Spring is “awards season” in public relations and once VCU Libraries communications office received these honors and is grateful to the many Libraries faculty and staff who contributed to these projects. This work was done in 2018-19 with awards presented in spring 2019.

American Library Association

Every year, the American Library Association PR Exchange Awards seems to become more competitive. From 440 entries, there were 29 winners this year. Our brochure for the Special Collections and Archives Endowment won in the Advocacy and Fundraising category. That same brochure also won in the “case statement” category in the ALADN competition and in the PRSA brochure category. SCA endowment brochure_final_052819

Public Relations Society of America, Virginia chapter

This contest draws hundreds of entries, including many from top advertising and public relations agencies and practices that work with huge budgets. Awards were announced May 23. To be honored with one award by this group is an achievement for any organization. This year, we entered four items and received awards in each category!


This is the first time we have entered in this category and it was an outstanding entry, based on the work of Gender Inclusive Library WorkgroupErin White, organizer, Teresa Doherty, Steven Barkley, Donna Coghill, Liam Palmer, Jimmy Ghaphery and student members.  

Public relations, in its broadest sense, is about effectively serving or managing publics. As a large open institution in an urban setting, VCU Libraries–with 2.5 million building visitors a year–has broad and unique challenges and obligations regarding providing inclusive approaches to communication, modeling appropriate behaviors and ensuring that all the 32,000 students enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University and the school’s 15,000 faculty and staff are treated with the highest level of respect. It was with this mandate to fairness and developing best practices that a work group on Gender Inclusivity went to work in 2018. The group’s report, published in August 2018, is a roadmap to providing better service to patrons, and it is thought to be an example of a best-practices approach to studying and addressing public services issues related to gender diversity. This project has had deep impact internally, on VCU Libraries’ 150-plus staff members. It has provided a common sense and standard approach to understanding and communicating internally about gender inclusivity. It has served to educate staff and faculty and point us in a certain common direction. Many of the tactics recommended by the working group center on communications. The complete nomination


Good data and research underpin successful public relations campaigns. An award in this category is especially fitting for an academic library. The project honored involved outreach to the School of the Arts. This pilot program is forming a backbone for other outreach projects to all schools on campus through 2021.

Carla-Mae Crookendale and Bettina Peacemaker are the key players in this project.

What do arts students know about VCU Libraries? How do they find out what they know? What are the gaps in their knowledge? How can we fill those gaps to increase their awareness and use of library resources and therefore improve their experiences as students and creators? These are the sorts of questions explored by Arts librarian Carla-Mae Crookendale. Through a competitive national program, she was a participant in the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship. Her project, “The Art Student and the Library: A Library Use Assessment,” began in fall 2017 with a survey of 362 students followed by 16 interviews. She managed and reported the data in spring 2018 and her findings informed our creative strategy for heightened outreach to the School of the Arts. Rollout began in fall 2018.

Anecdotal reports and Crookendale’s data show that many students do not know about liaisons/designated/expert librarians in their disciplines. Many faculty also are unclear about the expertise and the kinds of services librarians can provide. The Academic Outreach department for some time has pondered how to amplify outreach through promotion of individual librarians to targeted audiences. VCU Libraries has been successful with enewsletters (which receive high open rates) to faculty. But, we had not yet created a sustained, focused campaign with the liaison librarian as the centerpiece. The PR office created a pilot campaign using a conceptual approach that could be replicated for other librarians and schools.  It involves a handsome signature piece of artwork (in a collage format designed by artist Jeff Bland) that represents each school. This artwork, with liaison contact information and a link to a research guide, is used on posters, digital posters, postcards and stickers.


“Milestones,” the 2017-18 year in review report also received An Award of Merit. Every department head and Associate University Librarian had a hand in this 120-plus page tome. The purpose of the report is to underscore or build awareness of the breadth of library activities and build reputation as an activist, nimble and creative library system seeking and implementing leading-edge solutions to problems within the academic library world. It is also designed to educate potential donors about the depth and breadth of activities within a modern academic library. It is written for a lay audience. More than 25 stakeholders–at various levels within the organizational structure–are involved in approving the outline and creating and reviewing content for this publication. Design is by Jeff Bland. Thank you to everyone who had a hand in making “Milestones.”


The Special Collections Endowment brochure was also honored. Thanks to for the assistance from Yuki Hibben and Jodi Koste and the direction of Kelly Gotschalk, the client, for working on this. Design is by Jeff BlandSCA endowment brochure_final_052819

The Academic Library Advancement and Development Network

ALADN is a professional association for people involved in advancement and development for academic and research libraries. It runs a communications contest in which a library is invited to enter three categories. At its May convention in Forth Worth, ALADN honored VCU Libraries with two awards.


A “case statement,” is basically the written argument or statement of need for funding. A good case statement spells out in easily understood terms the essential functions and mission of a unit or department and states how and why donors’ contributions can make a difference.

Fundraising priorities for VCU Libraries in 2018-19 included a new $1 million endowment for Special Collections and Archives. The development office needed a brochure to circulate at an event that would be attended largely by the city’s arts community, many of whom are faculty or emeritus faculty or alumni of VCU’s School of the Arts.

This 8.5×11 inch tri-fold oversized brochure is designed to be used as a stand alone or in a presentation folder with additional materials, such as rack cards, maps, one-pagers and formal letters as our university librarian and development director communicate with or meet with potential donors to the new Special Collections and Archives Endowment Fund. The design highlights the intention and breadth of archival collections with vivid full-color imagery. SCA endowment brochure_final_052819


In the competition, as many as three different projects may be nominated. VCU Libraries nominated these PR projects led by the Friends of VCU Libraries board and various members of the development staff, notably Kelly Gotschalk and Antonia Vassar.

Endowed Scholarship Fund

VCU Libraries was selected as one of the pilot participants in the university’s new crowdfunding platform. The platform requires a robust amount of communications materials, including a video (produced by the development director) as well as social media postings, other push messaging via email and visuals. See the video and the platform.

New member recruitment “B is for Beer, L is for Library” bash

VCU Libraries’ development office embarked on a robust alumni outreach effort this year, offering free borrowing privileges to all alumni, which has added 700 names to our contact list. The nearly 100,000 local alumni provide rich opportunities for engagement with the libraries. Richmond is a big foodie and brewery town. Capitalizing on relationships our annual fund officer has among brew pub owners and wanting to enhance engagement with young alumni and cultivate them (and move them up) to paid Friends’  memberships, we’re throwing a June party on our outdoor Terrace with micro brews from local breweries and creative pub food. The illustration for the evite is inspired by the book jacket “B is for Beer” by VCU alumnus Tom Robbins.  Signed copies of the Robbins’ book will be available for purchase at the event. Design is by Emily Kudrow.

Friends of VCU Libraries Design Contest

You cannot buy VCU Libraries branded materials in the campus bookstore. So, the Friends of VCU Libraries launched a $500 design contest targeted at current students and recent alumni. The artwork was printed on a T shirt sold to raise funds for VCU Libraries. The art may also be used for other VCU Libraries materials such as thank-you cards, tote bags and such. The springtime contest, the first we’d tried, proved successful with 23 entries, most from art students. An exhibit of the winner and honorable mentions ran on our oversized 24×24-feet screen on the front facade of the building. And, the artwork is being used in stickers and giveaways for the annual Welcome Back open house in August. The tee-shirts, fulfilled by an outside vendor through online sales and mail delivery, are selling better than we anticipated. In the first two weeks, the effort had sold more than 100 shirts and raised more than $500.

News story about the contest

Winner announcement story

Email for selling tee shirt

Flickr site with winner and honorable mentions

Categories Awards and Honors