The Libraries Transform campaign's “Because” statements contain powerful messages about the value of libraries. One Michigan library found they have the potential to go viral.
The Caro Area District Library placed the statement, “Because not everything on the internet is true,” in big black letters on its marquee that faces traffic as people pass or turn into the library.
After a photo of the sign was posted on Facebook, its popularity quickly spread on social media, reaching more than 2.5 million people. The post proved so contagious that George Takei of “Star Trek” fame reposted the picture, calling it, “A good read.”
“When he shared it, I thought, ‘I cannot believe this is happening,’” said library Director Erin Schmandt.
Not too shabby for a rural library located in the thumb of Michigan that serves around 12,000 people.
Schmandt said this social media success story came about “completely by accident.”
Regarding the marquee, Schmandt explained, “Normally we put events on it. But we had extra time, so I found one of the ‘Because’ statements that was short enough to fit.”
She said, “Our mail lady flagged me down and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just saw your sign. It’s so funny. I took a picture of it and I put it on Facebook.’”
Schmandt then thought to do the same, “So I did, and then it just started going crazy.”
Schmandt said the library has had fun with the sign in the past – one message appeared during the winter, saying, “If you’re cold, check out a book.” But nothing carried the impact of the ‘Because’ statement. I didn’t do anything different. I take pictures of things here all the time and put them on our Facebook page. And it just happened to be that that one really seemed to hit home to people.”
It hit home to Schmandt, who said she gets frustrated with people who share a lot of information online without doing any fact checking. She said her frustration is shared by a lot of people, which could explain the message’s rampant popularity.
She said the sign prompted several patrons to visit the library and share their feelings about it – some said it was funny, while others said it was clever and true.
“I have had patrons mention how they never thought of libraries that way, but now that they have, they can see how important libraries are, not just for the things we are traditionally thought of for, but for helping people,” she said.
Schmandt has been following the Libraries Transform campaign and used the campaign’s tools.
“I signed up for the website so I could get the graphics, as well as other materials,” she said. “We bought an ad at the movie theater – our movie theater only has one screen – and we’re using the Libraries Transform art work for that.”
Schmandt said outreach can be a challenge in an area where patrons are often confined in surrounding rural areas and seldom come into Caro. Schmandt said she has used the Libraries Transform graphics for Facebook and Instagram posts.
Throughout National Library Week, the library printed Libraries Transform fliers on letter-sized paper and placed them throughout the library. And recently, at an outreach event at a children’s fun fair, the library handed out Libraries Transform bookmarks.
Clearly, the “Because” statements have the power to impact a library’s community as well as its virtual neighbors.
By Steve Zalusky