In my corner of the world (Cincinnati, Ohio), the cicadas have been buzzing, signaling the impending end of summer. For me, that sound means it’s time to start thinking about fall and the second biggest library “holiday” in the United States, Library Card Sign-up Month. This initiative, launched in 1987 by the American Library Association, is intended to emphasize the importance of library cards to a child’s education and to combat illiteracy.  

If you start now, you’ve got plenty of time to plan for a successful, comprehensive Library Card Sign-up Month campaign. And your library can do more than grow your cardholder base. Use Library Card Sign-up Month as an opportunity to promote your collection and services to your entire community. Here are five ideas to help you achieve that goal. 

Incentivize current cardholders to recruit new cardholders. This worked surprisingly well for me when I did marketing for my library. Just ask current cardholders to recruit a new cardholder for a chance to win a prize. The prize could be library swag or gift cards from local businesses. Draw winners at the end of the month and post their photos on social media. You’ll be surprised how many people will help your library for the chance to win a prize!  

To promote your contest, email your cardholders to let them know about the giveaway. Create flyers or bookmarks to promote your contest and slip them into holds, curbside pickup bags, or make-and-take craft bags. LibraryAware customers can make this promotional piece in minutes by searching Library Card Sign-up Month on the homepage. 

Lean on your partnerships. Ask partner organizations to distribute a bookmark or flier to their visitors. Local realtors and rental agencies can also give out bookmarks or fliers to prospective homeowners or new renters. So can daycare providers, teachers, summer camps, and recreational centers. You can even ask restaurants to include a library card sign-up flyer or bookmark in their takeout bags! 

Saline County Library in Arkansas took this one step further. They partnered with 62 local businesses that provided discounts to people when they showed their library cards during the month of September. They signed up 330 new cardholders, renewed 1,713 cards, and formed bonds with local businesses because of the campaign. The approach garnered the library a coveted John Cotton Dana Award

Promote with infographics. Never underestimate the power of visuals! Our brains are hard-wired for visuals. And in your campaign to recruit more cardholders, you might be tempted to tell everyone about all your services. A good infographic can help you do that. Infographics can explain complex ideas and convey a lot of information in an uncomplicated way that is accessible to many audiences. They grab attention. My co-worker Leah White shared seven tips for a great infographic that will take your Library Card Sign-up Month promotions to a whole new level. 

Grow your newsletter subscriber lists. Did you know that 99 percent of people check their email at least once a day? You can ensure your newsletters and emails get in front of more eyes all year long by using this library holiday as a reason to ask for cardholders' email addresses. Slip a bookmark into their holds, asking them to share their email address using an online form or by calling the reference desk. Your library can also use social media to gather email addresses. Schedule regular posts with a link for an online form or an opt-in page on your website like the Delafield Public Library does. 

Gather testimonials. Library Card Sign-up Month is a wonderful time to gather stories for promotion later in the year. Ask your staff to be on the lookout for remarkable story ideas from patrons. Set up a form on your website and solicit cardholder stories on social media, in your email, and in printed newsletters. The stories you gather will provide you with opportunities for content marketing all year long. 

You can also use this month to gather stories about your staff in action. What do they love about interacting with the community? What made them want to work at the library? What is their favorite memory of the library from their childhood? What are they reading? Then, tell those stories using the platforms you have available including your blog, your newsletters, and on social media. Graphics for this type of promotion are easy (and fun!) to create in LibraryAware. Just search quote on the homepage and then refine by the format you wish to create.

Telling Your Library Story

To learn more about how to tell stories as a part of library marketing and storytelling, consider the course Telling Your Library Story, available for institutional purchase through Learn with NoveList

Angela Hursh is Senior Engagement Consultant for NoveList. She is currently reading Book Lovers by Emily Henry.