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Contra Costa County Library booth wins silver medal at State Fair


Contra Costa County Library booth at the 2005 California State Fair.

Each August, before Californians settle back into school and work routines, they flood to the California State Fair in Sacramento to experience everything from livestock shows to Midway rides and fried Twinkies. One of the most popular State Fair draws is the California County exhibits, alluring, information-rich booths in air-conditioned buildings.

This year, the Contra Costa County Library hosted Contra Costa County’s booth. It was an unprecedented opportunity for a California library to promote library services to thousands of State Fair visitors. And it was, it turns out, a winning effort. On the fair’s first day Contra Costa County’s booth received the state fair’s silver medal.

Anne Cain, Contra Costa County Library County Librarian, says, "We were excited at the chance to highlight the importance of literacy, reading and library services in Contra Costa County at this bustling statewide event. That the booth won a silver medal is testimony to the professional ingenuity and hard work of everyone on the Contra Costa County Library team!”

A group that included Contra Costa library staff, a representative from Contra Costa’s arts commission, local TV news staff, and a professional exhibit consultant met just six-weeks before the fair’s opening day to brainstorm how the library could connect to this year’s fair theme, “Beach Party!” Thinking “beach,” the group landed on “beach reading” and the booth design was born. “Good summer reading from the library” became the platform from which Contra Costa would illustrate its library and literacy services to fair visitors.


Hang glider floats above Contra Costa County Library booth.
 

Flying over the booth was a Harry Potter-like hang-glider holding a sign that said “Contra Costa County: Libraries take you where you want to go!” A huge lemonade, stacks of 6x10 foot books (whose spines boast Muir and Steinbeck) reflecting Contra Costa history, and a blown-up “To Do” scroll, at the top of which is “Go to library!” perched near an oversized Adirondack chair. More six-foot books around the booth had “pages” of simple text on library services. An oversize laptop (a television) ran a continuous Power Point presentation highlighting electronic library resources such as GALE databases, Learning Express, and Americas Newspapers.


Promoting literacy services at the California State Fair.
 

The booth enabled visitors to learn about staggering literacy statistics (low literacy skills cost the U.S. $73 billion in increased healthcare; literacy problems cost U.S. companies $16 billion annually in lost productivity) and about Project 2nd Chance, the library’s adult literacy program for learners 16 years and older.

The Contra Costa County Library booth at the California State Fair animatedly and winningly showed thousands of visitors from all over the state that the local library is a fun, compassionate, culturally rich and technologically advanced place where all are welcome.

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