Library reaches out to non-users for Library Card Sign-Up Month
September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, a campaign established in 1987 by the American Library Association and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. The campaign was designed to encourage parents and their children to sign up for library cards at the start of the school year.
In keeping with this original mission, Heights Libraries will be reaching out to kids this month, sending library card sign-up flyers home with school-aged children, and offering prizes to kids who check out a book with their new cards. The cover of the library’s fall program guide, Check Us Out, also encourages kids to get cards, proclaiming that “a library card is the most important school supply of all.”
This year, for the first time, library staff will also focus specifically on adults.
“A surprising number of adult residents don’t have library cards,” said Nancy Levin, Heights Libraries director. “We’ve compared our population to the number of card holders, and it’s clear that not everyone has a card—about 60 percent of residents have cards—so we’re heading out into the community to find those folks who don’t and see if we can get them signed up.”
Library staff will set up tables at Zagara’s Marketplace, Whole Foods, and elsewhere to talk to people about the benefits of having a library card. If someone doesn’t have one, library staff can sign them up on the spot as long as they have a photo ID and live, work or own property in Ohio.
“It’s really important that we get out of our buildings and talk to residents,” said Isabelle Rew, the library’s community engagement associate. “It’s true that plenty of people without cards still enter our buildings and use our services—you don’t need a card to sit and read the paper or even use a computer—but we really want to reach the people who either don’t know about us or who know about us but don’t have cards."
Staff especially want to find out why a community member may not have a card, even if they know about the library. That information could help guide the library’s outreach and communications efforts, as well as offer insight into present-day attitudes about public libraries.
“It’s possible they just don’t think we have anything they want or need,” said Rew. “And I would love to show them otherwise.”
In addition to providing free access to materials such as books, movies and music, the library buildings offer access to resources that can be essential to people’s lives, including high-speed Internet, printing and faxing, reference help, study and meeting rooms, low-cost copies, and a space to spend time in that does not require a purchase or have a time limit.
“Some people still think libraries are just about books,” said Rew. “We love books, and we have plenty, but we’re so much more.”
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.