Onondaga County Libraries Want You to Know: An Open Library Opens Minds

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Billboards are now displayed throughout the city of Syracuse with the Onondaga County Public Library’s new campaign, “An Open Library Opens Minds.” The “Open Library” campaign aims to raise awareness among libraries in the OCPL system and to let the community know that our libraries are open and ready to serve.

The “*Open Library” campaign was supported by funds from the New York State Library’s Family Literacy Library Services Program, in partnership with OCPL, Talking is Teaching and Help Me Grow. A call for billboard designs and ideas went out to the OCPL system earlier this year. System library employees were asked to vote on the design. Over 20 submissions were received for the contest, representing a wide range of ideas and talent.

The winning design was created by Jake Wicks, a library assistant at the Fayetteville Free Library. Wicks was inspired to create the billboard design by working at the Fayetteville Free Library and seeing firsthand how libraries interact with the community. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries have become even more important.

“I wanted to combine the image of open doors and an open mind,” Wicks said. “The pandemic has proven that libraries are not just buildings containing books, and that there is always a way to reach your communities.”

OCPL Director Christian Zabriskie said he was “excited about this poster campaign” and looks forward to the opportunities and visibility the billboards will provide.

A total of four billboards will be displayed throughout the city of Syracuse. These locations include Butternut Street, N/LW/O Salina Street, 3701 James Street, West Genesee Street at 1433 Erie Blvd W and 621 Brighton Avenue. The billboards will be on display until May 1, 2022. Learn more about upcoming events at OCPL branches and member libraries by visiting onlib.org.

Q&A with designer: Jake Wicks

Tell us a bit about yourself. Your name, organization, title, pronouns, etc.

Jake Wicks, Fayetteville Free Library, Library Assistant, He/Him/Her

What inspired your design for this campaign?

I wanted to combine the image of open doors and an open mind, so I put a door on someone’s head: the best of both worlds.

Why did you decide to work at the Fayetteville Library?

I was declined by Walmart’s Hallmark. I came home crushed and saw an opening on Indeed for a library clerk. I was hired shortly after the interview, a shock to everyone after the Hallmark card store was rejected. But now I love working for a nonprofit whose mission is to uplift the community.

What good things are happening in your library?

We recently adapted our collection development policy to prioritize diversity and inclusion. So, for several months, we have been auditing entire collections in our library for demographic trends (i.e. the identity of authors in our stacks). Although time-consuming and daunting, reviewing these collections appears to be a step towards real and substantial change in how and why we purchase hardware.

What would you like people to know about libraries in general?

I wish people knew that libraries are more like community centers than the libraries depicted in pop culture. Not everyone knows that public libraries offer free programs and events of all types for all ages and walks of life. If you want to get involved or support your community with programming, a library is one of the best places to go. A library is what you make it.

How has the pandemic changed library services?

The pandemic has been a test of how strained flexible library services can be. A few days after closing, we were thinking about how to continue to provide the services in our power. The long period of distance has proven that libraries are not just buildings containing books and that there is always a way to reach your communities.

eBook or print. Why?

If everyone read e-books, there would be no more books burned.

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