Posters actively promoting the library and the individual services offered did not appear as we know them today until the National Library Week campaign was launched in 1958 by the National Book Committee. The theme, “Wake Up and Read!” was created as a national promotional campaign to highlight the value of reading and public libraries. The poster you see below was used across the country to promote National Library Week. The eye-catching poster design includes bright colors and shows a happy reader enjoying a library book.
Original NLW Poster (1958)
Before this time period (and even through the first few years of NLW), publishing companies were key advocates in promoting books, reading, and libraries in the United States. As this focused shifted towards business motives, libraries were forced to take on the role of promoting themselves and their usefulness to the public. Starting in 1974, the American Library Association took over operations of National Library Week and continued to create unique promotional posters to be used in libraries across the country. Below are other early examples of the types of posters used to promote NLW over the years. Notice the “Wake Up and Read” theme continued in some manner on the NLW posters for a few years. All of the early posters promote the idea that reading both opens your mind and makes your life more enjoyable. These themes have continued over time and are still present in library posters today.
1960 NLW Poster 1961 NLW Poster
These posters illustrate that over time, the focus of the NLW posters has shifted away from simply promoting reading to include a more complete view of the library as a central place within the community. Promoting the library as a third place for users implies much more than simply providing books. The posters try to speak to the importance of feeling welcome at the library, no matter what services you use. The growing emphasis on technology is also evident in many of the library posters created over the past 20 years.
2012 NLW Poster 2013 NLW Poster