Announcing Eight winners of the 2014 John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award

The John Cotton Dana Award, sponsored by the H.W. Wilson Foundation, EBSCO, and the Library Leadership and Management Association, a division of the American Library Association, honors outstanding library public relations. In recognition of their achievement, John Cotton Dana award winners each receive a $10,000 cash award from the H.W. Wilson Foundation.

This year the John Cotton Dana Award judges were pleased to review 83 submissions.  As in past years, it took several weeks to narrow down the field, filled as it is with such creative, innovative and well-executed public relations campaigns from academic, public, and special libraries.  It is always a huge challenge to select eight winners.  This year those winners are:

Birmingham Public Library for “Letter from Birmingham Jail: A Worldwide Celebration”

On April 16, 2013, fifty years to the day since Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote it, 10,000 people worldwide read his Letter from Birmingham Jail.  Thanks to the Birmingham Public Library’s strategic focus, strong research to identify key audiences, and effective use of social media, readings took place in 33 states in the US and in twenty countries, from South Africa to Iceland.

Champaign Public Library for “Show Some Library Love”

Looking for a creative approach to fundraising and increasing awareness, the Champaign Public Library Foundation developed the “Show Some Library Love Fundraising Campaign.” The campaign used a photobooth to encourage community involvement and then used those images in a simple and consistent way throughout campaign materials. They clearly established goals for fundraising and increasing awareness with target audiences and were successful at reaching those goals. The personal images, along with a call to action and a sense of urgency encouraged the community to both identify with the campaign and then act upon it.

Kitsap Regional Library for their Traveling Book Campaign

The staff at Kitsap Regional Library used technology and guerilla marketing techniques to connect their local community around the book The Leisure Seeker. Books were placed in spots around town – on park benches, hanging from trees, in balloons in the town fountain – where people would stumble upon them unexpectedly. People were prompted to read the book and pass it along. The result was a community read that was fun, accessible and reached an audience that the library might not have captured otherwise. Most impressive was that staff was engaged and excited about the project, sparking curiosity, building an emotional connection with the library and connecting the larger community through reading.

North Carolina State, James B. Hunt Jr. Library, for “The Library of the Future”

In anticipation of the opening of a beautiful new facility, the staff at NC State’s James B. Hunt Jr. Library created a bold, new campaign that helped the community imagine “The Library of the Future.” One of the most successful parts of this campaign was the unique, playful voice used through all of its messaging. Yet beyond the great technology, incredible facility and impressive media coverage, the true star of this campaign was the way the community told the story. Students were asked to imagine themselves in the space, and they took to the challenge wholeheartedly.

Sacramento for “The Poe Project”

The Sacramento Public Library took the One Book campaign to a new level in 2013. They partnered with a local author and designed and printed their own book, The Slender Poe, which was tailored to their community. Unique partnerships, including the introduction of the Edgar Allan Porter locally brewed beer, increased program attendance by 284% over the previous year.

Texas A & M for “Deeper Than Swords: 2-day celebration of George RR Martin.” 

The Texas A & M University Libraries, through a 2-day event-filled celebration of George RR Martin titled “Deeper Than Swords,” gained national attention for its special collection of science fiction and fantasy materials, headlined by Martin’s collection of papers. More than 3,000 people attended the campus events, including a capacity crowd of 2,500 for Martin’s auditorium talk.

University of Texas, San Antonio, for “Ask Us Anything”

The library developed this campaign to help the campus improve student retention by making the library staff more accessible to its high-needs student population. The library staff, with its new identity as the Blue Crew, demonstrated their eagerness to hear all student questions through innovative strategies such as collecting questions on blue post-it notes stuck on library display windows (example: “how much sleep do I really need?”). The UTSA Libraries recorded a 48% increase in reference questions in 2013.

Wells County, Indiana for “Your Go-To Spot”

With an operating budget of $2.1 million, Wells County Library illustrated the significant impact a library can make on a limited budget. Their appealing and consistently applied “Your Go-To Spot” rebranding campaign resulted in a 40% increase in circulation in 2013 over 2012, as well as a 153% increase in database usage.

The winning entrants will receive their awards – complete with $10,000 checks to each winner – at the American Library Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 29, 2014.  Their entries will also be featured in a gallery on the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award website.  Visit to take a look!



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