Library Lovers Day – the accidental campaign …

Today is Library Lovers Day here in Australia, a time to reflect on the myriad of ways that libraries contribute to our lives and to say out loud how much we love them. Library Lovers Day (or LLD) holds a special place in my heart as it was something that I helped develop with a couple of much-loved library friends way back in 2006. As often happens it was a matter of serendipity; right circumstances, right people, right time.

January 2006 and the NSW Public Library network was celebrating 12 months of the successful @ your library campaign funded by the Library Council of New South Wales. It was managed by a working group led by my colleague Victoria Anderson, a consultant at the State library of New South Wales, and me. Under the terms of the grant, as Manager Central West Libraries I also held and managed the funding. During school holidays we always used the ‘holiday fun @ your library’ branding and, as the December/January holidays in Australia are our big break, much focus was placed on this campaign.

Now I admit to being a sucker for collateral and at that time spent a lot of time looking at other promotional campaigns to see what I could adapt to our purpose. In 2005 the now ubiquitous (and probably today totally ‘so yesterday’) silicone wristbands were the go to item, and I had made the call to order many 200,000 of them in three fluro colours for our the 2005/2006 summer holiday campaign, each bearing the slogan ‘I ♥ Libraries’. Sadly they were held up in a shipping container on the wharves in Sydney and didn’t finally arrive until mid January – way to late for us to distribute to the state’s 95 library services.

I was despondent, the next school holidays weren’t until Easter and are traditionally lower key from a library programming perspective. Anyone who was unfortunate enough to ask me how I was heard the whole sorry saga. Enter Sue Hutley, then CEO of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), who happened to call and ask what was happening. After listening to my tale of woe she asked if I could spare a few wristbands so that she could share them with her team. She’d read about a Library Lovers promotion in the USA and thought she might do something on Valentines Day, 14 February.

That was the Eureka moment, I had Sue off the phone before she’d even told me why she’d called and was pressing Victoria’s number on my autodial. Library Lovers Day was born. The fantastic NSW Public Libraries network pulled out all stops and made it a huge success based on its adaptability and simplicity. I’m sure that Darryl Lea’s chocolate heart sales quadrupled and as for curling ribbon – we tied everything in sight with red and pink bows!

The NSW campaign was so successful that in 2007, LLD went national under ALIA and hasn’t looked back. It also went from a public library campaign to one every sector could adopt. Victoria wrote a reflection on LLD in 2011 which gives you more details about the early days and another friend, Robert Knight, gave a presentation on LLD as part of Library Love Stories at IFLA WLIC 2019 in Athens. Watch it on You Tube and get a sense of what has been achieved in a little over ten years. (Robert is the first speaker).

Library Lovers Day is the ultimate example of a small idea which really works. To use one of my favourite phrases the original concept was ‘quick and dirty’, but because of the imagination of colleague across the state it took off. It also highlights the importance of networking, collaboration and friendship. Without Victoria and Sue I would possibly still be drowning in a sea of silicone wrist bands! The @ your library campaign generated a raft of collateral over its lifetime but those ‘I ♥ Libraries’ bands still occupy space in my treasure box. The other important ones? Well that’s a story for another day!

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