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SFPL Receives National John Cotton Dana Award

At American Library Association Annual Conference

Recognition for 2009’s Fine Amnesty Program, “Return the Books”

The San Francisco Public Library was one of six libraries nationwide to be honored with a John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award Sunday at the annual American Library Association (ALA) Conference in Washington D.C. The award recognizes and honors outstanding achievement in library public relations.

SFPL was recognized for its 2009 Overdue Fine Amnesty Program campaign, “Return the Books,” which led to the recovery of 29,000-plus items, valued at approximately $730,000, over the two week amnesty period in May 2009.

The low-cost, multifaceted overdue fine amnesty campaign used the tagline, “What’s Your Excuse?” and obtained free participation by local and national personalities including Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Josh Kornbluth, Beth Lisick, W. Kamau Bell, and Marga Gomez, each offering clever excuses in a series of television public service announcements about their excuses for not returning library materials. The campaign netted a 23.6 percent return on overdue materials.

The fine amnesty program was intended to help library patrons cope with the economic downturn by removing one obstacle – overdue fines --allowing them to resume using library resources. The total number of recovered items was 29,228, including 3,151 books that were more than 60 days overdue and were therefore “assumed lost” or unlikely to be returned. The value of those long overdue items was nearly $79,000. Among the older items returned was a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman (reprinted 1947) with a due date stamp of Jan. 29, 1964, making it more than 45 years overdue from the  Presidio Branch Library. San Francisco library patrons also saved themselves $55,165 in overdue materials fines and more than 3,000 patrons were able to obtain a clean slate on their record.

The John Cotton Dana Public Relations Award, which has been awarded since 1946, is sponsored by the H.W. Wilson Company, the H.W. Wilson Foundation and the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). It is considered to be the most prestigious of all library awards in the field of public relations. The award comes with a $5,000 prize which is being returned to the City to help offset the general fund costs from foregoing the overdue fines over the two-week amnesty period.

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