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Congratulations to the 2023 John Cotton Dana Award-winning Libraries

Congratulations to the 2023 John Cotton Dana Award-winning Libraries

The 2023 John Cotton Dana (JCD) Award winners, recognized for their strategic communications efforts, have been selected. The John Cotton Dana Awards provide up to eight grants for libraries that demonstrate outstanding library public relations. The award is managed by the American Library Association’s (ALA) Core Division and EBSCO Information Services and consists of $10,000 grants from the H.W. Wilson Foundation.

The 2023 John Cotton Dana Award winners are:

Ashtabula County District Library
In 2022, the Ashtabula County District Library was due for a renewal of a 10-year levy, which funded 38% of their operations. Not being allowed to ask the community for a vote, they needed to come up with a creative marketing campaign to raise awareness of library services, and the impact a failure to pass a renewal would have on the community. The levy awareness campaign, “Discover More,” was a carefully planned, creative, multi-pronged campaign to spread awareness of this levy to the community, and its success resulted in the levy renewal being passed.

Calgary Public Library
Market research conducted by Calgary Public Library’s Strategy and Planning Department showed that after two years of COVID-19 restrictions, Calgarians were feeling isolated and eager to connect with the community again. Their data showed a significant loss in cardholders of kids ages 0 – 9 and people under 40. Based on their research and data, the library developed a well thought out, emotionally compelling, ad campaign, “This Ad is For…” to target these demographics in the community, and to raise awareness of what the Library has to offer. The campaign was successful in increasing library cardholders in their key demographics and in welcoming the community back to library spaces.

Gerber/Hart Library Archives
As the largest LGBTQ+ library and archives in the Midwest, Gerber/Hart Library Archives is always looking to increase its reach among researchers and those looking to learn more about their communities’ histories. The library saw an opportunity to achieve their goals using the medium of podcasting—a channel that enjoyed a surge in the years following the pandemic, and a good fit for a library in the Chicago media market. With a RAILS “My Library Is…” grant, the team hired a producer, mounted an advertising campaign, compensated guests for their time, and created an eight-episode season of Unboxing Queer History. The five-star-rated podcast has been downloaded more than 12,000 times, the library gained 1,200 new followers on its social media channels, and the program received tremendous earned media from outlets throughout Chicago.

Mesa Public Library
In September 2022, Mesa Public Library launched a marketing campaign emphasizing the money-saving benefits of a library card. As part of this campaign, they developed a business discount program, partnering with more than 40 local businesses to offer library cardholders a discount during Library Card Sign-up Month. In addition to adding value to the library card and building connections in the community to market the library, they saw an increase in library card signups of 36% over their goal for the month.

Patchogue-Medford Public Library
By creating the world’s largest augmented aquarium project, Patchogue-Medford Public Library in New York state leveraged the innovative approach to display advertising through new technology to create an interactive experience for library patrons. Through savvy budgeting and a creative surrounding multi-media promotional campaign, library staff had impressive results in the initiative launch. Strategically thinking long-term, the technology utilized has implementation possibilities for years to come, increasing their return on investment and providing continued interaction points with their community.

Pioneer Library System
As market penetration was flagging in 2022, Pioneer Library System’s new Marketing and Communications team gathered data, evaluated options, and put the remainder of the fiscal year’s marketing budget (approximately $15,000) into a bold strategy. With the annual Summer Learning Challenge looming, the team “Turned Outward” to leverage community partnerships, increasing customer participation and completion of the Challenge to record-breaking results. Reach increased by more than 25%, registrations increased by nearly 50%, completions increased by 65%, and market penetration increased by 6%, bringing the system back to pre-pandemic levels.

San José Public Library
On October 2, 2022, San José Public Library (SJPL) made local history by opening on Sundays at 16 of its 24 branches. With 1.5-months to plan a successful launch, the library’s marketing and communications team formulated a strategic, multilingual marketing campaign that included dynamic and attention-grabbing visuals and messages for print collateral, a strong social media presence, a press event, and leveraged partnerships. The “Sundaes on Sunday” campaign influenced visitors by offering free ice cream sundaes by Mister Softee on SJPL-branded cups. Opening day was successful, with 5,500+ visits and 5,000+ items checked out.

University of Colorado Boulder Libraries
The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries set out in 2022 to build a collaboration with eleven arts and cultural organizations such as the Music library, Earth Sciences & Map Library, Museum of Natural History, Center for African and African American Studies, and Fiske Planetarium. The collaboration resulted in a Culture Crawl event that drew hundreds of community members throughout the Boulder area. The event invited the campus and local communities to visit each space during a day of special activities designed to build awareness of resources and programs.

2023 Selection Committee
The 2023 John Cotton Dana Award selection committee included: Gregg Dodd (chair), Director of Marketing & Communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library; Martha Alvarado Anderson, Digital Services Librarian, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville; Chris Boivin, Assistant Director of Community Relations and Marketing, Jacksonville Public Library; Jenny Brandon, Reference Librarian/Digital Interface Designer, Michigan State University Libraries; Joye Cauthen, Acquisitions Librarian & Assistant Professor, Georgia Gwinnett College; and Theresa Davis, Communications Manager, Fort Worth Public Library.

John Cotton Dana
The JCD award is named after John Cotton Dana (1859–1929), the father of the modern library, who is credited with helping transition libraries from reading rooms to community centers. JCD submissions include strategic library communications campaigns from libraries of all types and sizes. In recognition of the achievement, JCD Award winners receive a cash development award from the H.W. Wilson Foundation. The John Cotton Dana Awards will be presented during an awards ceremony hosted by EBSCO Information Services held during this year’s ALA Annual Conference and will include winners from the previous two years.

About the H.W. Wilson Foundation
The Foundation was established by Halsey W. Wilson in 1952 to support the needs of company employees and retirees. Since 1957, The H.W. Wilson Foundation has focused on providing financial assistance to causes having the greatest impact on improving the spirit, mind and body of the greatest number of people through aid, support and cooperation with charitable, benevolent, educational and religious institutions. Major donors to the Foundation included Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Wilson, and the H.W. Wilson Company.

About ALA Core
Core: Leadership, Infrastructure, Futures is the national association that advances the profession of librarians and information providers in central roles of leadership and management, collections and technical services, and technology. Our mission is to cultivate and amplify the collective expertise of library workers in core functions through community building, advocacy, and learning. Core is a division of the American Library Association. Follow us on our Blog, Instagram, or on Twitter.

About EBSCO Information Services
EBSCO Information Services (EBSCO) is the preeminent provider of online research content and search technologies serving academic, school and public libraries; healthcare and medical institutions; corporations; and government agencies around the world. From research, acquisition management, subscription services and discovery to clinical decision support and patient care, learning, and research and development, EBSCO provides institutions with access to content and resources to serve the information and workflow needs of their users and organizations. For more information, visit the EBSCO website at:

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