Member Spotlight: Pueblo City-County Library District

The Best Library in America: Pueblo City-County Library Wins Big

Back in March, Pueblo City-County Library District won the Leslie B. Knope Award for Best Public Library in America contest, a national competition sponsored by the group Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). Designed as a single-elimination tournament in which libraries from all over the country vied for votes via social media, PCCLD’s campaign received support from Governor Hickenlooper, state representatives, and even Miles, mascot of the Denver Broncos.

Midori Clark, Director of Community Relations and Development at PCCLD, initially thought the name of the award was some sort of joke. “At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a real award!” she said. “It’s named after a character on the TV show ‘Parks and Rec,’ so it sounded fake to me. When I realized it was a legitimate organization and award, we went to work drumming up public support.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the television series, “Parks and Recreation” centers around an oddball group of local government employees under the direction of an optimistic and determined leader, Leslie Knope. Midori told us that the reference made sense once she became familiar with the ELGL and their central commitment to public engagement in local governing.

Initially, the staff at PCCLD had no idea they had received a nomination. Laura Savage of Pueblo West Metropolitan District tweeted the nomination several times, and eventually reached out to PCCLD by email.

Before the competition, the district had an official Facebook account and a seldom-used Twitter handle. Ms. Clark said, “Demographics change and special districts need to meet people where they are. The fact is that most people now have some form of social media.”

Once the library committed itself to engaging its constituents via Twitter and Facebook, they reached a wider audience than they’d ever thought possible, “We’ve never had so much engagement on social media. When it was all said and done, we reached more than 500,000 [people] in the six-week period on [Facebook] and the comments of support were overwhelming and moving.”

The contest ran for a period of six weeks, presenting a number of challenges to nominated libraries. For those six weeks, the staff worked hard to compete. This included scheduling daily meetings, canvassing for votes in the county and nearby university, hosting weekend community workshops on social media, setting up selfie stations (a part of the voting challenge), and more.

It did not take very long for their efforts to build momentum. The local newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain, wrote several articles and a positive editorial about their chances. They dubbed it, the ‘Battle of the Bookworms.’ Many of Colorado’s libraries also supported the district by sending the voting link to their employees and posting about it on their social media accounts. Both Governor Hickenlooper and the official mascot of the Denver Broncos, Miles, tweeted their support.

Hickenlooper tweeted on Feb. 21: “Good luck to @pueblolibrary! They’re one of four entries left in the #ELGLKnope contest for #BestPublicLibrary!”

Miles wrote, “Colorado! @pueblolibrary is in the running to win the #ELGLKnope contest! Let’s give them a boost and support our Colorado libraries.”

When PCCLD ultimately won, the governor invited the staff to come to the Colorado House floor where he declared March 16 Pueblo City-County Library District Day per State Representative Daneya Esgar’s petition. Congratulations came from all over the state, and since then, staff morale has been at an all-time high.

Ms. Clark says this is one of the most rewarding and remarkable projects she has been a part of in her fourteen years at the district. She says she has heard from many in the community just how proud they are of the district and everything it does for them. She said, “It wasn’t just a platform for our library district, it also reflected well on the community and the whole state.”

The district won’t be resting on its laurels though. Ms. Clark informed us that the district’s marketing budget has drastically changed since winning the award. PCCLD now heavily invests in outreach campaigns via social media. “[The potential of] using social media advertisements looks very promising so far,” she reported. “Our campaigns are reaching different parts of the community, attracting demographics we normally don’t see.” To put it in perspective, the director told us that the district has budgeted $7,000 to paid advertisements on social media for this year versus the $70 they had spent last year.

The library district has also hired a part-time digital marketing coordinator to manage their email and video marketing. The contest had also given the district an opportunity to attend the ELGL Annual Conference in Golden in May and meet their fellow competitors. Friendly ribbing and budding rivalries aside, it afforded PCCLD the chance to create relationships and share ideas with other libraries from different parts of the country.

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