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Pink Library Signs Capture Attention in Ohio

by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh on December 6, 2013

In Northeast Ohio it wouldn’t be fall and approaching election season if there weren’t neon pink signs planted in the front yards of homes. Thankfully Deborah O’Connor, Director of Geauga County Public Library in Chardon, OH, was able to explain how the seemingly ubiquitous signs got started.

The first neon pink signs appeared in 1991 to promote Geauga County Public Library’s levy campaign. Neon pink was chosen as the color to brand the campaign. There were pink campaign signs, buttons, and pamphlets because this attention-grabbing color stood out in yards. These simple signs with the universal library symbol and a levy number cut through the frequently gray, rainy autumns of Northeast Ohio, to grab the attention of passers-by. When the campaign was over the remaining signs went into the library’s storage barn to be used another time. Their political action committee decided it was worth keeping the signs that hadn’t disintegrated because there was no sense throwing out something that could be used again someday!

Several years later a director of nearby small stand-alone library asked if he could borrow some of Geauga County’s signs for his levy campaign. Eventually, his library community was covered in pink signs. When he returned those that hadn’t melted under the autumn rains, his library’s political action committee made a donation to Geauga County Public Library’s PAC to cover replacing the signs they weren’t returning. This was the birth of the shared pink signs!

At this point, O’Connor can’t remember how many local libraries have borrowed “the pink signs” to support library levy campaigns or even how many libraries have borrowed them for multiple campaigns over the years. Among them include libraries from two counties surrounding Geauga County, Lake and Ashtabula. Small libraries like Grand Valley Public Library, Madison Public Library, Fairport Harbor Public Library, and Perry Public Library have all benefited from the savings of borrowing “the pink signs” for their campaigns.

These days, if Ms. O’Connor hears of a local library that will be going for a levy, especially a first time levy, she offers them “the pink signs.” Frequently the PACs who run the campaigns are grateful for the help. Borrowing the signs is really a “gentleman’s agreement.” No formal paperwork is signed. Signs are borrowed with the understanding that IF the PAC has money left at the end of the campaign, they make a donation to the Geauga Library PAC to cover sign replacement. Sometimes there is no donation and far fewer signs return than originally left. Other times grateful PACs close out their accounts by making a sizable donation to pay it forward for the next library’s levy campaign.

In a tight knit library community like Ohio where directors meet together on a regular basis to discuss any number of shared concerns, it isn’t surprising that they share resources as well. Perhaps this will serve as an example for other libraries around the country to cooperate and help each other thrive in their communities.

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