A library is…: Clearly feasible. Worth doing?

A few days ago, I discussed the possible future of Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four (2012-13)–and one possible premium for an IndieGoGo or KickStarter campaign to fund the project.

Here’s what I said at the time:

I’ve done about 1/6th of the work toward what could be a great premium for such a campaign, if the campaign makes sense at all–an idea I’d mentioned earlier (in conjunction with a now-abandoned plan for future external measures of library social network activity), to wit:

A Library Is… (working title, subject to change), a collection of the slogans actually used by (some) public libraries. (So far, I’m finding that about 20% of the libraries checked have such slogans, once you exclude “Serving X since [date]” and “Welcome to your library” and the like. That percentage may go down–I’m starting out by checking the easy ones, libraries with web addresses in the IMLS 2010 report. I’ve checked about 1,650 libraries so far, yielding a little over 300 slogans/mottoes. I’ll probably check 3,000 or so before deciding whether to do the book.)

The book would be entirely derivative and serve only for inspiration and perhaps amusement. It would be an exclusive edition (probably PDF and paperback), available only as a premium, and not offered for sale separately. Premium levels could include PDF, paperback, signed paperback, and possibly–if I include library pictures–color paperback, signed color paperback, or even signed hardcover.

A Quarter Through…

I’ve now finished checking libraries with web addresses in the IMLS database (and rechecking about 10%-20% of them, where the web address is obsolete or doesn’t work)–around 2,400 in all, I think.

Going back and deleting closed libraries and libraries in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, I have 6,755 left to do, so I’m a little more than a quarter done, somewhat less than a third.

I’m going to pause for a few days–to write the first chapter of that up-in-the-air book, to finish a C&I essay, to collect some survey responses about this (I’ll post a link to the survey probably tomorrow).

Clearly Feasible

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

  • Omitting signed epigraphs and mottoes/slogans such as “Welcome to the library,” “Serving [location or counties],” “Serving [location] for [years],” “Serving [location] since [date],” “Your library available anytime anywhere” and similar mottoes, with a very few exceptions where the nature of the modified motto makes it unusually interesting (e.g., a claim to be the oldest publicly funded library, a library that serves more than one state, a library with what feels like a clever downplayed claim), I come up with 441 mottoes/slogans (and very brief mission statements highlighted on the website) so far.
  • Are there repetitions? Yes–but probably not as many as you’d think. A casual runthrough finds about 16 libraries using slogans that some other library also uses. That’s about 4%: Not bad!
  • The range is interesting, as are quite a few of the mottoes or slogans.

I wouldn’t project that the rest of the scan would yield 1,240 mottoes or slogans–not even close. For one thing, I’d guess around 10%-15% won’t have websites or Facebook pages.

The total could easily be more than 1,000 slogans and mottoes, including–say–800 unique cases (that is, a LOT more repetition than I’ve found so far).

I’m still not sure how I’d organize the book (which would consist of a very brief introduction and a whole bunch of slogans/mottoes identified by library, city, state and 2010 LSA, set as hopefully-attractive separated paragraphs, not just continuous text).

I think the results would be interesting to some. Or not.

Worth doing?

If I finish the scan (done as an intermittent process when taking breaks from something else, which is how I’ve done it so far: 100 libraries a day is pretty easy, as that’s less than an hour’s total work) and prepare the book–which might or might not include little pictures for included libraries–here’s how it would be used:

  1. It would not be available for sale separately. At least I don’t think so.
  2. It would be a premium, in PDF form and possibly in paperback or hardback (or paperback or hardback with color pictures, a much more expensive proposition to do), for one or more fundraising campaigns.
  3. It could be a thank-you, in PDF form, for those contributing at least $35 to Cites & Insights.

So far, I haven’t thought of other possibilities.

I guess the question is: Is this an amusing and interesting idea–a little book of library mottoes–or is it just plain stupid?

(Little book: I figure 7 mottoes per page in a reasonably attractive well-spaced arrangement.)

As noted, I plan to prepare a little survey on the interest in funding a future Give Us a Dollar… and, slightly separately, the interest in (or dislike for!) this little book. Meanwhile, comments are open.

Fair use

By the way, I do not plan to ask any of the libraries for permission to use their mottoes and slogans (or, if I use them, the pictures from their websites). I regard that as eminently fair use–a nominal portion of a website that’s free in any case, with no negative impact on a library’s ability to raise money from its motto, and somewhat transformative by the context of hundreds of other mottoes.

If some copyright-oriented librarian thinks I’m wrong…well, the comments are open and my email continues to be waltcrawford@gmail.com



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