posted on behalf of Robyn Vittek, YALSA Advocacy Task Force

So, our library needs to pass a levy on May 4. When I say needs, I mean must, can’t-fail, vital, OMG! I get so nervous with all the articles in the paper and on the newspaper website. Comments like “No one uses the library anymore anyway. I’m not voting for that!” follow the online articles.

Yet, there are some days that I look around our building, when every computer is full, parents are helping kids get books for that report (due tomorrow!), story time is being announced over the P.A. and I’m watching our TAB kids paint windows and decorate the teen area, and think, “Have those commenters ever set foot in a library? I’d love for them to stop in today and see just how many people ‘no one’ is!”’  Well, now there’s a way we can make that happen! ALA is promoting Library Snapshot Day, which is an initiative to let elected officials, the press, and even Internet trolls know just how many people use your library.

To give credit where it’s due, Library Snapshot Day is the brainchild of the New Jersey State Library and the New Jersey Library Association, who hosted two of these days last year. The word got out pretty quickly, and now events have been held or planned for 22 states!’  For 2010, Library Snapshot Day was based in April – if you didn’t participate this year, you can do it at any time (maybe for District Days!) and plan on participating in 2011.

So what is it? Library Snapshot Day is a day where libraries across your state collect data and user comments and take pictures, then publish and disseminate all of that info in a user-friendly (think Flickr slideshows) and easy-to-understand way, so that everyone in your state knows just what an exciting and important place a modern library can be! A couple of fun facts for you, from various Library Snapshot Days:

In one day:

  • 1003 people learned computer skills in Maine Libraries
  • 160,242 patrons visited New Jersey Libraries – four times as many people as can be found on a typical day at Disneyland!
  • Pennsylvania libraries circulated 208,171 materials

Those are some amazing, and more importantly, powerful statistics! Those numbers are the kinds of things we need to let the public know about, so that statements like “No one uses the library” aren’t taken as truth by parties who aren’t given the facts from the other side.

What I found most intriguing while looking at the different state websites and Flickr accounts were the photos. They told a story all their own. Everyone really does use the library; people from all walks of life. Poor people, well-dressed people; young people, older people, in-between people; people of every imaginable color, race, and creed. Students, jobseekers, children, the blind, senior citizen volunteers, teen volunteers, even canine volunteers! I know I’m starting to sound like Dr. Seuss, but it’s true. It’s amazing how diverse our library-using public actually is. The main thing they had in common? They were (usually) smiling!

I was most interested in the pictures that showed teens using the library, and the comments underneath some of those pictures told their own story:

  • “North Arlington High School Library – Small group instruction, large group instruction, video instruction, smartboard instruction, wiki instruction, laptop instruction, you name it instruction it happens here at NAHS!!!”
  • “Teens Studying Together”
  • “Teen homework buddies helping K-8 kids with their homework”
  • “The Young Adult Area fills to capacity every afternoon!”

The ALA website has links to some great resources to get you started on your own Library Snapshot Day. If your state is already planning something, you can find out how to get involved. If your state hasn’t planned an event yet, contact your state library organization and find out how you can help to get something going! The statistics templates look easy to use, and taking photos is fun for everybody. There’s even a how-to for creating and using a Flickr account, if your library doesn’t already have one. So, stop by

Flip through the photos, read some stats, get excited. Then read the how-to’s and discover how you can bring Library Snapshot Day to your library, and let the non-library-using public know just how many people “no one” can be.

Are you (or did you) host a Library Snapshot Day in your community? What did you do? How did it go? Who attended?

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.

2 Thoughts on “Library Snapshot Day

  1. Thanks for the great post, Robyn!

    I think this is a great opportunity to collect stats about teen use in the library, too. Data can be packaged and sent to your local, sate and federal representatives, and you can invite your political representatives to ATTEND Library Snapshot Day as a photo op and to see first hand that the library is well used.

    Photos taken on Library Snapshot Day can taken with permission and posted with a Creative Commons license, creating a stock of images to use in publicity for teen events & programs.

  2. This looks like a great opportunity for state associations like ours to help get our LIT programs “on the map.” I’d love to correspond with folks who have seen it through.

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