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Orchids and Awards: John Cotton Dana PR Award Gala Takes Place at the Ritz


The John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards are the Holy Grail for PR librarians in the U.S. Winning one takes plenty of time, effort, talent, and planning. Some say that completing the award application is an experience unto itself. But it’s also a lesson in the way good public relations should be done.

Every winter, my Marketing Library Services newsletter announces the winners that have been chosen before it covers the summer ceremony. In the March/April 2009 issue’s Special Report on ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, there’s info on all of the winning projects (this article isn’t online), and I’ll name them again here:

  • Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library’s (BCPL) Storyville, a new interactive creative learning center, was designed as a child-size village for preschoolers and their caregivers.
  • Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library wowed its community with its Oct. 18, 2008, reading festival.
  • Houston Public Library used a 2-year, $17 million renovation as the impetus for a strong public relations campaign centered on a “sense of identity.”
  • The Library Foundation of the Multnomah (Ore.) Public Library developed and sustained an appropriate marketing strategy that conveyed the importance of the library in early childhood literacy.
  • St. Paul (Minn.) Public Library took advantage of 2008 election fever by mounting a timely campaign called “St. Paul-itics.”
  • Ypsilanti (Mich.) District Library scored a huge hit with a program targeting teens and men with a celebration of the area’s musical heritage.

The July 13 awards ceremony was at the Ritz Carlton, and it was as classy as ever. (Is that redundant?) Admist a spread of orchids, candles, and amazing hors d’ouevres, attentive waitstaff fussed over the well-dressed guests who nibbled while they enjoyed live piano music and waited for formal proceedings to begin. H.W. Wilson and its Foundation still sponsor the award, and as President Harry Regan commented when he opened the festivities, “Over the last 63 years, the John Cotton Dana Award has evolved into the one of the most coveted and prestigious awards” in libraryland.

Finally, the Big Moments began. For each of the six honored libraries, Regan read a bit that explained what was special about each project, then the recipients took the stage, got their certificates and $5,000 checks, and smiled for a very nice man with a very large camera lens before making a few brief remarks of their own. One of my favorites came from Sheree Savage of the St. Paul Public Library, who claimed that its “St. Paul-itics” political action campaign turned the library into “the community civic engagement living room.”

People studied the winning JCD notebooks.

People studied the winning JCD notebooks.

This short formal part of the program was followed by more photos, handshakes, and piano music. Some attendees took advantage of the chance to see the notebooks of campaign info that are a big part of each entry. The notebooks are wonderful collections of data and promo material that chronical each project. (You can borrow them too if you’re interested in studying them in preparation for your own entry efforts.)

You can read more about the contest on Wilson’s website.

All in all, it was a grand afternoon at the Ritz, where well-deserved honors were bestowed by a committed corporation that continues to encourage and reward librarians who do the tough but essential work of planning great public relations projects that keep the people of American coming back to rediscover the wonders of their libraries year after year.

~Kathy Dempsey, editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter

Author, Author

Kathy Dempsey, former editor of Computers in

Kathy Dempsey introduces her first book.

Kathy Dempsey introduces her first book.

Libraries magazine and current editor of Marketing Library Services newsletter, has a new moniker to add to her list of credentials: book author. Dempsey, who just published The Accidental Library Marketer, was busy talking to library marketers and autographing copies of her new book during the ALA Swap & Shop on Sunday.

“I’m ridiculously relieved that the book is finished, I’m happy with the way it came out, and I’m very thrilled with the response the book is having in the marketplace so far,” says Dempsey. Penning the 75,000-word manuscript was “a lot harder than I ever thought it would be,” she says, noting that she started writing in March 2008 but put her creative efforts on hold temporarily to help out with the Shanachie book project.

“The reception that I’ve received about the book has gone far beyond my expectations,” she says. But the book buzz is just beginning. For library professionals and paraprofessionals who need a hand negotiating new marketing strategies on the internet, this book is destined to be a guidebook for all the game plans and initiatives to come. The book, says Dempsey, offers some of the best, proven ways for find funding and building solid relationships with users and the community.

For more information, stop by the Information Today, Inc. booth (#4525) or visit

Barbara Brynko
Information Today

The Swap & Shop Always Draws a Crowd!

The crowd lined up around the corner waiting for the Swap & Shop to open.

The crowd lined up around the corner waiting for the Swap & Shop to open.

The annual Swap & Shop is where savvy marketers go to get examples of what their colleagues have been producing as far as brochures, annual reports, giveaways, and other promotional products. It’s also the site of the Swap’s Best of Show awards as well as a place to meet those marketing listserv buddies in person.

This shows just some of the PR Masterpieces that were on display to help others learn about good PR materials.

This shows just some of the PR Masterpieces that were on display to help others learn about good PR materials.

This year’s theme was PR Masterpieces, and plenty works were on display. This year’s Swap drew more than 800 attendees in the 2.5 hours it was open in the back of the exhibit hall. Library marketing is alive and well!

~Kathy Dempsey

editor, Marketing Library Services and Swap participant

We're Ready to Hit the Ground Running (with help from Boopsie)



It’s been barely 2 weeks since the Infotoday bloggers said goodbye at the end of SLA’s Annual Conference in DC. Yet it’s time to start up again, this time for ALA’s Annual in Chicago. And with a couple of personnel changes for this next show, we’re rarin’ to go.

We officially begin our coverage on Saturday, July 11, but you might see a couple more introductory posts like this one before then. I’m Kathy Dempsey, and I’ll be kicking off this show’s coverage.

Right now, it’s 2 days before I fly to Chicago for ALA, and I’m pretty much ready to hit the ground running. I’ve registered, I have a hotel room, and I’ve made my schedule. This year, I used a new tool with a funny name to help with my schedule. It’s called Boopsie. Have you heard about it yet?

ALA has partnered with Boopsie so you can access the conference info on your web-enabled mobile phone. I downloaded it quickly and easily onto my G-1 Android (there are dif versions for dif phones). It works like magic! To find the sessions I wanted to attend, I just typed in the first few letters of the title, and choices appeared. I clicked on the correct choice, and Boopsie showed me the full title, speaker names, event description, and best of all, the location.

Those of you with full registration have probably used ALA’s Event Planner for this. But others (like exhibitors and press) don’t have access to the full planner, so I always had to wait to get my printed Final Program on site in order to learn the locations of many of the sessions. Now that’s already done — fantastic! But really, Boopsie is meant to help you while you’re on-the-go.

You can see ALA’s description and download instructions here. I encourage you to download it and try it. (Yep, it’s free!)

Since I’m the editor of the Marketing Library Services newsletter, I’ll be attending sessions that revolve around promotion, marketing, media communication, and PR. So keep an eye out for me at the PRMS all-committee meeting, the PR Forum, and sessions on advocacy and partnership. And I’ll have a table at the Swap & Shop (Sunday, 11a-1:30p, Exh Hall, Special Events Area), where I’ll not only be giving out free sample copies of Marketing Library Services, but I’ll be selling and signing copies of my new book, The Accidental Library Marketer!!

So keep checking back here at the InfoToday Blog for my coverage of marketing- and promo-related events. And if you see me at one of them, please stop me & say Hello! Our other ace bloggers will jump in soon too, and as a team we’re going to be able to deliver some great coverage. Stay tuned!

 ~Kathy Dempsey, Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter