October 2012 Archives

Community based advocacy: you can do it, too!

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Over the last couple of years I have had the privilege of working on the Geek the Library campaign. Maybe you heard that recently the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has extended its support of the program to 1,000 additional libraries through June 2015. That's almost $2 million that's now available to help public libraries plan and implement Geek the Library events and campaigns on their own.

I have worked with public libraries and state libraries across the country to implement these campaigns. During this time, with the help of these libraries and their communities, I've learned a lot about what it takes to do successful community based advocacy for libraries. But do you know what's the most important thing I've learned?

Anyone can do it. You can do it! And now's the time to begin. Here's how...

  • Start with the community. Get your priorities aligned with theirs and make sure you are talking about services that matter to them. In order to talk to the community - you have to BE IN the community. This means getting your message outside the walls of the library and into places where people in your community gather. From sporting events to parades to farmer's markets--take your message on the road.

  • Use outcome-based information. Tell people why what you're doing is important and how the positive outcomes of what you are doing affect them. If you can tie these outcome-based facts with a patron's personal story even better! The facts will get folks thinking and the emotion of the story will likely cause them to act. Make sure you tell them how to act so they know what to do.

  • Don't over inform. As librarians, we have a tendency to want to tell people about everything we do. People lose interest after about three things. Pick your most important, impactful and inspiring stories. Tell them with as few words as you can.

  • Use pictures and graphics wherever possible. You know what they say: "a picture is worth a thousand words." Remember to bring these pictures outside of the library and into the community to reach a wider audience of possible supporters.

  • Connect, connect, connect. The more you connect with members of the community, the more you influence the community. For every advocate you create, they will likely create 2-3 more advocates from their circle of influence. If you create partnerships with businesses and organizations that you have connected with, then you have created ongoing advocacy opportunities that can be mutually beneficial.

  • Start Small: if all of this sounds like a lot to take on at once, start small. Start by practicing your elevator speech about the library with close friends and family. Then begin weaving the speech about your library into conversations. Start by wearing a library t-shirt or carrying a library tote bag to the grocery store or local events. I guarantee you will get positive responses and will be well on your way to being your library's biggest advocate.
All of these tips can work for your library, regardless of type or size. Just figure out who your community is and what is important to them and get started. And, if you think Geek the Library is right for your community, get more information at www.get.geekthelibrary.org or send questions to info@get.geekthelibrary.org. What are you waiting for?

Jennifer Pearson
Senior Manager, Advocacy Programs
This is a big election year for the OCLC cooperative. All three Regional Councils (Asia Pacific; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and the Americas) are now inviting members to nominate individuals to run for executive committee positions and/or Global Council delegate positions. Self nominations are also welcome, so don't be shy.

We have a total of 24 open positions to fill. This is an exciting opportunity for the next generation of library leaders to step up and guide the future of the cooperative. By becoming a Global Council delegate, you will have the chance to learn about libraries, museums and archives from around the world. You'll also have a role in guiding the direction of the world's largest library cooperative.

You will learn about cultural customs and traditions of various countries, and you will work closely with your fellow member-leaders--with the common purpose of furthering access to the world's information. I know that for me, professionally, working with Global Council and Regional Councils never ceases to be an extremely rewarding and enriching experience.

Delegates to Global Council must be employees or members of the governing boards of OCLC Member institutions; simply follow these links for more details on open positions, terms and submission requirements for each region.


George Needham
OCLC Vice President, Global and Regional Councils