It’s a pleasure to be here today. Thank you so much for having me. It has been a wonderful experience for me, being here with you all these last few days, and realizing again – something that I seem to learn over and over again as I get out and talk to librarians and other equal access policy influencers outside the U.S. “Our challenges are much the same, but the solutions … they have to be localized.” I’m here today to talk about a very particular challenge, and that is: the perceptions that the public have about libraries and the value they bring to their communities. This is a challenge we share the world over. We know from international research that people feel and believe that “Libraries are all about books. Rows of books, stacks of books, people checking out books. That’s all they are and all they’ll ever be. Books.” As researchers, librarians, practitioners - we understand where this comes from . For many of us, that’s even why WE came to this profession in the first place. We thought it was about books. We know of course now that, in a digital age, the library is so much more than that. My talk today will describe how my colleagues at OCLC, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and more than 800 libraries across the United States, are successfully challenging this perception, and making a difference for the library in local communities. But before we get there, I want to briefly tell you my story, my library story, and how I came to this work.
I grew up in a small, rural town – right on the puget sound in the pacific northwest, about an hour away from a city of any size. There’s nothing unique about growing up in a small town, really, but what wasunique about my childhood
is that I was raised in an even smaller fundamentalist community where myinformation environment was tightly controlled. I was home-schooled, secluded, different, but very much loved.
On rare occasion, my mom took us to our local public library. And in this library I discovered, the first book, besides the King James version of the Bible of course, that made an impression on me.
Thoughts of Thoreau.I loved this book. I underlined, I highlighted, I turned down the corners of pages, I even wrote my name in it, I checked it out as many times as I was allowed … And then I stole it.
I simply could not let this book go. These words –I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately – they became my words, my anthem, for the opportunity of a life beyond the very small world that I was a part of. This upbringing instilled in me a strong conviction for equal opportunity, for the possibility of a moment, for everyone, where you realize that the world is bigger than what you’ve known, and that you have a choice about how you’re going to be a part of it.
Fast-forward a decade or so and I’m in college, then grad school studying history, then library school. I started library school with the libraries of my childhood and then universities in mind. Ithought I could get paid to sit in a room like this one and help people find things to read.
* But this was 1999, also the first year that my library school was adapting to the impacts that personal technologies and digital formats were having on all our lives. This was my first clue: it’s not about the books! * Shortly after all kinds of technology-infused library education,I joined Online Computer Library Center, OCLC, a global cooperative of library agencies, working together to advance libraries and librarianship. At OCLC, I lead a team that has managed more than $50M in philanthropic and federal investments in US public libraries since 2003. We design and deliver programs that position public libraries for community development and individual empowerment. In all this work, I see and support first-hand, thousands of libraries all over the world meeting TODAY’s community needs. * But it’s through our relationship with the Global Libraries program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that I’m here today to share with you more about one of these programs: our partnership to develop the community awareness campaign GEEK THE LIBRARY.
Geek the Library was designed to make the connection between people’s personal passions and their willingness to support libraries. Geek the library is an American campaign – but much like any successful marketing campaign, it shows us that the key principles for engaging communities haven’t really changed, no matter where we are.A bold look still attracts attentionSimplicity can help anyone relate their current personal passions to entrenched institutionsA light-hearted approach can still take the weight off a serious message.
And after piloting in more than 100 US libraries in 2009, and reaching nearly 800 US libraries since, the results of Geek the Library are clear: when we associate the library with our community’s interests, we can garner the support we need to keep them open.
We also learned that it’s not about USING the library:Perceptions of the librarian are highly related to library support; perceptions that their librarian is a “passionate librarian” are strong indicators of library funding support.People who see the library as a transformational force in people’s lives and communities are more likely to support library funding.Most people are unaware of the range of “transformational” programs and services that libraries provide, and see the library predominately as a source of information.
We were actually surprised to learn that library funding support is not driven by demographics, such as income, age, gender, race, political affiliation, etc. Voters’ attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors, not their demographic profiles, are the most important determinants of willingness to support increases in library funding. Library support is more about a mindset than it is about a traditional demographic profile.
There were a wide range of geeks, picking up on the interests and passions of a diverse group of Americans…
Local community events were integral in allowing participating library staff to take the campaign into the community, and engage directly with residents.Giveaways included posters, stickers, bumper stickers, bookmarks, t-shirts, and geek walls all provided simple and fun ways for people to personally connect with the campaign.
Advertising played an important role in introducing the campaign and creating a buzz throughout pilot communities. Advertising included newspaper, radio, billboard, and online. A consistent and ongoing advertising plan, especially using the newspaper, made community engagement efforts such as events much more successful by establishing strong campaign awareness and piquing the public’s curiosity.
Independent, qualitative and quantitative evaluation before and after the pilot, as well as testimony from participating libraries, showed that the campaign worked. Specifically, the campaign successfully raised awareness, changing perceptions and attitudes about the library AND driving intended behaviors. We were ambitious to begin with but the results were actually favorable beyond our expectations.
This year we completed another round of independent evaluation to ensure we were still achieving the same results we saw in the pilot. We learned that librariesLove the campaignAre learning new skills – breathed new life into the libraryPublic perceptions are still changing – the library is there to help you with your personal interestsIt’s taking a bit longer than the typical campaign run to see decision-maker changesWe know all of these are a lever on the ability for a library to sustain or grow its financial support
Many factors led to individual library success, some of them were: Willingness to commit the resources necessary to execute a fully functioning local awareness campaign
Educate the community and connect GTL to the library’s story--explain what geek means, share the purpose of the campaign, use the campaign to start more detailed funding discussions Creatively finding ways to build on and localize the campaign
Getting out into the community consistently helped many library leaders and staff ensure that their communities learned about the value of libraries sand the critical funding issues they face, and made the connection between the campaign and funding.
Field observations and library feedback confirmed that some participants considered this kind of community outreach unfamiliar territory, while others were comfortable in this role.
So, what’s going on now: Just this last month, we received additional support from the Gates Foundation to enter what we’re now calling the campaign’s final phase. This support will allow us to reach another 1,000 locations by 2015We’ll offer an improved support structure, with more touch from OCLC staff supporting the campaignAnd – this is new - focus on library staff and increased advocacy, communication and marketing competencies – as this, we believe, will lead into future advocacy efforts, and skills they can use well beyond the life of the campaign.Finally, we’ll complete ongoing program evaluation, including information from every implementation, so that our accomplishments, and our challenges, over the life of this campaign, are available to inform future endeavors.
Over the course of its implementation, the Geek the Library campaign found a huge following that represents people and libraries all over the US, and interest for Geek the Library has come into OCLC from libraries in Australia, Sweden, Zimbabwe, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK. In the coming year, OCLC will work with officials in these regions to determine if there are sufficient, available information to indicate that the market research concepts would transfer, and then to see if it’s possible to cost-effectively localize the campaign for new markets. I am personally so excited about this potential because not only does it mean that we’re taking advantage of the huge investment that the Gates Foundation has already made in the market research and the campaign concepts, but we’re actually doing so in a way that honors shared challenges, but the need to localize solutions – much the same way we’ve been discussing over these past two days.
But more than that, I’m honored to continue to be a part of a program that makes that connection between what you most love, what’s made a difference for you, your family, your community – and shows how the library can support you in that endeavor. I am here today because I found a book, in a library, that changed my life. I remain engaged in this work because I believe that libraries, with continued to access to content, service and space, help individuals become effective members of their communities. And when the library does that for one, it represents opportunity for all.It’s a pleasure to learn about and serve the global library community and I thank you again for having me today.
Chrystie Hill, online computer library centre (US)
Is it possible for a large scaleadvocacy campaign to create an environment that sustains and increases funding for U.S. public libraries?
Library support is unrelated to using the library. Support is an attitude. 13
Demographic segments are not related to library funding. 14
U.S. Public Library Market Segmentation Super Supporters Super 7.1% Supporters Probable Supporters Library Look 32.3% Just Kid- Greater as to for Fun Driven Office Librarian Good Barriers to Support 34.0% Financially The Web Strapped Detached WinsNonvoters26.6% Chronic Nonvoters % People 18-69 15
U.S. Public Library Market Segmentation Super Supporters Super 7.1% Supporters Probable Supporters Library Look 32.3% Just Kid- Greater as to for Fun Driven Office Librarian Good Barriers to Support 34.0% Financially The Web Strapped Detached WinsNonvoters26.6% Chronic Nonvoters % People 18-69 16
– Your library connects you with the things you care most about.– Public libraries have value; they fill a vital role; they are for everyone.– Funding for your library is at stake.– Call to action: show your support for your library
“Because the public responded so positively, it made staff feel appreciated and feel proud of the library and what we do. It breathed life into the “It takes awhile to see library at a point where we really needed that.” changes in policymakers.”Tools & supports Library capacity Public perception• 80% would • Library plays a central • Library plays a central Decision-maker recommend the role (73%) role (73%) awareness campaign• 82% said supports were “just right” • Advocacy is important (73%) • More outreach (69%) • Library is “cool” and “exciting” (69%) • More participation (60%) • Interest in the library (40%) • Library plays a $• 87% achieved goals • Motivation / excitement central role (42%) (67%) “I thought [the campaign] was amazing . . . . It was an amazing opportunity for the library to personalize what it is you love to do and make sure people realize that the library is there to help you with your personal interest.”