September Is the Coolest Month

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By Steve Zalusky

What’s cooler than being cool? Having a library card, of course. That phrase refers to a promotional campaign featuring Snoopy, the 2015 Honorary Chair of Library Card Sign-up Month, which takes place in September.

Snoopy is serving as a springboard for some very creative celebrations and cross promotions for this event, which highlights the free services you can receive just by holding a library card. It also reminds parents and children – during the month when back-to-school activities are at full throttle - that a library card is the most important school supply of all. A number of libraries are taking advantage of the fact that Snoopy, the world-famous beagle featured in the Peanuts comic strip, is taking some time off from chasing the Red Baron to do battle on behalf of libraries.

In honor of Snoopy, for example the Cuyahoga (Ohio) Public Library is on the hunt for its own official canine champion, inviting patrons to enter their furry friends in the Library Top Dog Photo Contest. The top five vote-getting dogs (and their owners) will advance to the FINALIST ROUND, which will be held during a special event at the Parma-Snow Branch, as a panel of guest judges make the Library Top Dog selection. The winner will be featured on special edition library cards that will be made available throughout the county this fall.

The William P. Faust Public Library of Westland, Michigan plans to take its act on the road – specifically to the local mall, the Westland Shopping Center, where it will try to organize a flash mob, probably during one of the periods when there is a lull at the sign-up table, said Andy Schuck, head of youth services for the library, which serves an area with a population of nearly 90,000 just east of Detroit.

“It will be the Snoopy dance,” Schuck said. “I think everybody can recognize it.” He added that the music will give the dance even more recognition. In addition, there will be a Snoopy coloring contest, where every child who participates will qualify for a raffle for movie tickets for the upcoming Snoopy film. Schuck said the library has set up two dates in September to appear at the mall, during which the library will be advertising its many free services, including its successful job seekers service, which had its inception around the time of the Great Recession. It will also be showcasing its storytimes and computer access, as well as its streaming services, such as Hoopla, which provides everything from digital movies and music to eBooks.

You can get a lot with a library card at the Westland library. “Our computers have been quite popular,” Schuck said. Seniors who live near the library also enjoy the Friday night movie program, he said. The job seekers lab, he said, is a three-hour lab that anyone can attend. It is staffed with eight computers. A librarian is on hand to help people work on resumes and cover letters and navigating the Library of Michigan resources for job seekers.

At the Alexander (Iowa) Public Library, librarian Dee Schrodt said one of the local patrons made an airplane and doghouse out of cardboard for Snoopy. Library staff will be visiting the local school and a daycare center in Latimer, Iowa, where the school district is. They'll be wearing sunglasses, of course. 

In addition, she said the library is using Snoopy library cards. “We will be getting a lot of people signed up, here in town, using the new cards,” she said. The cards, she said, will advertise what the library has to offer with a library card, including books, DVDs and free 24/7 Wi-Fi access.

Schrodt’s library is the center of a town with a population of 175. It serves surrounding towns, including the town that has a local school but does not have its own library. “We get a lot of patrons from that area,” she said. Describing the library as the mainstay of a community, Schrodt said, “We’re very lucky. We have a lot of supporters here in town and past supporters that have allowed us to have such a nice facility for a town that’s small.”

The coffee is always on at Alexander Public library. There is also a remodeled teen room that enables the older children to enjoy the computers in an enclosed area, as well as a children’s room where the younger children can play and watch DVDs. The library is an example of how today's  libraries are transforming to meet the needs of their communities. “We are kind of like the community center,” said Schrodt.

In addition to the opportunity to display the creativity of libraries, Library Card Sign-up Month also gives librarians a chance to interact with the community – in essence bringing the library to its patrons.

Barbara Thompson, librarian at the Anoka County Library - Rum River Branch, in suburban Minneapolis, said she attended an event during which underprivileged people received free school supplies, as well as backpacks and haircuts. The event, United for the Community, was held at the local United Methodist Church. There, she said, she talked to people about the library and library cards. “I was preaching to the choir, since most of them had one (a library card), but I was able to get six people to sign up for new library cards,” she said.

She said she was especially excited to talk to parents about one specific offering that the library has among its databases called “homework rescue,” a service paid for by a library association in the area, the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA). It is a live chat with licensed teachers available seven days per week from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the school year. During the chat, teachers help children with questions about math, science and other areas.

Thompson pointed out to parents that this service is available free with a library card. “They were thrilled,” she said.

September is Library Card Sign-up Month Visit your local library to participate and see what new!