What public libraries say about themselves: Your Library Is…, an FAQ

li432What a library says about itself may say much about the aspirations and community sense of the library. This book collects those sayings, as sources of revelation and inspiration–about public libraries and for public libraries and the communities they serve.

What is it?

A collection of public library sayings–mottoes and slogans on the home pages of public library websites from around the U.S.

Your Library Is… A Collection of Public Library Sayings is a 157 page (plus vi pages) 6″ x 9″ paperback consisting of a four-page introduction and the slogans and mottoes, arranged by state and by library (system) within state.

I checked the websites of as many of the 9,200+ U.S. public library websites (in the IMLS FY2011 database) as I could find. After omitting some categories of sayings, I wound up with 1,137 apparently-unique mottoes and slogans and another 88 mottoes and slogans shared by a total of 205 libraries.

Who should find this worthwhile?

Nobody needs this book.

Who might want it?

Librarians (and non-librarians) who may find the range of mottoes and slogans inspirational and revealing.

Libraries that don’t have sayings (most don’t, and that’s fine) and might be considering using one…or, for that matter, libraries that do have sayings but don’t show them on their homepages.

Libraries serving library schools, again for inspiration and revelation.

How is it available?

The paperback version costs $16.99 plus shipping from Lulu. As with (nearly) all Cites & Insights Books, it’s nicely designed and printed on 60lb. cream stock, classic “library quality paper.”

The ebook version–a PDF with no DRM and 6″ x 9″ pages that should display beautifully on most ereaders and tablets–costs $8.99. No shipping. It is identical to the body of the paperback.

You can also acquire a deluxe version of the PDF ebook (adding the book covers as first and last pages) by donating $50 or more to Cites & Insights and requesting the book when I thank you for your donation.

Will the book get cheaper over time?

No. I’ve already priced the ebook lower than most C&I books.

It will disappear over time if there aren’t enough sales to keep it active.

Will it be replaced by a newer version?

Highly unlikely. It was fun to scan the 9,000+ websites and record the sayings once. I doubt that they’ll change or grow all that rapidly, and it would be a lot less fun to do it again.

Can I get a sample?

The first saying is “Generations of Readers.” The last is “Dynamic Gateways for Lifelong Learning”

A considerably longer sample is available on pages 6-15 of the (online version of the) October 2013 Cites & Insights.

Tell me a little more…

I was looking at public library websites for a research project and encountered a variety of interesting and frequently inspiring mottoes and slogans.

At some point, it struck me that these were varied and worthwhile—-clearly to the libraries that put them on their websites and quite possibly to librarians and libraries elsewhere.

It’s one thing to provide inspirational messages from one person’s viewpoint. But these are what libraries choose to say about themselves.

Methodology

I used the IMLS public library dataset for 2011 (not the outlet dataset but the set of main libraries and library systems), retrieved in order to prepare $4 to $1: Public Library Benefits and Budgets. It included URLs for several hundred libraries (although the URLs didn’t always work). I copied key columns of that dataset to a spreadsheet with another column for the sayings I found.

Going through the libraries with URLs, I found that about one out of every five libraries had a motto or slogan that wasn’t an epigraph (a quotation from somebody else),”Welcome,” a saying referring to the website itself or the like. The variety and content were rich enough to persuade me to go through the rest—more than 9,000 libraries, checked for fun during breaks in more serious projects over a couple of months in the summer of 2013.

To search for the rest of the libraries, I prepared a composite key composed of the library name and the state abbreviation. For most of the process, I used Bing, since it seemed to provide cleaner results with less overhead than Google. It didn’t take long to recognize the patterns of pseudowebsites—the many auto-generated webpages that have nothing to do with the actual libraries.

I didn’t actually keep track of how many libraries I was unable to find websites for. In a few hundred cases, I located the website indirectly from a library’s Facebook page—and in a few cases, I took a motto or slogan from that page. My best guess is that I missed somewhere between 500 and 1,000 libraries, mostly small, either because they simply don’t have websites or because I couldn’t reach them.

When I found a motto or slogan, I either copied it directly (if that was feasible) or retyped it into the Excel cell. For slogans appearing entirely in capital letters, I used sentence case instead; in all other cases, I attempted to retain the capitalization used in the original. Quotation marks and ellipses were retained. A variety of ornaments used between words were normalized to middle dots (•).

Exclusions

Along the way, I added some categories of things that seemed not to make sense to include in this collection. Among those (noting that I’m not entirely consistent about these!):

  • Epigraphs (quotations from other people), as already noted.
  • “Welcome” or “Welcome to your library” without anything else.
  • “Your library resources anytime, anywhere” and other similar sayings that appear to be part of the default Plinkit template or that refer to the website rather than to the library itself.
  • “Serving xxx” where”xxx” is the name of the community, communities, county or counties served.
  • “Check us out” or”check it out” or similar sayings, although some variations are included.
  • Statements of the library’s age without anything else.
  • Statements of a library’s award-winning or number-of-stars status.
  • Library mission statements and vision statements (although a few of these probably crept in).

I did pick up mottoes contained within a library’s logo, if it was possible to read the text as the logo appeared on the website.

I do not claim perfection or consistency. A few of the sayings here should probably have been excluded. A few sayings that weren’t picked up probably should have been. This collection should be fun and maybe inspiring; it’s not a research project as such.

One other category of exclusion

The text above comes from the introduction. Thinking about it, there’s another category of exclusion that may include hundreds of libraries: Cases where the library page appears as part of the city or county website, especially as a portion of a master page, and a city or county slogan or motto appears (and not a separate library one).

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