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.
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 (•).
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 in the book 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.
So far, with a single word change, this is all from the introduction. Originally, I planned to produce this book as a perk for donors to the $4 to $1 project—but that crowdfunding project failed. Meanwhile, I really liked the book, so I put it out as a paperback and ebook.
The book includes 1,137 mottoes and slogans that appear to be unique, and 88 mottoes and slogans shared by more than one library (a total of 205 libraries).
Except for the introduction, it’s all either sayings or credit, arranged alphabetically by state and by city within state. I include the library’s name as given in the IMLS data (except for capitalization) and the 2011 legal service area.
The cover has one big color strip running around the bottom 40% or so—it’s actually two mosaic strips (or is it three?) butted up against one another. All the images are from libraries with sayings in the book.
I think the 157-page paperback is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve assembled and believe many librarians would find it inspiring. So far, people or libraries have purchased eight paperback copies and one PDF ebook. It will continue to be available for quite some time—and it’s a great little book.
Crawford, Walt [int. & comp.]. Your Library Is… A Collection of Library Sayings. 2013.