Friday, July 25, 2008

From Awareness to Funding Part III (how to get support)

In this third part, I will wrap up the analysis of the report and provide what I think libraries could do in relation to this report. This section covers p 112 forward. An analysis of Super Supporters, Chronic Non-Voters, Elected Officials perception of libraries, and what to do about the information provided in this report.

Super Supporters

Super Supporters are avid readers with a long-standing relationship with the library.
Although they use the library only a little more than average, their relationship with
the library is strong because their emotional connection to the library transcends the
library’s practical functions. More than any other segment, Super Supporters see the
library as a place where they can better themselves and become the people they always wanted to be. They hold the librarian in high regard and recognize the value that librarians bring to the research process.p 116

Super Supporters use the library to feed their voracious
reading habits and to recommend children’s books p 118

This group supporters the library, ranking it second highest (only behind the Fire Department) for priority support. However, they support EVERYONE very highly. They are big community supporters, are influential (even powerful) figures in the community.

I always think it is interesting when libraries think organizations, groups, or individuals may not fund a library initiative because the particular entity funds another heavily. It seems to me those who fund, fund EVERYTHING well. I have never seen an either or situation. These are the "rah rah" community supporters.

Super Supporters recognize the library’s contribution to a successful community p 123

Super Supporters believe the library helps bring a community together p 124

Chronic Non-Voters

The Chronic Non Voters segment of the Library Supporter Segmentation Pyramid
represents 26.6% of the U.S. population ages 18–69 in communities with
populations of less than 200,000. Chronic Non Voters are the group least likely
to improve funding support for libraries. Chronic Non Voters are not registered to
vote, or they are registered to vote but report a track record of not voting in primary
elections, presidential elections or local elections. Chronic Non Voters are unlikely to
be motivated to vote in the future. This segment represents 0% of respondents who
said they would definitely vote yes in a library referendum. p.128

I can hear it now when I write this. "Boo hiss boooooo!" These people apparently don't care about anything. They are not involved in anything. Their lack of support isn't just for libraries, it's for everything. They have basically dropped out of democracy and don't support their local community. The more disconnected the population feels, the more the support wanes. I would go so far to say that if the general public has a tendency to distrust government, particularly the local government, support for everything wanes. Even if it isn't a problem with library performance, dissatisfaction for local government or for the local community translates to a problem with the library.

Elected Officials (Chapter 3 goes into Elected Officials perspective)

Elected officials have views about the library similar to those of the Probable
Supporters. They appreciate the added value librarians offer and see librarians as
important figures in rallying community support. Elected officials are knowledgeable
about libraries and their value, but they often do not see the library as a necessity
for the community. The library is seen as a community ‘amenity’ rather than a
‘must have.’ p132

This seems to be a balance of non-usage. Most City Councilmen don't need the library, they understand the big value in the community, but if it hasn't touched their life (they don't use it, their family and friends don't use it) that is where the "isn't necessary" comes in. In my opinion, this really goes back to a complaint issue. People will complain if they don't have adequate service and if the library provides good enough service so that people don't complain, than they are doing their job.

The Library consistently ranks below, Police, Fire, Schools, and Streets in that order. (Reality check, more people complain about the lack of these things. If there is a crime, and the cops show up really late, or there is nothing done about the crime, people get angry. If the Fire response is too slow and it is a life or death situation, that's serious. If the schools are failing, everyone takes notice and wants to know what is being done about it. If the streets are in disarray, that will also cause a trip to City Council to complain. Even though the library is used more often than two of the four services (more people visit a library in their community than need to call police for a crime or fire for a medical/fire emergency, but they do send their kids to school every day and drive them there on city streets), they aren't supported more.

Local elected officials (68%) are more likely than voters (59%) to have lived in their community for more than 10 years. Elected officials are more likely to be members of a variety of local organizations, including Friends of the Library groups. Forty percent (40%) of elected officials surveyed were members of Friends of the Library, compared to 9% of voters and 11% of Probable Supporters. p 137

Elected officials are more likely than voters to recognize library financial needs; yet 73% believe the library has sufficient operating funds p 140

I think this goes back to the complaint issue. If people are not complaining about the lack of service, then it is fine.

Advice from elected officials:

  1. Stress the library’s return on investment (ROI) to the community
  2. Build strategic partnerships
  3. Be proactive
  4. Engage voters in the campaign
  5. Stress the broad appeal of the library

Elected officials on library funding campaigns

Elected officials cited a number of important components required of a successful
library funding campaign:
  • Messaging that focuses on the broader value of the library to the community,specifically a community gathering place, access to technology and programs for teenagers and other groups
  • A passionate, committed and active champion(s) who can rally support among the elected officials and community influences
  • Civic engagement, including a commitment to speak with every relevant group in the community to encourage grassroots support
  • A willingness to partner with other public services in a joint effort where strategically advantageous
  • The ability to ask for the right support at the right time:
    • Voter turnout is greater for general elections than local elections
    • It is often easier to campaign for a new building than for operating funds.

The next part focuses on how people vote and awareness. Many people who say they would vote for a bond issue, may not do so.

Furthermore, it states that while the breakdown of support is 37% definitely yes, 37% probably yes, and 26% no the probably part should concern libraries.

Familiarity with the full range of library services was not a determinant of library funding support for the library’s top funding supporters. p 148

Neither was usage

Frequency of library visitation is not a determinant of funding support. p 149

A definite need, the "passionate librarian"

These five attributes can be combined to describe the ‘passionate librarian’:p152
  • True advocate for lifelong learning
  • Passionate about making the library relevant again
  • Knowledgeable about every aspect of the library
  • Well-educated
  • Knowledgeable about the community.
There seems to be a DEFINITE correlation between passionate librarians and support. Sure if your staff doesn't care about the library, why should anyone else? Furthermore, if you are a mover and shaker is it more important that you ARE one rather than what specifically you are doing?

The library is perceived as a service that provides ‘information with a purpose.’ As the framework illustrates, this perceptual territory, ‘information with a purpose,’ is a very crowded space. There are many other information and learning services located in the same quadrant including, online bookstores like, search engines and bookstores.
These brands and services are redefining the role and definition of information.
Belief that the library is a transformational force in people’s lives is directly related to their level of funding support.p 156

Rewards Framework:
  • Helps create who you are
  • Makes you feel good about yourself
  • Allows you to appreciate the beauty in life
  • You come away feeling like you really learned something
  • Fills you with hope and optimism
  • Empowers you
  • Helps you seek truth
  • Serves a serious purpose
p 157

The library needs to be transformative. Libraries that are perceived the same as "watching a documentary" is a snoozer. Libraries perceived as taking a class for fun, going to a religious service, or getting a college degree are better. How can I change myself? How can I improve myself? What can I learn today? Rather than functional like reading the newspaper.

Increasing support for libraries may not necessarily mean a trade-off of financial support for other public services. p158

The public library receives just under 1% of the total local operating budget. p 158

A side-by-side comparison of the willingness of a voter segment to increase taxes to
fund local public services, including the public library, shows that a willingness to
fund one service is often similar to their willingness to support other local services. p 158

Elected officials are supportive of the library—but not fully committed to increasing funding. Engaging Super Supporters and Probable Supporters to help elevate library funding needs is required. p160

DING DING DING. Don't go after Mayor and Council, go after the people who have influence over mayor and council. Who are those people? Who do Mayor and Council listen to? Those are the people you need to talk to.

Best Factors for motivation

Early memories, the library as a transformative force (your storytime kids will ensure funding in the future )

Current perceptions are important. The idea of what the library can do and what it represents

“People who’ve been exposed to libraries realize that there are
a lot of other cultures and things out there that a small town of
4,000 doesn’t provide access to. The library is literally
a window on the world.”
(Super Supporter, McPherson, Kansas) p 169

During the course of discussion it surfaced that, even for the most passionate lovers of the library, the library is becoming less relevant. Access to information from other sources, often the Internet, is changing the relative importance of the library. Many assumed that usage of the public library is down as ‘other’ people are increasingly turning to the Internet for information. p 171

“If they close off the libraries, you don’t have to worry about a
Brain Drain. You’ll close off the mental capabilities of the people.”
(Super Supporter, McPherson, Kansas) p 172

I felt the presentation to the population was a bit extreme. You either have libraries or you don't Yes that shows what the impact is, but it doesn't address an unfunded library. I think the extremes here are troubling and unhelpful. No we don't want it to close, but will we allow the library to be underfunded? And what is underfunded in the average community member's mind. What is underfunded? What is the community member willing to accept?

Library's Relevance is questioned
  • Information: The library is one of many sources of information. It could potentially be replaced by a combination of bookstores, schools, coffee shops and the Internet.
  • Institution: The library is an institution sometimes associated with an out-of-date building, aged materials and limited accessibility. (The library has limited hours, the Internet is available 24/7.)
  • Nice to have: Availability of so many other options for information and learning make the library a ‘nice to have’ service, rather than a necessity.
  • Past: The library is an important part of supporters’ lives, but they question whether it is still relevant for their children and grandchildren.
  • Altruism for others: The library is less important to them, but it is important for ‘other people’ in the community.
p 174

Why people vote no

Even though the libraries in that town were closed at the time of the focus group research, the Probable Supporters were planning to vote ‘no’ at a pending library levy to raise the operational funds that would allow the library to open. This was not because they were against the library,
“Feeling good
doesn’t equate to voting ‘yes’ for a library referendum.” but they saw it as a personal statement against the local city council who they felt had mishandled funds that had previously been raised for the library and then placed into the general fund. Even in that situation, the residents believed that ultimately the funding situation would be resolved and the libraries would reopen. p 179

I remember the City of Mesa in Mesa, Arizona when their property tax initiative failed. It was perceived by the public that the city had mishandled funds and that this was a bailout. Some other failed initiatives have the same theme, "We feel you mishandled our funds.", "We feel you are not going to use these funds what you say you will." Track record of previous projects will crop up. Does the library appear to be using its funds adequately? If there are detractors, what are they saying, is it being addressed. If you have a bond or referendum election during an off election year, the no vote becomes that much stronger. If you have that same election during a Presidential or Congressional election cycle, you will have a better chance at success. I wonder if OCLC actually looked at the stats on that?

Probable Supporters and Super Supporters felt that support for libraries
can be improved by increasing the public’s attention to four essential community benefits that the public library uniquely delivers:
  • Equal access: “No kid should have an excuse for not having a book or knowing how to do research. If you don’t have a computer at home, you can go to the public library.” (Probable Supporter, Huntsville, Alabama)
  • Shared community values (or teaches values) “It’s one of the few things that truly can provide a sense of community. It doesn’t belong to anyone but to all of us. It’s a good lesson in respect, being quiet, signing up for Internet time, returning books on time. It’s kind of a good building block in respect.”
  • A sacred place “It’s a gathering place where lots of different people can listen to someone else’s ideas, whether spoken or written.” (Super Supporter, Medford, Oregon)
  • Community stature. “It represents a commitment by the community to cultural and intellectual activities.” (Probable Supporter, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
p 180

Some objectives

Make the library relevant for the 21st century.
Instill a sense of urgency by putting the library in the consideration set
for local funding with other public services, like police, parks and fire.
Activate a conversation about how the library is a vital part of the
community’s infrastructure and future.

General conclusion. This is the same research you can find on getting any bond election passed. They are the same issues for the community as for the library.

The city wants to pass a bond, the perceptions must be the same. You must also time this during a big election with already high turnout. Any negative campaigning can be drown out.

If there has been some scandal in finances or if this is perceived as a bail-out, expect a no vote.

If you have tried a levy, etc, and it failed, and you are going again and haven't changed the package, you will continue to fail.

Most U.S. residents are aware of the traditional ‘informational’ library services, such
as books, newspapers, magazines and Internet access. Far fewer know about the
many value-added and ‘transformational’ services provided by their libraries, such as
teen programs, computer training and ‘English as a second language’ (ESL) classes.p195

The transformative nature. Let's look at activity based costing. The most expensive program is the tutoring program. It is the most transformative, but most costly. These people will be supporters and the people who understand that need will support us supporting them. The person must see the need.

Today’s support comes from those who believe libraries transform lives. I would also state that a library that is perceived to do this, even from people who have not participated in the library, would show support for a library that does this. In fact, the person who sees that the library is doing this will support the library more than the person who is actually using the service for that need. This is generally why libraries that are more successful are action based (strategic plan) versus stats based (your stats went up, so what?). They can also change the perception of the library. If the library is perceived to be old, run-down, and mis-managed, you won't get funding even if you need it. If the library is perceived as modern with modern conveniences, even if the library doesn't need the funding, they could get it if they asked. Is it just a perception issue that libraries can work on with a focus on how the library transforms people rather than provides access to things? There is a great deal to ponder here.

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