Ranganathan’s Sixth Law of Library Science : Every reader his/her bookmark. I kid, but we do all know that there are two types of people in the world: those who use bookmarks ... and monsters.
That, and because we’re nice people, is why many of us provide bookmarks for students at the circulation desk. A bookmark design contest can provide you with a one-of-a-kind creation to hand out in your library, showcasing your students’ artistic talents. It can also be a great way to drum up enthusiasm for library celebrations like National Library Week  or Teen Tech Week .
Every good contest needs rules for submission. When creating the rules you should consider:
- Who is eligible to participate?
- Will you split it up by grade levels or do a whole-school contest?
- What kind of mediums are allowed? Is computer-generated art allowed? What about 2D art, which is easy to scan and reprint? How about 3D submissions, which are harder to recreate but could be photographed for reprinting?
When deciding what is allowed, I would recommend staying away from anything trademarked, like cartoon characters. You don’t want to run into any copyright violations.
My winners are chosen by student votes. I scan all the submissions (artwork only so it stays anonymous), put them all in a Google form, and sit outside lunch for a few days with iPads so students can vote. (The great thing about Google forms is that they can tally the votes for you.)
You could also choose winners by jury. Grab a group of teachers or parents to judge, or call on your student advisory board, book club or other student library group.
In my library, the prestige of having your bookmark printed and available in the library is the prize.
I’ve seen other contests where only the winner gets a certain number of bookmarks to hand out as they want. Still others offer a cash or gift card prize. You could even give away art supplies to keep students thinking creatively.
- Know how you’re going to print bookmarks. If you’re printing yourself, you might want to figure out how many bookmarks you can best fit on one page. If you want to get bookmarks printed professionally, you have to go by the company's sizing. I’ve used Vistaprint, and their bookmarks are 2-by-6 inches. I didn’t think about this the first time I ran a contest, so the submissions didn’t fit the space, and I had to do a lot of resizing to get it to work.
- Consider a theme. If you’re using a bookmark contest to highlight a library celebration, you can ask for bookmark designs that fit the theme. Celebrations like Teen Read Week  and School Library Month  change their theme each year. Request that students fit their design to these changing themes.
- Enlist the art teachers. Work with art teachers to encourage students to submit. Some of our winning designs came out of projects in the student’s art class.
- Make it a passive program. Set out submission forms and art supplies in your library so that students with free time can create a bookmark to submit.