The best thing Bill Gates ever did was to marry Melinda. Now we've got this rich couple with a conscience and progressive ideas. They help libraries a lot. Thus we have, among other things, the OCLC Gates-funded marketing/advocacy study. The grant is to study "development of a potential national marketing campaign to increase awareness of the value of libraries, and the need for support for libraries at local, state and national levels." On the surface, this sounds remarkably similar to the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries, which I'm proud to support. But given the scope and ambitions of the study, I think the OCLC effort goes deeper and has some messages that deserve a lot of attention, that may call us to change how we do some things.
OCLC will publish the study next month. But there was a preview at the PLA conference in a program:
From Awareness to FundingIn an environment where libraries continue to face major cuts and even closing, the study is a follow-up to 2005's Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. I took pages of notes at the program, but we only scratched the surface -- it will be necessary to read the full report.
Join Cathy De Rosa, OCLC Global Vice President of Marketing, for a presentation of OCLC’s advocacy research program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn who you should talk to in your community and what messages can help your own advocacy and marketing efforts.
- public impressions of libraries are positive but inaccurate -- there is a lot that people don't know
- library referenda are increasingly failing to get on ballots, or where they do the success rate is dropping
- without action, critical funding for public libraries will erode
- sufficient latent support exists in local communities -- 80% of funding is local, but there is high competition
- it is key to position the library as a vital part of the community infrastructure and a key to transforming lives
- most people will claim to support the library, but fewer are truly committed to doing so
- elected officials believe that they support the library more than their constituents do
- there is no correlation between those who visit the library and those willing to fund it
- the desire to fund is related to belief in the library as a self-actualization tool
- perceptions of the librarian are highly related to support -- valuing a passionate librarian is very important -- qualities include:
- advocates for the library
- is knowledgeable
- has a commitment to life-long learning
- is passionate about making the library relevant
- everybody consistently lies in surveys
- there is a spectrum of perception and value, and we should make efforts to move the perception of the library from information toward transformation -- if we're perceived as being for information, we lose to Google
We need to:
- create a brand selling library support, not selling library use
- craft our our brand to reflect the beliefs of our most avid supporters
- re-frame the library when we lay out the case for support
- change perceptions to reflect:
- transformation NOT information
- infrastructure NOT institution
- necessity NOT nice to have
- the future NOT the past
- "return on investment" NOT altruism
I don't know that we want to jump right on the bandwagon -- letting go of the idea that we're about information will go hard with some. But we'd better think about it and discuss -- it seems that if we keep on doing things the way we have, support will continue to erode. Our library may be better off than many, but it's an ongoing struggle to maintain support.