By Steve Zalusky
You might be seeing a lot of Snoopy in September.
For the second year in a year, the iconic cartoon beagle from Peanuts is helping in the annual push for people to obtain a library card, as the Honorary Chair of Library Card Sign-Up month.
As summer fades into fall, which means the kids will be flocking back to school, now is the most important time to make sure everyone in your family has a library card. The American Library Association and libraries across the nation recognize that, which is why each September they celebrate Library Card Sign-Up Month.
Held each year since 1987 to mark the beginning of the school year, the celebration reminds parents, caregivers and students that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.
The importance of making the public library part of a child’s routine was emphasized by Anita Carroll, director of the Granville (Ohio) Public Library, who said there are several families who come to the library on specific days and make it a point to have a required number of books in their house. The results, she said, show up in their children’s performance in school.
In a recent column in the Newark Advocate, she wrote, “There is no better way to keep a child interested in reading than to make visiting your public library a habit. Having a selection of books in the home is key to keeping a child interested in reading. Seeing a parent reading for pleasure increases that child’s likelihood of modeling that good behavior.”
She added, “Making a child part of the selection process of the books he/she reads heightens the interest in reading the titles borrowed from the library. And finally, starting the reading habit by visiting the library regularly, attending story time and consistently checking out a variety of books will keep children reading well into their teen years.”
This year, several libraries are approaching the celebration with creative ways to encourage library card sign-up, often partnering with local community organizations and businesses.
In Somerset County, New Jersey, the Somerset County Library System will involve more than 90 local businesses in the effort, with businesses offering discounts to customers who display their library cards at the time of purchase.
Other libraries, including the Norris City (Illinois) Memorial Public Library, are sponsoring family reading nights.
In Norwood, Pennsylvania, the Norwood Public Library, which is a Poke Stop in the Pokemon Go game, will be participating by having staff set up a table outdoors to solicit patrons who are playing Pokemon Go to apply for a library card. If they apply for the card and use the library’s WiFi, their name will be entered into a drawing for Pokemon prizes.
In addition, libraries are hosting movie nights and events featuring face painting and crafts. With Snoopy as Honorary Chair, it is not surprising that libraries are incorporating artwork featuring the beloved beagle into their displays and splashing his image across social media in commemoration of the month.
Last year, the Half Hollow Hills Community Library in Dix Hills, New York, scored a coup. Snoopy actually appeared at the library, giving patrons not only the opportunity to sign up for a library card, but also a chance to meet and take a picture with Snoopy.
The library went above and beyond the call, hosting a Snoopy storytime and a Snoopy movie marathon and even inviting patrons to post their pups on its Facebook page. Helen Crosson, the library’s director, said she even arranged to have Snoopy come to the local Walt Whitman Shops mall in Huntington Station, New York.
But that wasn’t all.
“I went to my seven other library directors in the town of Huntington and said, ‘I got Snoopy. So what can we do together?’ That spurred one of the maintenance workers at one of the libraries to build an adult-sized “Lucy” booth, which was brought to the mall with Snoopy. She around 500 people came to the mall to receive library cards and have their picture taken.
Crosson said it is important at this time of year to push for library card sign-up, stressing the connection between the schools that provide homework and libraries where students perform those assignments, adding that the library “is in constant education mode with our classroom teachers” about the resources the library provides students.
“The idea in September of encouraging faculty, school administration and children and students to get library cards makes a lot of sense, because it is an opportunity to educate all of those segments of our community about what we offer.”
What the library card offers, Crosson said, is “a library that never sleeps,” that is open 24/7, either physically or virtually, offering a cornucopia of information and materials – including magazines, streaming movies, CDs, DVDs and ebooks.
Not only does her library offer materials. It also offers programs, partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to conduct a weekly memory care program and a monthly memory café program. “We bring guests into that weekly program from Medicaid and other service organizations to connect people with resources that they need,” she said.
Crosson’s library district serves an area that encompasses the Half Hollow Hills Central School District.
“This library is what is called a school district public library, and the only reason it is called a school district public library is because we serve the same households as the school district,” she said, although the library and the school district do not share funds.
She said the area is a classic Long Island suburban area, with around 20,000 households and 45,000 residents. Between the main building and its branch, the library system welcomes about 25,000 people per month, seven days per week during the school year.
She said her residents are particularly fond of ebooks, which are provided through a county consortium. The library, she said, offers as much digital material as it can, although it purchases in multiple formats.
“The library card is your access to all of it,” she said.