Quiz: What can you tell me about the bird in this slide? Iowa designated the eastern goldfinch ( Carduelis tristis ) as the official state bird in 1933. Also called American goldfinch or wild canary. Also called American goldfinch or wild canary, the eastern goldfinch is found throughout Iowa and often stays through the winter months. The diet of the eastern Goldfinch consists mainly of seeds from dandelions, sunflowers, ragweed, and evening primrose. And state motto.
Here’s a little background on my library and community. Profile In 2001, a beautiful new Michael Graves-designed building opened and use of services, collections, programs and the building increased dramatically. Today the library houses an art gallery, full service café and gifts and used book store and is a community gathering place and cultural center. Geographical area: Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas 550 square miles Population: 173,000 Library Members/Customers with accounts: 95,000 Collection: 520,000 items Circulation: 2.6 million
Here’s the real library – the people who serve the people of Topeka and Shawnee County. We have 225 staff members, most of whom are full time. In terms of service deployment: We’re a bit unusual. We serve a geographical area of 550 square miles with one building. Facilities: - One building - Four bookmobiles
Like many public libraries throughout Kansas and Iowa and thousands of public libraries throughout the U.S., the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library has experienced significant growth and demand for services over the past ten years. And our customers expect and even demand great service. And we work very hard to deliver that. One of the things that informs that work and is critical to our success as a library is our focus on telling the library’s story.
Have any of you seen this picture? It’s part of a project called Fifty and Fifty. It’s a curated art initiative whose artists are looking at our country in a different way. Fifty designers, one per state, have illustrated their state motto, creating something steeped in history but completely modern and unique: a kind of designer's atlas. Fifty and Fifty was created by Dan Cassaro, a designer and animator living and working in Brooklyn, New York. A couple of sayings come to mind for me when I look at this. One is a picture is worth a 1000 words. But the other one is every picture is a story. And what is Iowa’s story? A strong tradition of commitment to freedom and the rights of the people and governance by an informed citizenry. It’s no wonder that Iowa has so many libraries. Who knows how many public libraries Iowa has? We’re essential to the existence of a such a state. WE know that, but does everyone know that story and value libraries because of it? So, what are we doing about that?
Library Quiz: do you recognize these libraries? If you can name them, you get a prize. (Could be a “vote for Gina” prize) List of Libraries: Ames Public Library Iowa City Public Library Hartley Public Library Jefferson Public Library Bertha Bartlett Public Library (Story City) Eagle Grove Carnegie Public Library (not being used anymore – at least according to a Google search) Council Bluffs Public Library Woodbine Public Library Look at the beauty, presence and diversity of these libraries. Separately they have a story about their communities. It’s unique and customized to their community and customers. But there’s also a common story --- the story that shows the difference they make in their communities.
Please raise your hand, if you have enough money, people, books, space or technology at your library. What are you going to do about it? Well, let’s look at some strategies. But before that I have to share a story. Last week I was at a meeting of library directors in Northeast Kansas. I asked that question and of course everyone raised their hands, but one woman. She said, “I have enough. As a matter of fact, I get more money than the fire department.” Her name is Kay Lassiter and she is the director of the Delaware Township Library. The library serves a community of 2000 people. She said, “I was a trustee before I became the director. There were five strong women on the board and an equally determined library director. We had been receiving an allocation of a half mil for years. We decided to ask for a full mil and a bit more. We marched ourselves down to city hall and presented our request to the township council. And we got it. Since that time, our levy has increased from 1 to 4 mils. 850 people a month use our computers and I believe in having budgets and sticking to them. We do just fine.” When you see the next slide, you’ll understand why I it makes me think of Kay.
There’s lots of whining these days. It may be temporarily satisfying, but it doesn’t persuade anyone to trust us with more resources. And it doesn’t distinguish us from anyone else in the public sector from schools to any other government service. So what does?
We advocate. We hear that all the time, right? What do we mean by advocacy? It can mean many things.
Advocacy is active verbal support for a cause or position. But look at the root meaning from the Latin word --- it’s inspiring and perhaps a little more profound. It comes from the Latin word advocāre, meaning to call to one's aid. In other words, “Calling people to stand by your side.” It sounds more like an invitation, doesn’t it? It’s not talking at or to people, it’s talking with people. Looking for common ground and a meeting place of the minds. And what brings people together? What does everyone love? As librarians, you should know the answer.
If anyone should know stories and storytelling, it’s us. It’s part of our mission – to deliver the stories and information our communities want and need. Storytelling is being used as an effective communications tool around the world. There have been articles about storytelling in tons of publications from The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , CBS News , American Scientist , The Times (London, England) , The Harvard Business Review , The Chicago Tribune , The New England Journal of Medicine , The LA Times and US News & World Report . It builds connections, fosters understanding, creates aha moments, helps people learn better. There’s even research to suggest it relieves pain and lowers blood pressure. And it doesn’t just make people feel good. It also persuades people to listen. http://www.storynet-advocacy.org/news/
And storytelling is part of our national birthright. The Founding Fathers thought that the right to share our concerns, our stories, if you will, was so important that they put it in the Bill of Rights. Remember that when you’re telling your library’s story to elected officials, city managers and boards of trustees and your community. It’s also the right of our community, people who use the library and those who don’t, to tell us what they think. The right to do so is part of our legal system.
I served as chair of the governmental affairs committee of ILA for three years in the 1990’s. Every year librarians, trustees, friends and other library advocates reach out to state legislators to educate them about the importance of what libraries do and to explain why resources are needed and how they’re used. So, tell me, what do you plan to say to legislators in the upcoming session? I understand there have been some big changes in the organizational relationship between the State Library and the Library Service Areas. How will you use that information with legislators? What does that say about libraries? Does it say – we’re always looking for efficient and effective ways to provide service and to serve our communities better than we have in the past? And how will you say it?
We all have role models we look to as examples. Here’s one of my role models. Valerie Gross, who is the CEO of the Howard County Library in Maryland, says that words matter a lot when we’re talking about transforming the image of libraries. It’s important to use words that people understand, that convey value and that don’t have negative connotations. Here’s some examples…. Spirits sound much more positive, fun and harmless than liquor. Gambling is sinful, wasteful and harmful, but gaming is … playing. What’s wrong with playing games? And in the library world, we’ve used the word story time for years, but what if we used the term preschool classes? Don’t we facilitate literacy, speech development and learning in young children? Why not say so by making that connection with education? What will resonate with the people who make decisions about what is more valuable in tough economic times? As a librarian, I believe in the power of books and information to help us learn. So consider me to be your personal librarian today. Take a look at Words That Work by Dr. Frank Luntz. He was named the “hottest pollster in America” by the Boston Globe. He advises politicians, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, public policy groups and world leaders. His mantra is: “Its’ not what you say, it’s what people hear.”
And advocacy isn’t reserved for those times when we’re talking to elected officials or other decision-makers. It should be an everyday occurrence because there are opportunities to tell the library’s story every day. In the grocery store, at our children’s or grandchildren’s soccer games, at church, when visiting a neighbor, at the dentist’s office, at the weekly Rotary Club or Kiwanis meeting – any time we’re talking to people we know and sharing what we do and the importance and impact of our libraries in their communities. It’s also inside the library. At the checkout desk, the reference desk, at story time --- every time we interact with a library customer. Have your 2 minute elevator speech ready when you’re at Rotary or a meeting at city hall. When someone asks, “How are things at the library?” Have a story that grabs their interest and demonstrates the difference we make. Because what it boils down to is…..
Who you gonna call? Who do people turn to for information? In almost every poll or survey, people say they ask family and friends when they need information. Libraries tend to be pretty far down the list. How do we get into that category of trusted friend?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is we can’t do this alone. But, working together, we can do great things. Twelve years ago, Iowa was one of seven states that didn’t have state aid for public libraries. We called it Enrich Iowa: Fund Libraries. For years, many librarians, trustees and other library advocates worked to achieve that goal and in 1999, it happened.
These are Catalyst newsletters from 1999, announcing the passage of Enrich Iowa. That’s the actual bill that was passed in the Iowa legislature. I was chair of the governmental affairs committee of ILA at that time. That remains one of the things I most proud of in my career. That we ---- hundreds of librarians, trustees, Friends, customers and other advocates throughout Iowa, convinced our state legislators that Iowa libraries were worth this critical investment. It didn’t happen in one legislative session, it took years, but it happened.
Remember what Frank Luntz says in Words That Work? “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.” Well, it’s also who they hear. Sometimes, it’s not us, it can’t be us. The big question is – who is listening? Because we don’t necessarily have the relationship with an individual or group that doesn’t support libraries or isn’t interested in hearing our story. In 2008, OCLC published a study called “From Awareness to Funding: A Study of Library Support in America.” The report has a lot of important information and I believe that every librarian and trustee should read it. And it is relevant to all types of libraries that are seeking to understand the connections between public perceptions and library support. hHhere are three key points that gets to the issue of not just what we say, but who says it. Library funding support is only marginally related to library visitation (some of our biggest user may be opposed to tax increases) Perceptions of librarians are an important predictor of library funding support Voters who see the library as a 'transformational' force as opposed to an 'informational' source are more likely to increase taxes in its support The report suggests that targeting marketing messages to the right segments of the voting public is key to driving increased support for U.S. public libraries. So, if it’s not always us delivering these messages, who should it be?
Depending on what we’re trying to influence and effect --- The annual budget Change in library legislation Change in or attempting to preserve library funding Building or renovating a library Passing a bond issue to build a library or increase money for operations It could be any or all of these folks. But they don’t just spring out of the ground. Corn needs tending and so do advocates. First, they need passion and knowledge. Then they need training, good information and a script with key points and the right words to influence and facilitate understanding that leads to support and approval.
NOTE: Should be linking to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPaHxBOeswo Let me tell you a story about what happened in Colorado. This is really Jamie Larue’s story and his leadership of the Colorado Public Library Advocacy Initiative. In 2010, libraries and the entire public sector were in big trouble going into the 2010 elections. I. Problem statements 1. Fewer libraries are making it to the ballot, or winning when they do. (See OCLC's “From Awareness to Funding.”) Pikes Peak Library District hasn't won an election in the past 20 years. Douglas County Libraries lost in 2007 and 2008. The Aurora Public Library's election loss in 2009 resulted in the closing of 4 of 7 libraries, and the laying off of half its staff. We are faced with two facts regarding long term state and national trends: first, library use is increasing. Second, public support for public libraries is declining. 2. In November of 2010, Colorado is likely to see three anti-tax measures that, collectively, would cut state revenues by an estimated $1.7 billion, and local government revenues by $622 million. This would take effect in 2011, a year when falling property taxes are already likely to reduce public library revenues, especially of library districts, by 10-25%. These anti-tax measures represent a profound attack on our public infrastructure. II. Options 1. We can do nothing, and decline in silence. 2. We can complain about the situation to ourselves. 3. We can begin to take steps to positively influence and reframe public perceptions about the financial support of public libraries. III. Outcomes 1. The creation of a statewide network of external library advocates (speakers from outside the library world who speak up for the value of the institution). 2. The establishment of a simple, 3 or 4 point “platform” for libraries, consistent talking points whose repetition makes them common knowledge. 3. The defeat of 2010 anti-government ballot initiatives. 4. The creation of a new climate in Colorado that is more supportive of library financial support, to be tested by future ballot initiatives for libraries. IV. Process 1. Colorado Association of Libraries has formed a steering committee, chaired by Jamie LaRue, Director of the Douglas County Libraries, and consisting of CAL, State Library, CliC, CoPLA, and CAL Legislative Committee representation. 2. At three CliC meetings, and other sessions yet to be scheduled, training (the modeling of a presentation, and distribution of a template and supporting materials) will be given to representatives from public library jurisdictions. 3. Advocates will be scheduled by library liaisons to give 5 presentations each. These efforts will be tracked by the CAL committee. 4. Goal: by June, 2010, 5 presentations in each of 115 public libraries: 575 talks. 5. Between Sept. and Nov. of 2010, connect advocates to “Protect Colorado's Communities” for second round of advocacy. Success was predicated finding and training these external library advocates. Here’s one of them telling the library story, based on the script developed by Jamie and his team.
Those external advocates had to have a strong and simple message. This is it. Libraries change lives. – the transformational power of libraries Libraries mean business – economic development. Libraries build community. --- they foster relationships and shared values Libraries are a smart investment. ---- they produce a significant return on investment for tax dollars spent. Remember that OCLC study?
And here’s Frank Luntz’s tips for how to speak and write and for creating effective messages. Do those messages follow these rules? You bet they do. And here’s the what happened --- it worked --- the anti-tax initiatives were defeated.
Ultimately, all advocates --- all of us who speak for libraries must inspire trust for the truths we speak, respect for the cause we espouse and influence to persuade people to support our cause or even change their minds from a negative opinion to positive action on our behalf. Remember when I said that advocacy is a year-round activity? That is true of our relationships with our elected officials and decision-makers. And how do we do that? There are a few things that we can and should do.
This is a simple worksheet to help you figure out who, when, what, why and how of an advocacy effort. Determine what you want to achieve Identify who has the power in this situation to make the decision. Determine who else can influence the decision-maker and how can you partner with them? Remember that even if your legislator isn’t on that key appropriations committee, you can request and encourage your legislator to talk to his or her colleagues who are. Anticipate the arguments of the opposition and develop responses. Figure out what’s in it for the decision-maker. For instance, would it benefit his or her hometown library? Also, know the issues and the particular interests of your legislator, or whomever you are lobbying. Determine what lobbying methods you’ll use and who will speak. For legislators ----- Keep a file on your legislators, including special interests and personal profiles. You won’t agree on all issues all the time, but a legislator needs to know what a constituent is thinking.
Write, call, or visit your legislators and their staff members to introduce yourself. Let them know who you represent and volunteer to keep them informed about your issues, their impact on your community and on the legislator's district. Add the legislator's name to your mailing list and ask to have your name added to the legislator's mailing list. Make sure the legislator receives notice of and invitations to special events held at your library. This serves as a reminder of your library's role in the community. Remind your legislator that attending these functions is an excellent way to meet with constituents. Invite legislators and perhaps their spouses to tour your library. Show them exactly what your library does and how it contributes to community well-being.
Remember that official policy is set by the ILA Executive Board. Remember that ILA must be viewed as a credible source of information in order to be successful on behalf of libraries. It is also not effective to mix discussion of your personal issues with discussion of library issues, or you will dilute your message and confuse the legislator as to your priorities.
Give public recognition to deserving legislators through awards or at library functions to which your legislator has been invited. Always say &quot;THANK YOU&quot; for support of your issues. A personal thank you note is also very effective.
Attend events, social and other types, at which legislators will be present -- not to lobby overtly, but to get acquainted and make them aware of you as an active member of the community. Even if you can afford to give only a small amount of money, attending fund raisers is an important part of our current political process. I used to say this…. If the legislator has been helpful to your library, consider getting involved in his or her election campaign. People who give their time, and who can recruit others to campaign, are very important to a legislator. Now, I’m thinking about this a little differently, especially when some legislators are so vehemently opposed to tax increases or allocations that they may not agree with. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor. You will have to use your knowledge of your community and your legislator to determine how active you should be in this situation.
The day of a visit with legislator or other elected official, look over this list. If you’re training and taking board members, Friends, volunteers and other advocates, coach them using this list. Many people are intimidated with the idea of talking to legislators or other decision-makers. It’s easy to forget that they’re just people like us doing a job that’s frequently challenging and one in which they are pulled in many different directions.