Annoyed Librarian
Search ....
Subscribe to LJ
Inside Annoyed Librarian

Would You Like Fries with that Book?

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.



  1. 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.”


  2. ChickenPolitics says:

    If you want complete freedom to maintain “library integrity,” private ownership of your institution is a timeless solution.

  3. We offer Zinio through our library now, and it is a reasonably cheap way to provide e-magazines especially when you compare it to Overdrive for ebooks. The reason, of course, is that magazines are full of ads, and advertisers are happy to pay to get their ads in as many hands as possible. How long until the the book publishers cotton on to that scheme?

    • harmonyfb says:

      How long until the the book publishers cotton on to that scheme?

      Oh, they’ve already trod that path. Are you old enough to remember the cigarette ads bound into paperbacks? I am.

  4. Your Friendly Neighborhood Librarian says:

    The audio advertising could be just like in Bed Bath & Beyond where music from ceiling speakers heard everywhere in the store is directly clashing with five or six audio/video kiosks selling something. Oh, joy.

    Also, since the sales of online books goes down in geographic areas without physical bookstores, maybe Barnes & Noble will stock the public libraries’ shelves to help online sales, rather than building and staffing their own big-box store.

  5. My public library has a business resource center with books and computers for local small business owners to do research and we do have a wall in that room where local businesses can submit pamphlets or business cards to advertise their businesses and I think it is completely reasonable. They don’t pay anything to have their information at the library, but they often donate summer reading prizes. Anything that is going to go on the wall needs to be approved against our guidelines first.

  6. Tell the truth, these articles are just written by committee Mad Lib whenever you folks over at LJ get bored, right?
    “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.”
    This sentence is just comedy gold. Whomever put that bit of word salad together must have been just clapping and dancing in their bean bag chair when they were reading that aloud to the other editors.
    I want to point out that you also missed opportunities to make a “sponsored by” joke, a Super Bowl ad cost comparison joke for best sellers, and the odd naming conventions sponsored landmarks and events have taken, i.e. “Sears/Willis Tower” and “Bank of America Bowl.” I would have loved to learn what AL had to say about a local business sponsored library event that both helped the community and the library. What a hoot that would have been.
    Also, bonus points for using “staid.” Keepin it classy. *wink*

    • Jasper Fforde already did naming rights for Libraries… In the latest, Thursday is Head Librarian at the Wessex All You Can Eat at Fatso’s (Drink Not Included) Library Services.

  7. I Like Books says:

    “Welcome to Anytown Public Library! This reference transaction was brought to you by the Fuller Brush Company. How can I help you?”

    A university near me had heat-sensitive urinal pads– when you pee on them, the university sports logo appeared. It was in the Art Department. I have to say, I loved it! It gave a needed boost to my school spirit. It’s a guy thing, I’m not sure the ladies would understand.

  8. They will *all* be quiet spaces then, because the patrons will have fled to someplace where it’s still possible to think.


Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE