Erie County Public Library invited authors to share their love for libraries through letters.
Organizing a public outpouring of library love isn't just good for our egos; it can be a smart way to market your library, advocate for funding and much more. So for National Library Lover’s Month (February), the Erie County Public Library contacted publishing houses and authors and had them write love letters to libraries.
Each day the library shared a love letter on its social media page. The public was asked to send their love letters for the Erie County Public Library System to us through direct message (DM). We plan to use the letters from the public to share with our elected officials to show about the importance of the library in the community.
The project resulted in some wonderful letters from authors like Patti Callahan Henry, Susan Meissner and Laura Griffin, Genevieve Gornichec and Lauren Willig. Here is Willig’s letter:
Which is not just a meaningless traditional salutation, but an accurate representation of my feelings. Because you are so dear to me.
A few weeks ago, when I found myself back in quarantine with my preschooler and first grader, one of my favorite librarians sent me a note offering to renew the library cards of everyone in my family, in case I couldn’t get to the library myself. This note turned me into a sniveling, gibbering, tissue-grabbing mess. Because it was so thoughtful. And so above and beyond. And it made me think about all the above and beyond things librarians do every single day.
Thank you. Thank you for providing us with the escapes we need during these troubled times, for recommending just the right book, for showing children (and adults!) that there are still worlds outside their apartments. Thank you for bringing us together at a time when we’ve never been more alone, for finding ways to move online and create community in the absence of all our usual physical gathering places.
Thank you for going into work and risking your lives to make sure your patrons have the services they need. We don’t really talk about librarians being frontline workers, but you are. You’re purveyors of dreams and holders of hands, you’re social workers and educators, you’re juggling so many jobs rolled into one, so much more than those of us on the other side of the check-out desk can ever imagine, and you should know just how much you’re loved for it. And how much it means to so many, right now, more than ever.
Happy Library Lovers’ Month, dear librarians! Thank you for all you do. I’m raising the biggest imaginary bottle of bubbly in the world to you.
With warmest gratitude,
For those interested in recreating this program for their own libraries, here are a few tips.
The letters require advance planning. Don’t wait until January to start planning this program. Try to begin in October or November of the previous year.
Write out what you want in the letter.
Is it just a love letter to libraries? Do you want it to be three paragraphs? Four paragraphs? Maybe instead of a letter you want a great tweet? Are there points you want them to highlight or is it just their feelings about libraries? Do you want them sent as word documents or PDFs? We did Word documents so we could cut and paste, but you could attach a PDF.
Publishing houses have a marketing branch just for libraries.
Contact them through a general marketing email you can find on any publisher website and explain your project. I did not get all of the publishing houses to respond to me, but I did get a couple.
Full disclosure: I used to do book reviews for a well-known online magazine so I had several contacts already. I reached out to them and they put me in touch with the right people, but I started these relationships the same way I’m telling you to start them. I just emailed the general marketing email, told them who I was, what I do, and what I was interested in.
Not sure what your email should say? Here is the message we sent to publishers.
My name is Rachel Stevenson, and I'm a librarian at the Erie County Public Library in Erie, PA. For National Library Lover's Month, I'm looking for authors who would be willing to write love letters to libraries for us to share on our social media pages. We would tag the author in the post and link to his or her books in our catalog. We would like the letters to be no longer than three paragraphs and sent to the following email address as a word document.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.
Make friends with authors on Facebook.
After you’ve established a relationship, ask if they’d be willing to write a letter on behalf of your library.The important part here is establishing the relationship before you ask. Many authors love libraries because it began their love of books and thus their career as an author.
When you do the Facebook post, tag the author who wrote the letter and put a link to your catalog of the books by that author. This is a nice way to give the author some advertising for helping out your library. If you want to get really detail-oriented, you can track the authors’ books to see if putting them on Facebook affects checkouts.
Schedule out the letters to last the whole month.
February is only 28 days long, but that’s a lot of letters. It's OK if you don't get 28 letters. You can fill in with important people in your community writing love letters to the library.
If you plan to use the letters to seek support from elected officials (or others), make sure the public knows.
It’s important that the public knows the letters will be shown to other people outside of the DM. If someone asks you to not use their letter, no matter how amazing it is, do not do it.
Thank the authors and the publishers that have done the program.
If you want to keep this going for several years, make sure you thank those involved. It’s important to keep up good connections with the authors you use. Also don’t expect the same authors to continue to write letters. Share the love!
These simple steps will help you recreate this program so you can have your own library love letter love fest! Don’t tell your elected officials how great libraries are. Show them by giving them a stack of letters from your community showing them how important the library is to the community it serves!