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Everything You Wanted to Know about the John Cotton Dana Award

Posted February 3, 2015 in Events & News

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So you may be wondering, who is John Cotton Dana and why does he have a library public relations award named after him? Well, he’s viewed by many as the father of the modern library, credited with helping transition libraries from reading rooms to community centers AND realizing that it was critical to get the word out about the services and resources libraries offered. Though he lived from 1856-1929, his emphasis on building public awareness is as important as ever, with today’s libraries developing not only innovative programs and services, but also innovative strategic communications campaigns.


The award that bears his name began in 1946 and has been called the most prestigious award of the American Library Association. Libraries of all types and sizes are invited to enter their rebranding efforts, promotion of unique archives, awareness campaigns for an array of programs, services, resources, and spaces, and community partnerships. JCD entries are organized around three key areas: Needs Assessment and Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. Libraries submit samples of their processes, research, advertising (traditional print, radio, and television in addition to the gamut of social media [YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram – you name it, libraries are using it]), media coverage and other quantitative and qualitative results, along with thoughtful evaluation. With the relatively new electronic entry process, it’s easier than ever to integrate or attach documentation and supporting materials that show the scope and effectiveness of library strategic communication efforts.

Five judges spend many hours reviewing the amazing campaigns received each year. It is always inspiring to see the dozens of terrifically inventive and impressive projects and campaigns. Choosing the eight winners involves much lively discussion over days of deliberation. This year there are two judges from academic libraries and three from public libraries; all five judges are previous winners of at least one John Cotton Dana award.

This year’s entry deadline is February 28, 2015. The eight winners will be announced in late April; those winners will each receive a $10,000 development awards from the H.W. Wilson Foundation at the annual Awards Ceremony sponsored by the ALA and EBSCO Information Services and held at the ALA Annual Conference (this year in San Francisco).

I invite you to find out more about the submission process, look at the entry documents and see winning entries from previous years.

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