LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett County Public Library, like many nationwide, is facing a new era — one, to put it nicely, of economic creativity.
Slashes in the budget have cut branch hours to 44 per week in recent months, and the system has gone to a “buddy branch” model to keep locations open every day. The GCPL board learned Monday that state funding would be cut another 3.5 percent this year.
It’s in that environment that Board Chair Phillip Saxton announced the library had officially begun its newest revenue-driving project: selling advertisement spots on the back of bookmarks to local businesses.
Saxton said he hoped the project would turn into a “million-dollar” idea, adding that, “I don’t know if we can raise that much or not, but the important thing for libraries in the future is for us to move toward raising as much of our revenue as we possibly can.”
If they were to eventually amount to a million dollars, the bookmark ads would account for a small but significant percentage of the library’s budget, which was in the neighborhood of $16 million in 2011.
Readers commenting on the Daily Post’s Facebook page seemed up for the idea.
“If they can support themselves to some degree, maybe they can find ways to be open more hours,” one commenter wrote. “Bookmarks as an advertising channel is good for patrons and for the bottom line.”
Asked another: “If it can raise money, why not?”
For $300, businesses can have their advertisement or coupon printed on a run of 5,000 bookmarks. Saxton estimated that one run, on average, would last about two weeks. Clients can choose which branch (or branches) they wish their bookmarks to be distributed at.
Saxton said the library already had one buyer and may soon have two more.
Bookmarks aren’t the only revenue-generating forays the library is beginning to dip its toes into.
Amazon.com shoppers can now first visit the library’s website — gwinnettpl.org — and click on the Amazon link there. If they make a purchase after that, GCPL gets a fee. The affiliate program has already raised several thousand dollars.
Users can also donate to the library directly on its website.
One resident even proposed the idea of a literary themed day camp at select branches during the summer, perhaps run by volunteers from the “Friends of the Library” group. Saxton seemed impressed.
“We want the community to help us come up with ideas to raise money,” he said.