Build Voter Support for Your Library to Win Elections
At the 2016 Public Library Association Conference in Denver, we met Patrick “PC” Sweeney, Political Director for EveryLibrary. We were impressed with their work and thought it might be of interest to our customers and readers now or down the road.
EveryLibrary is the first political action committee dedicated solely to support local library ballot initiatives. Over the past three years, they’ve helped win more than $100 million for public libraries through 37 campaigns ranging from small initiatives in rural communities to multi million dollar budget increases in large cities. EveryLibrary is solely funded by contributions from individuals and corporate groups. This funding allows EveryLibrary to provide pro bono campaign plans for local libraries to execute including coaching on media, messaging and tactics that succeed in winning campaigns. Patrick shares the Top 5 Things Your Library Can Do to Win Elections:
1) Don’t Talk About Numbers
Sadly, very few voters are driven to the polls simply because your library checked out 3 million books last year. Politicians have a hard time understanding what it really means to have 300,000 people walk through your doors every year. Instead, focus on telling the best emotional stories of impact that your library had on a few people. Instead of talking about how many reference questions you answered last year, tell people about the one reference question that made an impact on someone’s life.
2) Learn to Handle Opposition
People are going to oppose the library. It’s not how much they oppose the library that matters; it’s how you handle their opposition. One of the best exercises your librarians can perform is writing down opposition statements and practicing a counter message using the, “27+9+3 and yes, and, examples,” model. Create a message that is 27 words long, can be said in 9 seconds, and gives three counter examples and deliver it while agreeing with the person who opposes you. So, if someone says we don’t need libraries, we have Google, your counter message will be; YES, we have Google, AND the library provides so much more through our books, our databases, and by providing a welcoming space for community members to work.
3) Power Mapping
Power mapping is an amazing tool to understand the power structures in your community and how you can influence those power structures. Gather staff into groups of 4-6 and have them list some of the most influential people, organizations, or companies in the community. See if they can identify people in the library that have connections to these groups. Use those connections to reach out to these power structures and find ways to bring them into the library in a positive way by engaging their interests.
Facebook is valuable tool to get your library’s message out to the people. It is cheap, easy, fast and just about everyone in your library uses it. Facebook advertising is incredibly cost effective and can reach everyone in your community throughout the year to communicate your impact stories. For example, a community of about 10,000 people should pay only about $10 a week for Facebook ads. In fact, I would say that $10 a week for every 10-15,000 people (or less) in your community would be the right size budget. That is all it takes to tell your community why your library matters and why it should be supported.
Building a good email campaign takes time and energy but it is crucial to getting your message out to the public. Your staff needs to be diligent about collecting email addresses. There should be a sign-up form at every story-time, program, outreach event, on your website, and clipboards on the checkout machines or at the reference desk. You should spend time curating this list to ensure people are only getting emails that matter to them.
To learn more about EveryLibrary and how to support their efforts, visit their website at action.everylibrary.org.
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