The American Library Association has gotten a boost from an unlikely source — Oprah Winfrey. The ALA formed a partnership with the talk show queen's book club, and ever since, the number of member organizations has almost doubled.
“It has been a big factor in helping us increase our membership,” says Gerald Hodges, associate executive director of marketing and communications at the ALA.
Here's how it works: The publisher of each Oprah Book Club selection donates — at the request of Winfrey — one to five copies (depending on the size of the facility) to each public, high school, and community college library that is an ALA member organization. Since the program started in 1996, organizational membership has grown from 2,500 to 4,500, Hodges says.
Since Winfrey re-launched the book club last summer with a focus on the classics — including the current selection, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” by Gabriel García Márquez — more than 300 new members have joined ALA. “We use it as a marketing tool to recruit and retain members,” states Hodges. Marketing General Inc., an Alexandria, Va. — based consultant, spearheads the marketing effort for ALA.
The relationship has been successful because it provides a service for libraries and helps them financially as well, Hodges says. “Look at your clients and find something that will help them be successful.”