Cathy DeRosa is VP for the Americas and Global VP of Marketing at OCLC, where she is responsible for marketing, library services and support and advocacy programs. She has contributed to a number of publications on library use, awareness, brand recognition, funding and privacy issues in the digital age.
In 2007, OCLC was awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to explore attitudes and perceptions about library funding and to evaluate the potential of a large-scale marketing and advocacy campaign to increase public library funding. A study was done to identify library supporters.
How do we identify potential supporters of library funding? They spoke to local elected officials. They are fans of the library, but when asked about money, 73 % thought the libraries have enough money to operate.
What makes library funding possible? The study tried to segment the population into those who would and those who would not support the library.
The study found eight things:
There’s a lot that people don’t know about their public libraries. They know traditional services and Internet access; they do not know the many other services. Most important, they do not know impact, reach or results
Most people claim they’ll support the library at the ballot box—fewer are firmly committed to it.
Library support is only marginally related to visitation.
Your perceptions of the librarian are highly related to support. This pertains to all staff, not just the librarian. (Passionate librarian).
The library occupies a very clear position in the realm of ‘purposeful information’ where it’s very difficult to compete. Relates to encyclopedias and other means of purposeful search.
Your belief that the library is a transformational force in people’s lives is directly related to your level of support. Quotes: “Makes you feel good about yourself,” “empowers you,” etc.
Elected officials are more connected to and supportive of the library than the public – and yet most feel the library has sufficient funding. This group of “probable supporters” is very important.
Increasing support for libraries may not mean a trade-off with financial support for other public services.
Support for libraries is not demographic. Attitude and perceptions matter more. Divided into:
Super Supporters: demographically average.
Probable Supporters: these are the ones we need to focus on.
Barriers to Support: financially strapped; detached (interestingly, the most financially able to support); the Web wins.
Our local officials are usually in the second group. We need to focus on them. What are the messages that matter? We need to re-frame the message: stop talking about the services we provide, etc. We need to talk about transformation. Highlight what a transformational place a library can be.
We learned in 2009 that everything can change.
People have moved from the trade-up to trade-off mindset.
People are rediscovering the things they find most valuable in their lives, which is a wonderful opportunity for libraries.
What they will try in 2009 (research in Georgia and Iowa; time frame: June through September): what messages they can create to help identify potential supporters, and change the perceptions of probable supporters?
Shows potential to create a movement within the community
Shows the potential to shift perceptions of the library from “information” to “transformation”
Activates Probable Supporters and mobilizes Super Supporters
Creates a foundation to drive commitment to financial support for the library, when the time is right
Makes the library personally relevant
Raises awareness, drives action and sparks conversation
Has stopping power and staying power.
See OCLC website for more info: www.oclc.org/reports/funding/default.htm