Real People. Real Dollars. Makes a Real Impact

The Real People. Real Dollars. poster was given to each legislator in the Mid-Hudson Library System service area during NYLA’s Library Advocacy Day

Submitted by Kerstin Cruger, MHLS Marketing & Program Assistant

In February, you may have noticed a lot of pictures popping up on Facebook of smiling library patrons holding signs displaying dollar amounts. This was part of the Mid-Hudson Library System’s [MHLS] social media campaign Real People. Real Dollars. In an effort to drive more library advocates to the NYLA Online Advocacy Center and increase awareness of Advocacy Day MHLS combined fact and feeling to create a campaign with a visual impact that made a lasting impression.

Alena from the Phoenicia Library was the first post in the Real People. Real Dollars. campaign in 2016

This advocacy activity, originally piloted in 2016, was designed with the simple premise, libraries save people money! Member libraries were asked to tap individual patrons or families of patrons who would use the NYLA Library Value Calculator to estimate how much money the library saved them annually and then take a picture with them holding a sign showing that dollar amount. In the month leading up to Advocacy Day pictures were posted on local library social media channels (with patron permission), tagged with NYLA’s hashtag #LibrariesAREEducation, the Governor’s State of the State hashtag #EverUpward and a message to help connect people with NYLA’s Online Advocacy Center. The pictures were then collected by the Mid-Hudson Library System to create publicity pieces to share with local legislators, in Albany, on Advocacy Day.

On March 1, NYLA’s Library Advocacy Day, each legislator was presented with a poster that showed over 70 Hudson Valley Families who had calculated their annual savings through library use. The visual message drove home that for legislators’ constituents this money has a real impact on household budgets. It was a great kick off to the conversation with legislators regarding library aid and emphasized that investing in libraries has a big return on investment for the communities they serve.

Kingston Library’s Teen Advisory Group saved a combined $52,923

Libraries have a wellspring of stories about how their patrons’ lives have benefited from the library. The Real People. Real Dollars. activity gives libraries a way to capture that patron’s story with a single picture. A story in pictures can be extremely impactful and legislators really responded to the visual representation. They absolutely loved the posters and could not deny the message conveyed, libraries save real people real dollars!

This was only the second year of the campaign and according to NYLA’s Online Advocacy Center statistics more than 3200 letters were sent from the MHLS region to local legislators and participation among member libraries in the social media campaign more than doubled. In fact, there were so many pictures submitted this year that most of the text had to be eliminated from the poster to ensure all the photos would fit. The old adage may claim a picture is worth a thousand words but in this case it was calculated at about $1,030,471.00.

The Real People. Real Dollars. campaign is the creation of Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, MHLS Coordinator for Library Sustainability.


There has been talk of this campaign going statewide in 2018 so stay tuned!

Senator Sue Serino with constituents at NYLA’s Library Advocacy Day