“Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver”–ILA/ACRL Public Relations/Marketing Award Winner

Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver

By Jenni Breems, Director of Library Services, Dordt University

White and blue bookmarks with the phrase "Let the library be your LIFESAVER!" printed at the top. A white, mint-flavored Lifesaver candy is attached to the bookmark on top of an image of a lifesaver.


In May, Dordt University was awarded $500 from ILA/ACRL for a public relations/marketing proposal to “Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver.”

The Project

For more than ten years, the Hulst Library at Dordt University has used a “Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver” bookmark campaign for new students. The campaign is a play on words for life preserver rings, Lifesaver™ candies, and on the crucial support services that the library offers to the campus community. The bookmarks include library contact information, hours, and brief descriptions of library services. After the bookmarks are printed, a library student employee staples a candy on each one. Then, we work with admissions to distribute the bookmarks to all new incoming students. We also set out a bowl of Lifesavers™ on our Service Desk each Friday. The library smells like mints when you enter the building.

The ILA/ACRL public relations/marketing grant allowed us to refresh the bookmarks with an updated design, create companion social media graphics, buy a semester’s worth of Lifesavers™, and expand the distribution of the bookmarks to include on-campus employees and additional students.


The planning for the grant began long before we applied. ILA/ACRL offers the public relations/marketing grant on an every-other-year basis. I have been thinking about possible opportunities for several years. I began by looking at past grant-funded projects. I brainstormed ideas with my library team, my student employees, and my dean. Together, we landed on the idea of a refreshed graphic design for the bookmarks.


The next step was creating a budget. This involved conversations with multiple campus entities. An art & design instructor helped me structure fair compensation for a freelance graphic designer and recommended his best students. The print & mail center proposed layout options, suggested cardstock choices, and estimated costs for printing 1,000 bookmarks. The library team calculated the cost of bulk candy. The director of research and scholarship reviewed the application and gave input on procedural issues for working with the business office. Marketing awards from ILA/ACRL are reimbursement grants. This means that the expenses first come out of the library’s budget. When the project is complete, receipts are submitted to ILA/ACRL for reimbursement.


The implementation of the grant began in the summer. A graphic design major, who happened to be a library student employee, did the design work. I set deadlines and gave careful feedback on multiple drafts. When the design was ready, I sent it to the print & mail center.  Actual costs came in under the estimate, so we were able to print more than 1,000 bookmarks. The library team ordered bulk peppermint and wintergreen Lifesavers™. (People have strong mint preferences!) A student employee stapled candies to the bookmarks and counted out piles for incoming students and on-campus staff. These were ready before the new students arrived in August. Our print & mail center coordinated bookmark delivery to on-campus employee mailboxes. We shared the companion social media graphics on Facebook, Instagram, and library digital signage.


We handed out the extra bookmarks generously. We gave bookmarks to upper class students in residence life roles. A package of bookmarks went to human resources for new hires in the year ahead. We distributed bookmarks at the campus departmental fair. During the month of September, I began each information literacy session with “Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver” bookmarks. This brought good will and opportunities to talk about the library’s services.

The “Let the Library Be Your Lifesaver” project had an additional, unexpected bonus. When the university’s marketing department needed a quick turnaround for a request, we already had an updated list of library services from the back of the bookmarks

I need to say a big thank you to ILA/ACRL for this marketing opportunity. Their next marketing/public relations grant opportunity will come in 2025. What could your academic library do with $500? Start thinking now.