By: David Gordon – Correspondent
Published in the Jewish Tribune
As the largest public library system in Canada, and the busiest system worldwide, Toronto’s 98 libraries are a key resource for hundreds of thousands of residents. Amidst the free books, DVDs and classes, Leah Weber has found a way to benefit the libraries, companies and borrowers alike.
Two years ago Weber, wife of Rabbi Yehoshua Weber of Toronto’s Clanton Park congregation, began selling ad receipt space in North York supermarkets, with John Vince, Nortown Meats and Sobeys/Price Chopper as clients. One evening, a trip to the library with her children sparked a new idea, that she could provide the same service for libraries.
Her pitch to the Toronto Public Library (TPL) was simple: she would supply rolls of paper that are used for printing out due-date reminders, and in return she could sell the blank space on the back for ads.
The initial response was that library policy would not allow advertising of any kind, but they were open to change as they were facing a budget deficit. A few months later, the board greenlit the project.
Weber’s company, Receipt Media Ltd., won the bid to provide the ads on receipts.
Her company works closely with the TPL to screen advertisers and ensure that they were not targeting children or compromising the image of the library.
The library’s advertising policy prohibits ads promoting tobacco or alcohol products, religious beliefs, political positions and parties. It also forbids ads that could “detract from the library’s public image.”
The project has proved to be a win-win situation for everyone, with the library saving at least $40,000 annually on register roll paper, she said.
Mayor Rob Ford, meanwhile, has been encouraging corporate partnerships with the library system to offset costs and reduce the tax burden.
Weber reflects that the collaboration has allowed for a “great opportunity for tax payers’ money to be used for more goods and services within the library. Can you imagine how many books and DVDs could be purchased with that money?
“Over the course of just a few a years, the savings to the city is huge…and of course the patrons win, by getting savings on products and services advertised, and the library with its new source of saved income. I think this might even increase the library products and hours.”
TPL sees 19 million visitors at its branches annually who borrow more than 32 million items, officials say.
Many European countries use receipt advertising, and Mississauga and Calgary already have ads on due-date slips.
“The skeptics say that ‘who looks at receipts? People just throw them out.’ However, with library receipts only those people who want them, take the receipts,” Weber said.
“Most patrons use the receipt as a book mark or keep it on the desk for reference when to return the items.”
Current advertisers for the program are H&R Real Estate, Mirvish Productions, Pizza Nova, TDSB, Pizza Pizza, Diamond and Diamond lawyers and MADD Canada. There are plans for a summer campaign to include entertainment companies such as the Hockey Hall of Fame and others.