What exciting times we live in for people who don’t like public institutions. They must be having a lot of fun watching public institutions and the common good slowly wither away as budgets are cut.
Those people must think trends like advertising in libraries is a positive step towards a brighter future.
There are examples, like a San Diego library program where businesses can purchase memberships that entitle “them to advertise on the window of a library building.” This is supposedly a “win-win” because “the library receives money and businesses receive invaluable community exposure.” No possible loss to library integrity there!
The Toronto “public library sells advertising on its due-date slips,” because when look at that and realize your book is overdue, you’ll be in a good mood to respond to the ads.
My favorite is the claim that “a library in New York has reportedly adopted ad-supported toilet paper.” Talk about going where the users go!
In some ways this could be counterproductive. If all libraries started advertising on their date due slips, the wisest advertiser might be Amazon. “Amazon: Books from us are Never Overdue.” Since Amazon has a lending library of sorts, they could advertise that as well.
The toilet paper ads are even stranger. During the Presidential election season, I saw places selling toilet paper with Obama and with Romney printed on the sheets. Presumably, a big Obama supporter would be purchasing the Romney toilet paper and vice versa. Paying people to wipe their backside with my company’s logo seems like a bad idea.
Libraries could go even further than that. They could target advertisements in books, just like Google does in web searches. A student picks up a copy of Donne’s poems for an assignment, they find a little bookmark that says “Do not ask for whom the Taco Bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
Romance novels could have bookmark ads for shoes. Military thrillers could have ads for guns or whatever it is their readers like to fantasize about.
The ALA could organize a national campaign to get in on the action. In addition to READ posters, there could be BUY posters, and every library that puts one up gets a little of that national advertising money.
If libraries can completely cover their windows with advertising, that would help pay for more books, plus block out the natural light that helps fade the books. Talk about win-win!
Ads should be bright and colorful as well. Walking into a library could be like walking down a street crowded with neon signs and bright posters. It would have a lively, hip sort of vibe instead of that staid atmosphere it has now.
And for those libraries that don’t want any quiet spaces lest someone mistake them for (gasp!) a library, audio ads could play as well. For the wild and crazy libraries, they could be like the ones on popular morning DJ shows. For more traditional ones, they could sound like NPR ads.
Finally, the circulation staff could be required to insert ads into their transactions the way fast-food people are required to ask if we want fries with that. “Would you like a McDonald’s coupon for fries with that book?”
This is the kind of thing that would let libraries seem innovative and daring, like they’re keeping up with the times.
God help us all.