Saturday, 7 April 2012

Libraries: an alternative to Super Bowl advertising

April 9th 2012 cover
The concept of corporate sponsoring for libraries and conservation projects has haunted me for the past week.  Firstly, I was very kindly given a copy of Time magazine to read on a flight from Fort Myers to La Guardia last week - to be honest, I have never read the publication before but didn't want to look uncultured to the businessman in the next seat, who was offering me his copy and was a Syracuse alum and way too knowledgeable about the University mascot for his own good.  I took it good humouredly and started flicking.  I have to admit that it is the only magazine I think I have ever read cover to cover (the 'Hello' Royal Wedding issue included).  Really riveting stuff from the future of oil to 'Draw Something' to India's e-bus company.

The article that caught my attention, however, was entitled 'A Bridge too Far?' and focused on the corporate sponsorship of conservation projects in Italy.  It has long been known that Italy has not been conserving its monuments sufficiently and now millions of euros are required to preserve them in their present state.  This amount of funding is obviously difficult to come by and so large corporations are wading in and using the opportunity to advertise their products.  They can do so by draping their business on the scaffolding or advertising on the tickets for attractions.  Some companies have gained permission exclusively to use images of the monuments on clothing and objects that they manufacture. It is also possible that monuments are on occasion put at the disposal of these corporations for events (thus increasing the damaging foot fall).

Repairs under way on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice

One main issue with this form of fundraising is the temporary nature of the support.  These monuments require permanent conservation and a steady stream of financial support, which corporations may not be able to provide and so longer-term funding solutions should be sought.

The second mention of this topic came in the Library Journal this month.  As I read on my way to work (I did get some funny looks but I put that down to my wearing sunglasses, a scarf and jacket) I came across a short article on the 'newsdesk' concerning Toronto Library's board's decision to sell advertising in the library.  You can read about the advertising policy and program here and see the Torontoist's views here.  The library proposes that advertising space be sold as long as it does not interfere with the delivery of library services or reflect negatively on the library.  The current plan is to allow the back of due-date slips to be sold for advertising opportunities and the first ads should be implemented by the end of 2012.

Toronto Public Library by rb3m, on Flickr
Toronto Public Library

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  rb3m 

Thirdly, this week for my digital preservation class we are discussing the cost of digital programs and I was struck by the similarity between the digital preservation need for funding and physical object conservation need for funding.  It is really a very similar issue since long-term support is required and digital librarians are also considering to what extent they want their collections to be associated with certain donors.  Perhaps the digital librarians can learn from the experiences of physical libraries and the choices they have made regarding sponsorship and advertising.

What this has all taught me is that no matter what we are considering; ancient monuments, public libraries or digital libraries, the issues are always going to be the same.  So, even if the future is going to be book-light, the skills involved and challenges faced in developing, running and delivering information services will be very similar.  A heartening conclusion for a library student.

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