By Linda Henderson
Rhode Island Library Report
BARRINGTON, R.I. (Nov. 18, 2013) - The best way to market the library as essential to a community is to think of the promotion effort as a political campaign.
That was speaker John Chrastka’s advice to a group of nearly 75 librarians, trustees and friends organization at a meeting today at the Barrington Public Library.
Chrastka is a Chicago-area consultant, library advocate and trustee at his hometown library whose firm specializes in supporting associations with membership, recruitment, conference and governance activities.
The most important factor in a successful campaign is the community perception of the “passionate librarian”, Chrastka said.
Stressing that to gather support the library director and library itself must be viewed by their constituents as an institution, Chrastka shared polling data that said that most Americans support libraries. The numbers also show that voters don’t need to be library users to be library advocates.
The goal of the campaign is to identify those advocates within the community.
The advocates then need to emphasize the essential services to the community whether getting out the vote or just asking for support.
Continuing the political metaphor, he talked about what motivates voters to come out to pass library-related measures on the ballot and differentiated library advocates from voters in general.
To build advocacy the library staff, trustees and friends should be thought of as the campaign team, he said, and a “ground game” is crucial to success. Literally knocking on the doors of newcomers to town, of potential advocates and of town officials results in building strong ties to the library as a community treasure.
Chrastka came back to finish the afternoon with a wrap-up and an invitation to join him at Trinity Brew House in Providence for further discussions that evening. He challenged the group to do homework based on his political campaign analogy timed to “threes”.
He made suggestions for what could be done immediately (three hours) and what needed longer to accomplish (three days, three months and three years). He promised to be back in Rhode Island in three years to be updated on the progress of the group.
Between sessions with Chrastka, the group was broken up to discuss six topics relating to the theme of the day. The topics were: Library trustee relations; Strengthening community ties; Demonstrating value; Library partnerships; Library as incubator and Connecting with the public. After a short discussion period facilitated by members of the sponsoring organizations each group reported on its suggestions for addressing its assigned topic. The participants used examples from their own libraries and brainstormed other ideas to share lists of potential solutions.
After the break-out sessions, Jennifer Bond of Bryant University and Aaron Coutu of the Cumberland Public Library presented an overview of the “Geek the Library” campaign that began statewide in September.
The campaign was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation nationwide and locally by RILA.
Bond and Coutu explained the use of the word geek as a verb and shared stories of how their libraries and others in the state used the materials and guidance
It was deemed a success across the state and Coutu said that Cumberland will continue their programs through next spring to culminate with the annual Arnold’s Mills Parade on July 4th.
The title of the meeting was "The Essential Library: Community Leadership Strategies."
It was moderated by Karen Mellor, Acting Chief of Library Services at the RI Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) and was co-sponsored by OLIS, The Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA) and the Rhode Island Library Association (RILA).
(Editor’s Note: Linda Henderson, in addition to being a member of the Library Report, is chair of the board of trustees at the Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library in Burrillville).
Story edited by Jean Plunkett