of the year-long promotion tied to the “Year of the Reader” was the kick-off activities planned for National Library Week. Our plan to develop activities to celebrate National Library Week was especially significant since it marked the first time that National Library Week was to be observed at our campus.

Just a few days prior to the start of National Library Week, I joined our city public library director for the signing of the proclamation of “National Library Week” and the “Year of the Reader” by our city mayor and the county administrator. During National Library Week, the picture appeared in local newspapers. The proclamation itself was framed and placed on an easel in a prominent location at our library.

The activities really heated up on April 3rd. At noon that day, the University Libraries sponsored a free pizza and coke party on the patio area outside the main library. That was to kick-off both “National Library Week” and the “Year of the Reader” and coincided with a statewide kick-off the same day at the State Library in Frankfort. Balloons were launched from the four locations of our university library system and tied to the strings were messages encouraging people to read. Door prizes of books, contributed by Waldenbooks, were a hit of the day—but the biggest hit was the pizza. $200 of pizza went in 10 minutes. No doubt attracted by a rock band, over 500 students and faculty attended the kick-off, far exceeding our expectations.

Beginning with the kick-off event, buttons, posters and bookmarks with the themes, “Year of the Reader” and “Take Time to Read, Kentucky” were widely on display at the Western Kentucky campus and throughout the city and county.

On April 7, we opened enlarged facilities for University Archives. The festivities included a speech by a history professor who had recently made extensive use of the Archives to write a history of the University. His speech was followed by a reception in the lobby of the main library.

Too often, even with the best of intentions, major kick-off events, such as the two we held during National Library Week, are not followed up with additional promotional activities. We persisted, despite the difficulty of mounting major events and still getting our regular jobs done, in following through and developing detailed plans to implement the other activities for our “Year of the Reader” celebration. We used National Library Week successfully to kick-off a major campaign promoting the importance of books, reading and libraries.

In July, we honored University reading faculty during International Reading Association workshops held on campus. Also that month, Tom Birdseye, an author of children’s books and a university graduate, gave a standing room only talk to elementary school children about his books. In September, with the start of a new academic year, we sponsored a Symposium on “Motivating College Students to Read” that included a panel of librarians, educators and students reacting to a speech by Judith Thelen, a nationally known authority and researcher on reading, on “Reading Beyond the Textbook.” In October, our lobby was again filled to capacity with yet another promotion. This time, on Halloween, library faculty and staff dressed as fictional book characters threw a party complete with treats, refreshments, door prizes and palm reading. In November, we held a Holiday Book Sale in our lobby with books from the University Press of Kentucky offered at substantial discounts. One of the Press’s recent authors, a University faculty member, was present to autograph copies of his new book. In December, we hosted a reception at our beautiful Kentucky Building, honoring University faculty who published books and articles during 1987. Their names were listed on both the program for the reception and a bookmark saluting them, and their works were on exhibit on tables in the reception area.

In addition to these events, as part of our commemoration of 1987 as the “Year of the Reader,” we initiated a Leisure Reading Collection in the main library to promote reading as a fun as well as a learning activity. Needless to say, having bestsellers and the latest releases readily available on campus was extremely well received by the university community. This has become one of our most heavily used collections.

All told, we successfully developed eight different promotions during the year. Any of our “Year of the Reader” activities could be adapted and tailored by other academic libraries to use for National Library Week.

I would like to discuss briefly some of the benefits we see resulting from our ’87 campaign. First, it is clear that the University Libraries as a system, as an organization and as a political and academic force on campus, increased its visibility and strength. In a year when the University profited from a significant enrollment increase, our budget received double the highest increase received by the colleges of the University. It also was the largest increase in funding received by the library in its recent history. Our visibility throughout the year was enhanced by continued media, especially local television, coverage of our “Year of the Reader” programs. Secondly, our faculty and staff gained considerable expertise in developing and sustaining promotional activities.

Academic libraries should look at National Library Week as an excellent opportunity to increase library awareness on the campus. While this could certainly be done through various promotions at other times of the year, I think the academic library can benefit from:

•the national attention being centered on libraries that week;

•from the materials and other support provided by ALA in its efforts to promote National Library Week;

•from the activities simultaneously occurring that week in public and school libraries;

•and finally, from the possibility of joining with public and school librarians to cooperatively develop National Library Week programs benefiting all kinds of libraries.

Editor‘s note: This is a revision of a presentation given at the National Library Week Workshop, ALA Midwinter MeetingSan Antonio. January

Copyright © American Library Association

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