Snapshot Day Yields Strong Advocacy Results for Libraries


By Joaquin Falcon

Library Snapshot Day began as a joint effort between the New Jersey State Library and the New Jersey Library Association as a way to compile information about what goes on in a library on any given day, or a “snapshot”, that not only raises awareness about libraries, but also provides valuable data for librarians and community stakeholders, demonstrating just how much libraries are used, and the wide variety of reasons that people use them.

Shortly after New Jersey started this program, the American Library Association’s Office for Library Advocacy adopted the initiative and brought to a national effort, asking libraries of all types to find a date to host their own Snapshot Day.  The OLA offices created a toolkit for the national effort, the Library Snapshot Day Primer, a how-to guide for librarians and staff that provides essential information, links for easy-to-use templates and wikis, and tips and advice for streamlining data collection, getting public buy-in for the event, and how to gently nag participants into quickly posting results, ensuring valuable data isn’t lost in the shuffle.  The initiative and primer have been adopted by library associations and organizations who have in turn encouraged their local libraries to participate, establishing one day or week within the calendar year that is conducive for such an event, turning it into a local blitz of activity and information gathering; a flash-mob of local libraries organizing Snapshot Days.

It is a been a unique, community-driven grassroots effort over the past several years, and hundreds of libraries across the country have participated, many for several consecutive years, turning what began as a creative brainstorm into a national phenomena. The results for 2012 demonstrate that Library Snapshot Day is becoming one of the most powerful library advocacy tools available for communities as it documents what is already happening on a day to day basis.

In looking at a few “case studies” and unique efforts from libraries across the nation, it is clear that while the Snapshot Day Primer has been utilized, many institutions are using this as inspiration and creating individualized campaigns for their community, creating original artwork, and including digital technology as much as possible, in especially in terms of photography and using sites such as Flickr to store images in a centralized location, and further display what specific libraries are doing to implement the day.

The Virginia Library Association and the Library of Virginia are the official organizers of Virginia Library Snapshot day, with 91 public libraries participating in April of 2012. They have created a dedicated website, original posters and collateral marketing materials, and their own signature graphics package for their SnapshotVA campaign.  


This is a sharp, immediately recognizable logo that meshes perfectly with its website, creating an immediate Virginia Snapshot Day brand that helps the event stand out to patrons and further highlights a unique annual event.  Virginia started their Snapshot Day efforts in 2010, over the past three years, has almost 70% of all public libraries in the state participating.

The State of Massachusetts, with sponsorship by the MA Library Association, the MA Board of Library Commissioners, the MA School Library Association, and the MA Library System, hosted their Snapshot Day in April of 2012 as well.  Organizers created this website, a landing page for Massachusetts libraries looking for additional information, as well as links that help to explain some of the technical aspects of the process, including submitting photos and video, as well as providing regular reminders in regard to upcoming dates and deadlines. 

 Their website features photographs, testimonials, survey links, and an interactive map that displays the 183 libraries across the state that registered for the event.  They’ve also got a Snapshot Day slideshow feature and a librarian interview done by students at Westborough High School’s Lobby Observer.

Waltham, MA Snapshot Day patrons       


Boots on the Ground for MA Library Snapshot Day

The Utah State Library sponsored the Utah Library Snapshot day for 2012, also held in mid-April, creating this website to highlight events, dates, accomplishments, and their corresponding Flickr site.  Participants uploaded a great deal of photography, over 30 libraries across the state participated, and Utah State Library staff compiled a great aggregated list of all the reference questions that came into libraries that day, ranging the gamut from questions about Captain Underpants to technical support requests in regard to a nonfunctional Nintendo DS, proving once again that librarians are asked to do new and unique tasks on a daily basis.

Stretched out with a good book in SLC for Snapshot Day 2012   


 'Rocking the piggy nose at the Salt Lake City Public Library Snapshot Day

The State of Alabama hosted their first Snapshot Day on September 27th, 2012 with great success.  Organizers Denise Wetzel and Stephanie Taylor of the Alabama Public Library service constructed this website, and spent over a year promoting the event.  Their efforts are a great case study in “how to” start a statewide Snapshot Day campaign; begin early, issue constant reminders, and have a thorough Toolkit available for participants.  Dozens of libraries throughout the state participated, and organizers have already started planning for next year’s event.      


Orange Beach, AL Public Library

Birmingham Public Library Staff and Patron on Snapshot Day

In the spirit of cross-promotion, the Nevada Library Association hosted Nevada’s Snapshot Day this Halloween week, from October 24 - 31, 2012.  This is another great way to promote the initiative, combining the awareness day with a degree of fun, silliness, and with any luck, residual candy.  Nevada’s Snapshot Day page features an assortment of tools, photos, and links, as well as a breakdown of all participating libraries, catalogued from academic to public facilities, helping to make the case that Snapshot Day is applicable for any library that chooses to participate.  As the pictures indicate, library staff has as much fun with the day as patrons do, which is another good way to promote libraries – as a informative and entertaining destination. 

 Mineral City, NV library staff suits up for Snapshot Day

A Laughlin, NV librarian celebrates Snapshot Day on Halloween   

The Nevada Library Association is still compiling updated information for the 2012 section, which should be updated on their webpage soon.

The Snapshot Day continues, and with 39 out of the 50 states in the Union having participated, it is only a matter of time before every state in the country organizes a Library Snapshot Day of their own.  For more information, visit this ALA Office for Library Advocacy page, or email the OLA offices.