"A library doesn't need windows. A library is a window." – Stewart Brand

May 14, 2012

PLA 2012 session notes: Building Your Base (& Your Budget)

Following are my notes from the "Building Your Base (& Your Budget)" session at PLA 2012, held on Thursday, March 15 at 4:15.


Speaker is from NY's Mid-Hudson Library System

You can't just sit back and see what happens in library votes – you need to actively tell supporters you need them to vote/act/speak up

MHLS created campaign structure to get the vote out
* midhudson.org/vote – Public Library Vote Toolbox (works for general advocacy to boards, etc. too)

When a vote fails, who voted no? Who actually came out to vote? Do you know them? What are their characteristics/what are they like?
* The day after a no vote, you have to get right back to convincing them

Garnering support has to happen year round
Start "inside" – know who is using the library
* What are they into?
* Where do they live?
* What do they do when not at the library?
"Magic Quadrant"
* Most important = heavy library users, registered to vote – supporters – ensure that they vote
* Heavy library users not registered to vote – supporters – get them to register and vote
* Registered voters who don't use the library – neutral/potential supporters – reach out to them
* Try to figure out who they are, and segment the market

2 basic tenets: Tweak what you're already doing, harness others to work for you

Don't avoid publicity b/c you couldn't handle popularity – if you can't handle the demand, make an argument to your community that if they want x, this is what it costs/will take

1) Gain more supporters and goodwill
* Do this even among current users, who may not know about all services/have all background info, etc.
2) Create and build a sense of loyalty
* Don't aim for everyone and don't aim to make them all weekly users – just make sure they understand your value
3) Work smarter, not harder
* Be as simple as possible

6 basics
Regular communication w/current users/supporters (not just when you need something)
Consistent effort to gain new users/supporters
* Yearly townwide mailing?
* Include the VIPs in town
Increased visibility in the community
Proactive communication with community leaders
Strategic thinking about everything you do
* How can you add a value-added message to everything? Programs, services, etc
Practice word of mouth marketing
* Know what you want to say
* All internal constituents – staff, trustees, etc should be saying the same thing at the same times
* Tried this system-wide with Mango, doubled usage in a few months
* Everyone should have some little factoid for grocery-store-line conversations
* Prep a packet in advance including talking points, a video, etc. to help train/prepare people

4 steps
* Choose a group – who isn't using the library?
* Think lifestyles rather than demographics
* Who is ready to hear your message and help out?
* ESRI tapestry segmentation chart: http://www.esri.com/data/esri_data/tapestry.html -- freely available, describes many market segments very specifically [note: I requested a copy of this poster in late March and I haven't heard a peep since]
* Go where the people already are
* Take advantage of already extant communication networks
* Find social groups that don't have a high rate of library use
* Learn about chosen groups to tailor your message to their needs and perspectives
* "Stalk" them online? (Facebook pages etc)
* Be genuine
* Investigate their communication network, get in touch, explain what you're doing
* "why do you want to talk to us?" "because you're members of the community and we want to serve our community"
* Ask what they need
* Reach out, show and inform, market, educate
* Think about repackaging – talking slightly differently about what you have to communicate its appeal to a particular group

Toolkit: midhudson.org/byb

How to do this in an online environment
Website = fundamental landing point for online searching for info about your library
* Needs to load fast, have info easy to find
Keep an eye on online reviews
Find local groups with Facebook pages, promote your stuff through them (with permission)

Think backwards – start with them and work from there