Geek the Library
There was a time when libraries were private, and the only people who could access their collections were those who paid for subscriptions. We now have public libraries that offer resources for the general public at no cost, but because of economic uncertainty, many libraries face serious budget cuts and others have been closed.
Geek the Library was created to address these issues. It’s a campaign to get people thinking about how libraries can be a resource to assist them with their needs (e.g. job searches) and their wants (e.g. hobbies like crafting).
According to the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), Geek the Library was “designed to highlight the vital role of public libraries and raise awareness about the critical funding issues many libraries face.” The campaign is an application of the information in a 2008 OCLC study, From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America, which found that “increasing funding support for public libraries requires changing community perceptions.”
Geek the Library uses the word “geek” as a verb, encouraging patrons to think about what their interests are and to get their geek on at the library. The campaign’s website has images of people proclaiming their passions (“I Geek Hip Hop,” “I Geek Worms,” “I Geek Volunteering”) and you can get more information there about what you can do to support libraries. Libraries can request to join the offline component of the campaign and receive materials like posters, buttons and bookmarks.
When asked why her library system signed up for the campaign, Jennifer Beach, Library Director for the Cumberland County Public Library, says, “We’re a small, rural library. I’ve been here about a year, and we felt we needed to do more to reach our community.” She later added that some people in her area think of the library just as a place to get children’s books.
Beach says her library has one event a year and she presented Geek the Library materials there, feeling that she had “one shot to get people talking.” It worked because she has seen the campaign materials, including bumper stickers, around the community and people come in and ask about what it means to “geek.” Right now there is a “We Geek Summer Reading” banner hanging in front of the library. Overall, Beach says, “I’ve gotten really good feedback.”
Mary Mulrenan, Marketing Director, Fairfax County Public Library, says that her library system is just starting their Geek the Library efforts. They plan to have more materials to raise awareness by mid-July.
Mulrenan says that they thought the slogan was “pretty catchy” and that it “seems like an excellent way to make people aware and reach a different audience.” She also noted that while the Fairfax libraries received more funding for the next fiscal year and will expand their hours in September, participation in Geek the Library is a way to show unity and solidarity with libraries that don’t have the same opportunities.
Mulrenan agreed with Beach’s sentiment that libraries can customize the campaign and added that it is a great way to get the attention of people who don’t think of about the library when they get ready to read or download something. “Lots of people still don’t know that we have free e-books, fantastic databases and events for adults.”
Geek the Library is a reminder that if you are not a big-time donor, you can still do a lot to help libraries. In fact, one of the easiest ways to help the library is to make use of it, so that you are helping yourself and the library at the same time. For example, I remembered that while I intended to make use of Overdrive to borrow e-books from the library months ago, I had never gotten around to it. After speaking with Beach and Mulrenan, I borrowed my first e-book!