Public Perceptions of Libraries: Turning the Page – Week One

Week one of the six-week program focused on how the public views libraries and was guided by two recent research studies conducted by well-known agencies (e.g. OCLC). They provided some insightful information about how different groups feel about libraries. Among the finding were:

  • People thought having enough computers and online services should be the top priority for libraries
  • Politicians are in fact supporters of librarians, but they don’t understand the challenges (funding and non-funding) that libraries face
  • Some people will NEVER support libraries (Find out who they are and keep them distracted so you can focus on people who are current or potential supporters)

TIP: Research is an INCREDIBLE advocacy tool

The combination of week one’s self paced module and live webinar made for an interesting mix. The topics we covered in the webinar included:

  • The importance of learning who the library stakeholders are
  • Looking at different audience groups and the role each can play in advocacy efforts &
  • Exploring ways of influencing stakeholders

Who Do You Want to Reach Out to?

  • Define who you plan on reaching out to
  • Figure out what hey think about libraries, this will help you develop the most effective advocacy strategy

There are several tools you can use to accomplish this. Aside from the findings from the two studies covered in week one’s module, I recommend budding advocates take a look at the Special Libraries Association’s late 2000 research exploring what others think about information professionals, the term “library” and other closely related topics.

The findings from SLA’s research marked the end of a year-long study, under the codename “SLA Realignment.” The purpose of the research was to determine if rebranding the association and information professionals would help better convey the association and it’s members’ value to people outside the profession. Though (for many reasons) the name change never came to be, the findings provide insights that can help one determine what information and messages would be most important to convey to the target audience.

TIP: Paying attention to research findings is essential for implementing meaningful change.

Week One Takeaway’s

One of the most rewarding parts of the live webinar was the small and large group discussions. Towards the end of the session participants engaged in a discussion about “stories.” Stories that demonstrate how libraries go above and beyond the call of duty, stories about transforming lives. Below are some of the ways participants have seen or heard of stories being elicited, collected, and shared.

  • Videos: Open a YouTube channel and invite members of your community to talk about what the library means to them
  • The “READ” campaign politicized: Colorado librarians had a We “READ” poster campaign where they had state legislators pose in the photos
  • The meaning is hidden in the details: Do a survey, look at budget allocation, circulation records and program stats. Each will reveal a piece of the puzzle that will expose how the library feels about the community and how the community feel about the library.
  • Share success stories: Is there a member of the community who learned to read at the library? Don’t know? Find clever ways to encourage people to share their stories, and you will! Below are some ways to do being encouraging them.
    • Contests: Essay, Poster
    • Social Media: Twitter account, Facebook fan page
    • Video: Set up a space at your library that allows people to create and upload videos

Is there anything I left out? Feel free to share it below. If nothing else, I hope the takeaways provide you with ideas on things you can do at your institution.

Now I’m off to prepare for week two.

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