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The Library Card.......
By Peggy Barber & Linda Wallace, Library Communication Strategies Inc.

Next to bookmobiles it's the public library's most romantic symbol.

The library card is the first piece of our great democratic society that children can acquire, use and be proud of. It is a symbol of our freedom to read and learn and grow throughout our lives.

A driver's license, library card and voter registration card used to be the only cards most folks carried. Those days are long gone. Today even grocery store chains and the pet food store want to be in our wallets.

Why? Because these cards make a powerful statement as well as carrying a barcode.

Are you making the most of your library card?

When libraries put their cards to work, they've had great success in grabbing public attention, passion and participation. Two good examples are the King County Library System and the Houston Public Library.

The King County Library System has introduced vibrant new cards with the message "Turn to us. The choices will surprise you." Library users have a choice of five striking designs in wallet or key chain size. Campaign goals include heightening public awareness of the library's Web site, bringing in 50,000 new adult cardholders and signing up every child in the library's service area.

Library card imageThe Houston Public Library's electric-looking "Power Card" was the focus of a special campaign to put a library card in the hands of all school children. Spearheaded by the mayor, the campaign was underwritten by a local power company among others. The Houston Press named the library card a "Best of Houston" saying the campaign "has to be the best thing any government agency has done for anybody in a long time."

Many other libraries are getting hip to the power of their card. A small library in Iowa put a photo of their mascot—a kitty—on their card. Its increased popularity generated press attention.

We encourage you to take a fresh look at your library card with the following in mind:

  • Is it colorful enough to stand out in a plastic laden wallet?

  • Does it appear welcoming?

  • Is there a branding/mission statement, a URL—something more than a list of rules?

  • Is the card appealing to kids?

  • Is the design consistent with the library's overall graphic image?

  • Will your "members" be proud to carry it?

  • Have you worked with local merchants to get "show us your library card" discounts?

  • Do you observe Library Card Sign-up Month in September?

  • Does the mayor have a library card?—and use it?

Have you got a card you're proud of?

Show us your library card so we can share it with others. We'd also like to hear about your most effective library card sign-up promotions. Send to Library Communication Strategies, 1830 N. Fremont St., Chicago, IL 60614. Fax: 773-989-4522. E-mail:

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