Writing

Online Course to Build Support for Library Funding

Nearly 90% of library funding is dependent on the will of local voters and local politicians. Understanding these power structures is essential so you can help influence these individuals to ensure continued funding for your institution.


Learn more about this course and enroll today here.


That’s why I developed this twelve-week advanced eCourse, to provide you and your staff with the necessary information to understand these local power structures and get the tools you need to build support for your library. Through my experience at EveryLibrary, the nation’s first and only library advocacy Political Action Committee (PAC),  I will share the secrets of major national PACs, campaign consultants, community organizers, and local and presidential campaigns that can help you build relationships to sustain or increase funding for your library. Whether you are a director in a major city or a librarian in a rural town, the theories and best practices taught in this course are scalable and can be implemented to enhance support and increase funding in your area.

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and build large networks of library activists
  • Help raise money for your institution
  • Encourage community action to increase widespread support for your library.

Participants who complete this Advanced eCourse will receive a SJSU iSchool/ALA Publishing Advanced Certificate of Completion. This certificate will affirm your status as having completed all the steps of an Advanced eCourse on Winning Support and Influencing Communities for Library Funding and will provide proof of your participation that you can add to your resume.

Advanced eCourses—a format in which faculty from the SJSU iSchool will help you dig deep into cutting-edge topics during 12-week online courses, equipping you with potentially transformative knowledge and skills, and taking you from introductory through high-level content.

If you’re interested in this 12 week course designed for staff at all levels and for members of advocacy groups like associations, Friends, and Foundations, please visit the ALA Store here to register! Or, if you know of people who would benefit from this class, please feel free to forward this to them or share it on Social Media. We’ll be using the hashtag #libraryfunding for this course so you can also join in the conversation there!

Thank you for considering this course and I look forward to seeing you there!

10 tips for your library’s ballot initiative campaign

This post is the sixth post in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

Fundraise Early and Often
Fundraising is the most difficult part of any political campaign. State and Federal politicians never stop fundraising and many of them start their fundraising efforts years before their campaign starts. In fact, it’s reported that politicians spend up to 30% of their time fundraising. That’s why, even if your campaign is years away, you should set up your ballot committee and start fundraising now! The earlier you get a financial commitment from your base of supporters, the sooner you can start spending it to persuade others to vote yes.

Write a Plan
If your campaign has no written plan, you have no campaign. A strong campaign has a strong plan written in clear and concise language that anyone working on the campaign can quickly and easily understand. Not only does this help introduce volunteers and staff to your campaign but it also really helps them understand the importance of their role. Of course, if you don’t write the plan down and the campaign plan only exists in your head and something happens to you or you have to leave a campaign for any number of reasons, the campaign will be left to start over from scratch. Don’t do that to people counting on you.

Get Comfortable with Real Data
I could talk for hours about the national, state, and local, data that libraries need to win campaigns and the terrifying lack of data in the library industry. But, even for our local campaigns, spending money early on getting good data will save your campaign many headaches in the future. A good pollster will help you find out who will vote for your library, if there is enough support to win, and they will help you find out why people will vote for you library. That’s why you need to hire a professional pollster to do the work the right way. If you run your campaign on bad data you’ll overspend or misspend your campaign funds and potentially lose the campaign (Hillary Clinton). A good pollster will help you determine what data you need and they will make sure you get the data you need.

Set a Win Number
If your library needs a simple majority (50% plus one) of the voters to win an election or even if it needs a supermajority then you will need to find out what that number is before you begin. This number is critical because everything else you do depends on it and it will be your target throughout the campaign. Finding your win number is fairly easy and just requires a little research. For example, if your library is in a special election, look at the voter turnout in the previous 3-4 similar special elections, take an average, divide that number by 2 and add one (for a simple majority).

Set a Budget
Your win number and polling data is what is going to help you determine how much your campaign will cost. I often get asked how much it costs to run a campaign and the honest truth is that it depends. It largely depends on how many voters you plan on contacting, how you plan on contacting voters, how much each contact costs, and how many times you plan on contacting them. While these aren’t the only factors (there are many more) you can set a budget based on three levels of fundraising success.

Check it Everyday
Once you have this budget in place, don’t throw it away. It is a living document and needs to be consistently updated and tracked. The two worst ways to lose a campaign are with money left to spend after Election Day or overspend your campaign too early with nothing left for the GOTV efforts.

Identify Voters
Take the time EARLY in the campaign to find out who is willing to vote yes for your initiative. If you can identify enough voters to get to that win number, you can spend highly targeted contacts on just yes voters solidifying their yes and making sure that they show up to vote on Election Day. This will drastically reduce the cost of your campaign and ensure that you are contacting the right people.

Ignore the Haters
This is going to be the hardest thing to do. This isn’t about handling opposition because there will almost always be opposition that you can’t ignore. Instead, this is about ignoring those silent no-voters. One of the worst things your campaign can spend money on is trying to convert no-voters to yes-voters. Conversion is extremely expensive and very risky for even some of the best campaign managers. If you can get to your win number with yes-voters (which you should be able to do according to your polling results), then you should be spending money finding out who they are and then spending money making sure they vote.

Go Digital Strategically
There are so many digital platforms that a campaign can use. My recommendations are to use a good campaign website like NationBuilder and then focus only on Facebook and Email. The market saturation rate and the data that can be used for Twitter, Instagram, etc… just isn’t at the level it needs to be to be useful enough for small local campaigns. True, you can reach some people with Twitter, but is it the right people, enough people, and is it convincing enough? On a national or some state campaigns, this math changes, but for most library campaigns it just doesn’t add up.

But, Don’t Forget Your Ground Game
Digital is great but it won’t win your campaign. Don’t focus on it as the solution. You will still, absolutely, have to conduct a ground game to win a campaign. That means you and your volunteers will have to call your voters, write them letters, or knock on their doors. The face-to-face interactions (especially canvassing and phonebanking) of a political campaign still have the highest ROI so make sure they happen and make sure your volunteers are trained to do it right!

Bonus: GOTV
The final week of a campaign is where you take all of your yes voters and make sure they show up to cast their yes votes. Don’t overlook this last week because all of the work you’ve been doing up until now won’t matter unless they show up to vote. Spend a large portion of your campaign resources contacting your yes voters and making sure they they cast their vote for your library.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for your staff or librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

Encourage Action For Your Library With The “Problem, Agitation, Solution” Model

This post is the fifth post in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

problem-solution-magnifyI am often asked about writing compelling emails and messages to support library issues. Many campaigns are looking for an answer that tells them exactly what they should write to get people to take action for their library. For the most part, I try to refrain from giving specific advice about which message is right because different messages and languages work well in different communities or when delivered to different audiences. In fact, there are dozens of factors and many different data points that are considered when creating an email that includes an ask or that attempts to move people up a ladder of engagement. However, I do have a favorite structure that I use for many of my emails and blog posts that encourage some kind of action or next steps.

The problem, agitation, solution communication structure is often used by marketing companies, activist/advocacy groups, and almost everyone that is interested in getting people to take some kind of action. It relies on the ladder of engagement structure that I talked about in this previous post by making them aware of a problem, getting them interested through agitation, and then giving them an opportunity to engage in a solution. If you are on campaign email lists you can often see this pattern in many of the emails that you receive and some of the best performing Facebook ads, fundraising scripts, presentations, and blog posts that encourage action also follow this structure.

If you are looking to engage an audience in fundraising, taking action, or getting more involved in your library, you can follow this basic outline.

  • Identify THEIR problem

When working to encourage other people to take action for your cause its always most efficient to start where they are. This means identifying how the problem that you are trying to solve affects their lives or is a problem in their life. For example, if we are interested in engaging with an organization, individual, or audience that values economic development and we want them to support libraries, it would be best to first frame libraries in the context of a problem in the economy. You would start this conversation by talking about how important the economy is in the community.

  • Agitate the problem

Once their problem is identified, then its times to agitate that problem. You can talk about how there are some serious economic issues in the community like high unemployment, low entrepreneurship, almost no structure of support for budding business owners, etc… Talk about how bad it is (or could be) to not have that structure in place. Highlight how the community might fail due to this lack of support for businesses and business owners. Take the time to play to strong emotions in this step.

  • Present the solution

Once they are engaged and ready to take action, it becomes an easy step to present your solution as a means for them to take action. In this case, you can talk about how the library offers a network of support to small business owners, or databases that help entrepreneurs gain a competitive edge, or even co-working spaces and high-speed Internet for new startups. More simply, you present the library as the solution to those problems that were presented in first step and then you ask them to take some kind of action.

Do not forget the action!

I can’t stress enough about how important it is to give them the opportunity to take some kind of concrete and tangible action as part of the solution. The entire reason you gave them the solution was to allow them to release the tension you built through action. There’s nothing more dangerous than drawing a hungry crowd. Even if it’s as simple as signing up for the libraries email list, a pledge of support for libraries, or a petition. Depending on their level of interest you might be able to make an ask for more high level actions like making a donation, volunteering, or speaking on the library’s behalf at city council.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

How to Build Audiences to Effectively Engage Your Library Community

This post is the fourth post in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

_80856068_80856067

Let’s talk about building audiences for library campaigns. Whether you are working with a ladder of engagement or building and testing messages for effectiveness, the key is to start with strong and well defined audience. Professional political operatives, fundraisers, and marketers spend millions of dollars building audiences for their campaigns because starting with an effective audience is the most efficient way to win a campaign. So often I see libraries sending broad messages to entire communities and then being disappointed with the results. If your audience is too large or broad, you will waste money messaging people who don’t care about the issue and your ROI will drop. Remember that you should only spend resources on putting your messages in front of the people who are most likely to care about it. If your audience is too narrow then you’ll miss people who are likely to take action for your campaign. Or, if you are working with a ladder of engagement (which you should be creating for each audience) then you want to make the most of your resources by starting with an audience most likely to be moved from one rung to the next. Starting with the most effective audience is one of the best ways to ensure success and efficiency for your campaign.

Of course, there are many different ways to build audiences for a campaign, but here are three of my favorite audience sources.

Voter File
A voter file is easily one of the most obvious audiences and it is available fairly inexpensively from your board of elections. This is, of course, the best list to use to build political power in your community for your library.  However there are many nuances to a voter file. A standard voter file often includes name, address, party affiliation, voting history, phone number and occasionally email addresses. You can buy enhanced voter files from companies like L2 that have a lot more consumer data or issue data or more accurate phone numbers (phone numbers on voter files are notoriously inaccurate). While a voter file includes everyone in a community who is registered to vote (often referred to as a universe), it isn’t often effective to target an entire voter universe. Instead, you can break down the voter file to target individuals who are registered with a specific party, or you can target the high propensity voters, or voters who live in various areas of the community.  You can target conservatives in your community with messages that resonate with conservative voters or target progressives with messages that resonate with progressive voters. In the long run, targeting these voters with effective messages will help build up the political capital you need when your library goes to the voters so start targeting them years before you ever have to ask them to vote for your library.

*Please remember that it is illegal to use a voter file as a fundraising list.

AtoZ databases
AtoZ Databases and ReferenceUSA are two of my favorite audience building platforms that are freely available at many libraries. This is one of the best list sources for likely donors although there are many different audiences you can build here. At EveryLibrary we often build donor lists and lists of large companies in a community so that we can target them for fundraising for library initiatives. Because the data is fairly robust and decently accurate, you can find out someone’s household income or value or find people who have a history of donating to a political or charitable cause. In Sunnyvale library we were able to download a list of residents by area code and then compare that to our list of users in that same area code from our ILS. By deleting any of the duplicates, we were able to come up with a list of non-library users in Sunnyvale. We could then run a direct mail campaign that targeted non-users to encourage them to come to the library. Of course, we could also upload those lists to Facebook and target them with ads or run a phonebanking campaign. With decent GIS software, we could even map out our areas of the highest number of non-users. The benefit of starting with AtoZ databases or ReferenceUSA is that you have the lists available to you with phone numbers and addresses and these lists are great for fundraising. My next audience builder is far more powerful and accurate, but you are left to find a way to cultivate the contact information for any follow up contacts.

Pro-tip – You can often find the email addresses and phone numbers of the executives of many of the major fortune 1000 companies in these databases to help you make the first contact.

Acxiom
Axciom is easily the most powerful audience building tool for Facebook and many other digital platforms such as Twitter, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, and a few others but I primarily use it to target audiences on Facebook. These lists are best used for engaging community members in taking action on a ladder of engagement that starts with social media. Acxiom is a data company that allows you to request audiences by various behaviors such as buying habits, donations, consumer data, lifestyles, etc… You can request an audience from the Data Guru who then creates that audience in the platform that you are using or you can use their first person audience tool. In either case, this service is completely free because Acxiom makes money from you paying for ads on these platforms. The big drawback is that you don’t get an audience in a format that allows you to view names, addresses, phone numbers, or email. In other words, you can’t see who is specifically in the audience so you have to wait for their interaction with your data collection platform to get that information from them. If someone signs a survey or a petition for example, you then have their contact information for follow-up contacts. The benefit of Acxiom is that you can get a highly targeted audience of people that is extremely accurate. The are people who are most likely to sign a survey or a petition for your specific cause or issue and that can greatly reduce the cost of signatures through ads.

Targeting
Once you have these audiences it’s up to you to decide how best to target them. For some audiences, you can simply upload the CSV with name, address, and phone number into your library’s Facebook account and start targeting them with ads and follow up with more contacts later. For other audiences it might be best to start by running a phonebank campaign and call each of them. In other cases you might have to knock on their door or send them a piece of direct mail. While I made some suggestions here, you’ll have to look at your audiences and make your own decisions or feel free to ask me in the comments below. No matter where you get an audience, try to build ladders of engagement for each one by understanding your goal with each of them.

Sometimes it helps to work backwards from your goal. For example, if you want more people in your community who are likely to vote for your library, then of course, start with a voter file. Or, if you want more donors, you can start with local likely donors from AtoZ databases. And, if you want more volunteers, you can have Acxiom upload a list of non-profit volunteers into your Facebook account and you can target them through Facebook ads with links to your VolunteerMatch page. These highly targeted audiences are the key to bringing you the highest ROI for your initiatives.

Other Audiences
I have only barely scratched the surface of building audiences for library campaigns and initiatives. Major political parties, PACs, and causes, spend billions of dollars on cultivating the most accurate audiences they can and use data sets, voter models, test messaging, focus groups, etc… to win campaigns. One of EveryLibrary’s big initiatives is to build a lot of these datasets and audiences. But these are just three of my favorite ways to build an audience to start a campaign quickly and easily. We’ve worked with many political operatives  who have their own tools and techniques for their own campaigns and initiatives. I know that there are many other sources for audiences and I’d love to hear where you like to get your audiences from or how you like to build data on top of your audiences to make them more effective.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

The Disparate Languages of Libraries and Politics

This is an excerpt from my article in the Political Librarian. You can download the full article here.

20130713_usd000_0It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone when I say that the political landscape in America has drastically changed. We have seen some of the wildest political rhetoric that we could imagine come from political pundits, politicians, our presidential candidates, and various media outlets. There are accusations of fundamental biases rooted in deep belief systems that are based on many of the fears of middle class Americans who have been left behind in the job market, Americans who feel threatened by outsiders, Americans who feel they are losing their familiar identities to anonymous and unknown forces. These fears are being capitalized upon by a multi-billion dollar political industry that is designed to exaggerate threats and use fear to win elections.

The most exaggerated of those fears that affect us, librarians, and our industry is a fear of government overreach and blaming taxation for a wide array of economic and social problems in the country. This fear didn’t spontaneously come about into being by itself. It was coldly cultivated with big data, polling, focus groups, targeted messaging, and the strategic radicalization of highly specific populations within our citizenry. These political groups have used this data to develop new sets of exclusionary languages that allow people of the same beliefs to communicate and understand each other. This has lead to the development of new political cultures within targeted demographics. These differentiating languages are one of the strongest walls against communication between differing political views. The language that is used is something that librarians, as government employees who are paid by taxes, must learn if they are to continue to serve their communities.

Read the full article in the Political Librarian here.

Build Your Library’s Influence in the Community with Power Mapping

This post is the third in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

A power map is a visual tool used by many political campaigns, activists, and community organizers and it helps them understand their relational power structures in their communities and to map the power structures of local influencers and organizations. By working through a power mapping exercise a campaigner can visually see relationships that exist in a community making it easier to understand those relationships. Once these relationships are understood it becomes easier to see who should be targeted in a campaign and where a campaigner can exert pressure to influence the target. Likewise, visualizing these relational lines of influence in a community can help a library understand how to influence the local politics and power structures. It can also use a power map to identify potential coalition partners and donors as well as persuade local individuals of influence to take a favorable stand for the library. Not only can a power map be used to map the power of an outside organization or individual, but it can also map the power of the library in order to better understand the library’s power structure in the community.

Step 1. Identify the Target

An organizer begins power mapping by identifying a specific person or an organization that they are going to engage or influence. The target for the campaign is the person or organization in power that can address the issue that the library is working on. For example, if the library were interested in convincing the mayor to keep from cutting library funding, then the target would be the mayor or if the library was looking to get a big donation from an organization, then the influential members of the organization like the Executive Board or the CEO would be the targets.

Step 2: Plan Their Action

Once an activist knows who their target is, they are going to need to know very specifically what action they are going to ask the target to take. Since the target might have other ideas about how to or why they should help the library achieve its goals its important to make it clear what is being asked of them. It’s also important that the action that take is specific and actionable. This means that a campaigner is going to ask them to go beyond just saying that they like or support the library. Instead, they are going to be asked to vote for your library at the May 2nd Council Meeting or they are going to be asked to write an editorial in support of the library bond measure to be published before the November Election. An activist would think about this as an opportunity to ask only one question of a person of influence in the community. Don’t want to waste it by asking for something that the target doesn’t have to give a solid commitment to or won’t lead to an action.

Step 3. Identify Relationships of the Target

Here the activist would brainstorm as many of the relationships that are associated with the target. It’s important to think as broadly as possible in this step. These relationships can include work, family, religious, neighbors, social groups and society’s, or political organizations. It’s important to not leave anyone off the list. Even if the library is not going to use family members to get to the target, simply listing them helps the brainstorming process and could lead to other potential lines of influence. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly research the target by looking up political or charitable donations and any volunteer activities that they may have participated in. Once you have this list, its important to start thinking about who and what these associations are connected to. Occasionally, in order to reach the target, the starting point may be 2-3 degrees of separation from the target.

Step 4. Draw the Relationships

Once the relationships are identified they need to be mapped to the target. This is a process of drawing the relational lines between each person on the list to the target. Some of these lines will interconnect and show that there are strong connections between the target one or two relational nodes. For example, if the target is a member of a local social club and there are multiple connections between the club and target then the social club is a much stronger influencer on the target. Also, many times there are nodes of power that aren’t directly connected to the target. For example, if the target was not a member of a local social club but many of the people of influence around him are connected to it, then it may still be a strong node of influence on the map.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-6-26-52-pm

Step 5. Target the Relationships

Now it’s time to take a few moments and analyze the connections in the map and decide how to use them. Look at who or what has the most lines of influence between the target and the library or the organizer’s own networks of influence. For example, if there is someone in the library that connected to this example target’s social club, then the best initial step may just be working within that social group to influence the target’s wife, neighbor, and business associate. Or, finding some way to put pressure on the social group to take a pro-library stance may have a positive affect on the target since there are so many connections between the target and the social group even though the target is not directly connected to the social group. Or, it might be most beneficial to put pressure on local big donors to entice the mayor to take action to influence the target. Of course, it may be as simple as taking the time to talk to the wife of the target about how important libraries are to young or new mothers and letting her put pressure on the target to take some kind of pro-library stance or take action on behalf of the library.

Step 6. Make sure it happens

While all of this planning and power mapping is great, someone has to make sure that it happens. A good activist always puts someone in charge of an action and gives a deadline for that action. Instead of saying that “We should do this activity” they would say that a specific person would get an action done by a specific date.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

Cultivating Support for Your Library with a Ladder of Engagement

This post is the second in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

So you need more money and people for your library, political initiative, movement, or cause? Try using a ladder of engagement.

In any political movement there will undoubtedly be times when the organization will have to ask other individuals or organizations for resources. It is a fact of political life that initiatives and movements rely on the generosity of others to continue to grow and expand their influence. However, even those that are familiar with an organization and support it may take some convincing to part with their precious time or their hard-earned cash. After all, supporters are not simply ATM machines. They are people with feelings, desires, and needs to be met. That’s why even staunch supporters are often reluctant to give up time and money to a political cause, preferring to support it with their words over their deeds (often referred to as “Slacktivism”). Of course, this causes problems for many non-profits, organizations, or movements because they rely on a higher level of engagement to survive and to have the resources they need to succeed. It doesn’t matter if the organization needs a donation, a supporter’s time as a volunteer, or other resources, the method for engaging any audience in a way that gives them the opportunity to get involved and sacrifice their own resources to make a difference in the world is the same.

The ladder of engagement is a fundamental tool for any organization or initiative that can be used to gradually build the relationships that are required to convince the public to support a cause and libraries can use it just as well. The ladder represents the way that people move from being unaware of a cause or an organization, to becoming broadly supportive of it, and finally to becoming active within it. For example, if an organization approaches someone for a contribution of $500 dollars to a cause they know nothing about, then their chance of success is slim to none. If the organization first took the time to develop a relationship with a targeted individual and then asked for a donation of $500 when the target was mentally or emotionally prepared to be asked, then there is a much greater chance of success.

A standard ladder of engagement would be visualized like this:

This is one of my favorite examples of a ladder of engagement although there are many others online.  In this example, we start with those that are “aware” of the cause and move to those that are “interested” and “interacted.” These initial three steps usually happens through marketing and advertising. This is how we get people to take notice of a cause, buy a product, or walk through the doors of a library. “Interacted” is also where people begin to take small actions such as liking a Facebook Post or Page. But this is where building supporters and activists is different than marketing. We want people to move beyond just supporting a cause with slacktivist actions and become fully “engaged” and “evangelized.” We want people to take real meaningful action.

In order to move people up this ladder, a campaigner needs to spend time and resources making people aware of the campaign. Next, they need to give them small opportunities to get involved or show that they care (changing their profile picture, sharing a post, etc…). After that, they should be given a place to be engaged or take more meaningful action like signing a petition or asking their friends and family to get involved. And finally, asking them to take that final action such as making a donation or volunteering for the cause.

One of the best examples of this tool in action was from the Obama Campaign in 2012.

The Obama Facebook ladder of engagement looked like this:

  • First, people were made aware of Obama’s campaign by seeing boosted posts on Facebook.
  • Then they were encouraged to take an easy next action by ‘liking’ the Barack Obama Facebook page itself.
  • Then the campaign asked people to “sign a birthday card” to Obama on Facebook in the lead up to his birthday. When people took this step they were asked to fill in their name and email address and the campaign had a valuable piece of information in their database: an email address.
  • After that, the campaign sent an email to supporters asking them to fill out a survey, or share a personal story. This step encourages people to become more committed to the campaign and builds a profile for the supporter so the campaign can better target them in the future. (Notice at this point that the Obama campaign has made only easy asks of people. They haven’t asked anyone to give up any money or time. But they have built a relationship with people and gathered some useful data, like an email address and location.)
  • Finally, people who participated in all of the previous steps get a fundraising email. But instead of a direct request for money they are asked to contribute to the campaign in return for a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Never under-estimate the power of swag!
  • Those that gave to the campaign are then asked to volunteer for the campaign or join at a deeper level in some other way such as organizing a house party, canvassing, or phonebanking for the campaign.

The people that a movement engages with undoubtedly start off having almost no knowledge of what it is about. The ladder of engagement allows a campaigner to walk with people as they get to know the movement and what it stands for. The more time a community organizer spends with someone then the better they get to know each other and the more likely they are to give.

Luckily for libraries, most people know that libraries exist and many American’s use their library so librarians typically won’t be starting from the “Unaware” rung of the ladder.

Creating a ladder of engagement for an audience online is fairly easy with Social Media. Facebook’s data is extremely accurate and allows a user to simply upload a CSV of an audience using just name and address and Facebook will connect that list of people to their Facebook Profiles (we won’t think too much about how scary that is). This means that if a library can generate of a target audience from any of wide range of possible sources, upload it into Facebook, and then target that group with ads then they can move them up the ladder of engagement. For example, a library can download a list of known charitable individual donors in the community from AtoZ databases (or ReferenceUSA) that includes name and address and upload that list to Facebook. Then the library can target that audience with ads about the importance of the library. After that, they can ask that group to sign up on an email list or other creative form that gathers more data. Then they can ask the public to change add a badge to their social media or take some small action. Once that is accomplished the library can then begin targeting them with more customized emails that encourage donations or other supportive actions.

It is easy to create ladders of engagement for people offline as well as it is online. Many times it simply starts with some research for a target audience or individual. A library can easily use a donor list, AtoZ databases (free with a library card), or Facebook to build their initial lists. Then plan their target’s engagement from there. For example, if the library has a goal of getting donations from some of the largest companies in their community, the library would download a list of the largest companies from AtoZ Databases (or ReferenceUSA) where the email addresses or phone numbers of many of the executives can often be found. From there, a librarian would reach out with an email or phone call to introduce the library and its needs using a strong script (we’ll talk about developing scripts later), and then if the executive is receptive to the library the librarian can offer to meet the executive for coffee to talk more about the library. Next, the librarian might find some way to get the company to involved in the library in some small way. At  many of the libraries I have worked in, we have been able to get volunteers from companies, sign their employees up for library cards, or have them sponsor or run a program. When this relationship is built, the library will have a much easier time asking for a donation for a capital campaign or an initiative.

To have an effective ladder in an organization it needs to set the ladder up in advance and understand what is needed from the process. It’s important to take the time before beginning to think about the goal of the ladder or where it is that people need to end up. Is the organization looking for money, or volunteers, or letters to editor, or people to show up at a city council meeting, etc…? In any of those cases, thinking about where people are in the community that need to be reached and helps understand how best to reach them. It’s always best to meet people where they are already. It might make sense to reach them online, or in person, or a hybrid of the two. Then plan about small actions that people can take to get more and more engaged in the library until finally, librarians can reach out to them when they are most primed to give.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

What Can Libraries Learn from Using a Message Box like Kellyanne Conway?

This post is (hopefully) the first in a series on tools from political campaigns that can be used to arm librarians in the face of growing opposition during the Trump era where anti-tax and anti-government sentiments have a much stronger voice than ever before.

There is one tool that is essential to a community organizer in order to develop a strong message for a political campaign and to understand how to respond to opposition. It’s extremely important to use this tool to make sure that the communication is planned and delivered correctly because a political campaign can easily die if it delivers the wrong message or stutters in the face of opposition. This tool is the Tully Message box and it is one of the most highly used message development tools for political operatives. You could see it in action the recent Presidential Election campaign where Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, was deftly able to navigate opposition messaging to return to the narrative of the Trump Campaign. She was often able to dictate the message she wanted during interviews with the media and her secret to performing so well in the face of criticism was that she used a tool like a message box to understand her message, her opposition’s message, and how to use it to get back to her own message.

Even though I’m no fan of her politics, her agenda, or her candidate, and I wish she used her powers for good, there is a lot to learn about how well she navigated these interviews.

One way of making sure that a political campaigner like Kellyanne Conway is able to take and keep control of the conversation is through a Tully Message Box. The Tully Message Box was named after Democratic strategist Paul Tully. He used the box to look at the elements of a campaign message that will most significantly help the communication side of any campaign. Once that framework is understood, then it becomes much easier to craft an effective way of keeping control and responding to any message in the campaign. A Tully Message Box is broken down into four areas-

  • What do we say about ourselves?
  • What do we say about the other side?
  • What does the other side say about us?
  • What does the other side say about themselves?
What do we say about ourselves?

 

 

 

What does the other side say about us?

 

What do we say about the other side?

 

 

 

What does the other side say about themselves?

 

What do we say about ourselves?

This is the area of the box that will be easiest to fill out early in the campaign. This is the message that a campaign team is hoping to put before the voters. It is the result of the beliefs and values of the campaign and how they are expressed. In essence it would be what the campaign would sound like if it were the only ones allowed to speak. These are the campaigns core values and its beliefs about the issue. It often helps to start this box by answering the questions; Why now? Why is this issue important?

What do we say about the other side?

It would be nice if politics only encompassed support and opposition for issues logically presented to the electorate and the electorate voting based on those simple facts. However, voters often vote based on emotional values such as fear, anger, etc… That’s why there are often so many negative campaigns. The negative campaign is often defined in this message box square. While a campaign can easy to slip into name-calling and negativity, this area is often best served by contrasting the campaign’s belief or value system against the other side rather than speaking about them in terms of emotional responses. Also, while there is a need to speak about your own policies there is a need to speak about those of your opponent and that is framed here.

What does the other side say about us?

The comments and accusations that any political candidate faces from an opponent are important to record throughout a campaign. Any activist may have to face these opposition messages on a regular basis and understand how to respond to them. Getting these down in print will help any campaigner understand what might be said and devise a way of countering it. The more prepared the campaign is for the messages of its opponent the easier it will be to steer the narrative back to the campaigns message. This is where Kellyanne Conway excelled. There is no doubt that she spent countless hours understanding this square of the message box.

What does the other side say about themselves?

The last box is one that can help with reflection. An opponent of any cause will have a set of values, beliefs and polices that they presumably believe in. If an activist is able to analyze these and understand them it gives them the best chance of anticipating their attacks. If they know how they differentiate themselves from the opposition then they will be able to formulate a response based on the flaws that are seen in the opposition’s argument.

Putting it into use

It often helps to put a message box into use for one opposition message at a time. Remember that when using a message box, the goal is to stay on the campaign’s side (the left side of this box) and move the messaging away from the opposition’s message (the right side). This allows a campaign to understand each opposition message individually and to create messages that undermine the opposition before those messages are used by the opposition. It also helps to memorize each counter message so that if an activist is attacked with an opposition message, they can counter with a well-memorized counter message. Here is an example;

What do we say about ourselves?

Libraries provide a wide range of services that can’t be found anywhere else in the community or online.*

 

 

What does the other side say about us?

Libraries are obsolete because we have Google.

 

What do we say about the other side?

They are disconnected from many in the community who don’t have access to the internet.

 

 

 

What does the other side say about themselves?

I don’t use libraries because I have Google.

Once these four areas are defined for each opposition message in a campaign then it becomes easy for a library to use these counter messages whenever necessary. The message box allows you to plan ahead and keep control of the narrative. They say that forewarned is forearmed and a Tully Message Box allows a campaigner to fully understand the direction that any conversation can go in. This gives an activist the power to anticipate what might happen next and have a set of strategies to steer the narrative in their own direction.

*to build a really strong message against opposition using the 27-9-3 method, check out EveryLibrary’s opposition training guide at action.everylibrary.org.

If you are interested in having EveryLibrary conduct a training to build political skills for librarians or speaking at your conference or staff development day you can get more information here. Or for information about my training, workshops and consulting, please view my speaking page.

Further Reading about the Tully Message Box
Progressive Majority
The Campaign Workshop
Wellstone

Turning the entire Library Marketing ecosystem on its head.

I had an amazing conversation with some people on twitter the other morning all about how libraries doing a really bad job of marketing themselves. I tweeted that “I believe that if librarians spent time money on marketing then we wouldn’t be constantly complaining about people perceptions of libraries” and that libraries need to drop a database in order tell people about the other 49. Well, I’m going to take it all back. I realized that I was wrong, the problem is not that librarians are refusing to market themselves, its that our biggest vendors refuse to market their products.

The problem is that it shouldn’t have to be librarians who are marketing and advertising the things that libraries are offering like databases and our various collections. The ones marketing their products to the public should be the ones selling those products to us. If some database company wants my library to buy their product, there should be a demand for their product. If nobody uses their latest proprietary database on the mating habits of the Great Spotted Alaskan Chinchilla, then my library just simply shouldn’t be buying it.

Why are librarians the one stuck paying for a product, and then having to pay to market that product to the people to make sure that demand is high enough to justify buying that product? Why do we have to do their work for them? This is not how it works with any other industry.

Here’s my analogy;

The mom and pop stores on the corner of my block carry all kinds of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, whatever… But, not once have I ever seen an ad on FB, on TV, on the Radio, in the Newspaper from the corner store telling people how delicious Pepsi is. They might advertise that they have it, but they’d never advertise that anyone should drink it over anything else. You know why? Because Pepsi advertises that people should drink Pepsi, which makes people demand Pepsi, which is why stores offer Pepsi.

But in our case;

A database company sells their database to the library.

But that’s it! That’s all that happens! Then its up to the library to make sure anyone uses it or cares that the library is paying for it. The library has to convince the public that it’s a good product AND the library has to expend resources telling people that they library offers it. The library pays for the opportunity to offer a product nobody wants because the company that makes the product doesn’t spend any resources to tell people how great their product is. It’s as if libraries are paying twice for the product and being forced to do all the big vendor’s work for them as well.

But here’s something to think about.

If one of our database companies started using their money, not to advertise to librarians that they have the product, but to advertise to the people that there is a really great product offered at their local library, then the libraries would have to offer their product due to demand AND people would know that libraries are offering these products. Essentially, by advertising to the public about what their products are offering and how great they are and that they are available with a library card then more libraries would have to buy those databases due to increased demand and libraries would get more people to use their services. Because of this we will also get more engaged and educated library users and that translates into more library support which translates into more funding for libraries which in turn translates into more money for library vendors since more people will be demanding their databases.

What do you think? This was really just a quick and rough brainstorm that I had and it was too long for a tweet so I wrote a blog. Am I totally wrong on this idea? I’d love to know that I’m wrong.

The necessity of extremism in library advocacy and political outreach

Exploring_ExtremismThis is a post that I’ve been working in various forms for about 3 years. There’s a lot of background and explanation here and I’ll even cite my sources where I can. Essentially, I’m going to make the claim that advocacy and politics in America has been hijacked by a sadly necessary extremism and that for libraries to continue to exist as we know them we need to get on board with the rhetoric. If we don’t learn to start to talk about libraries in a severely emotionally meaningful way that engages and activates our most impassioned supporters, libraries will be next on chopping block. We can’t allow this to happen because libraries are one of the few truly great institutions to come out of the American Government.

Before I really get into this, I’d like to point out that this is not a partisan issue. I have seen these tactics in use by every political party. I’d also like to point out that I’m a pretty hardcore moderate and I have a strong and healthy distrust of both progressive and conservative parties as well as low faith in both the government and corporate power structures. I’m going to do my best to pull examples from as many different arenas as possible for a fair and balanced discussion of the issue that should make everyone equally angry.

This all begins with my own blog and why I essentially stopped blogging. The truth is that I was frustrated about what kinds of posts got the most hits. A few years ago I realized that the posts that “did the best” were ones that were inherently mean spirited or controversial for their extreme views. For example, I wrote a post about Second Life that was intentionally mean spirited and to this day it is my most read piece. The thing to realize about this post is that I never really said anything important. There was nothing in there that would move anything forward. Libraries were already dropping Second Life and by the time I wrote the piece the virtual landscape was already a ghost town. On the other hand, I wrote a number of other posts that I think were more important but didn’t have anywhere as close to the same level of emotional reactions, emotion, or rhetoric and they were hardly read at all.

Of course, we could make the argument that the other posts weren’t as well written, or as timely or whatever, but really, the biggest difference is the level of emotional sensationalism. I really don’t hate Second Life, I really don’t care at all about Second Life, but I had the chance to write something in the extreme and see what happens. I was so disappointed in the broad and deep response that my number of blogs written per week almost drops off completely after that experiment. I went from writing one blog a week, to one every month or two. That was 4 years ago.

When I realized that these are the kinds of articles and blog posts that get the highest ratings I began to notice what was happening in the commercial media sphere. Everyday online it seems like there is more bad news, or emergencies, or constant state of urgency in the world around us. There are constant streams of vicious and witty criticisms and very few appraisals of positive viewpoints or constructive ideas. I realized that this was because moderate ideas simply don’t attract reaction or generate the ratings and views that are necessary to raise revenue or resources through encouraging actions or ads or donations. For example, this article criticizing adults for reading comics. There was really no point in writing this article because it doesn’t move any discussion forward, its poorly written, and it doesn’t matter if adults read comics or watch superhero movies and essentially has no real affect on the world. However, because it is an extremist viewpoint and wild criticism of a popular and generally well liked pastime, this article appeared multiple times on my social media feeds with varying levels in indignation. It was clearly being well read and circulated.

1104-1dl4j10Recently, I left full time library work to work for an organization called EveryLibrary. If you haven’t heard me talk about EveryLibrary let me quickly fill you in. EveryLibrary is the first and only National Political Action Committee for Libraries. In the last three years we have helped libraries win local measures for library funding to the tune of almost 100 million dollars. Because EveryLibrary is about libraries, it’s a non-partisan issue, which is one of the things that I, as a moderate, really enjoy about it. But because it’s a non-partisan issue, I’ve attended webinars, trainings, conferences, read books and professional literature, followed campaigns, etc… for just about every political party in the United States. These trainings came from the Tea Party or the Libertarian Party or whatever flavor of progressive politics they were and were essentially all over the political spectrum.

I say all this because my work with EveryLibrary combined with these trainings have also reinforced my belief in the necessity of more extremism in our advocacy efforts. When we write for EveryLibrary we noticed that some of our posts or emails get a much higher level of engagement than others. While we understand that library issues are highly complex and require complex solutions we noticed that when we explained those issues in an educational and informational way that lays out the full scope of the issue, they were generally left unread by the professional public and the public at large. However, the ones that have the highest level of emotion, the least amount of complexity, and least amount of real information or solutions are the ones that get the highest levels of donations, the most shares, the most likes, and are the ones that are most widely read. What’s the point of writing something educational if nobody reads it to be educated?

We have many examples of this stark contrast between informational or educational posts and emotionally extreme posts. For example, when we post articles about how important libraries are for businesses and startups and how those kinds of organizations can take advantage of the services of libraries, we get very few click-throughs, almost no shares, and we get even less donations. But, when we post that libraries are being attacked by the Koch Brothers we can raise thousands of dollars and have hundreds of people sign up to support libraries in a matter of hours. There is a guttural emotional reaction to the idea that wealthy billionaires are working to strip services away from the American people and there is no sense of urgency in learning that businesses and startups can benefit from the services of libraries even though providing a higher level of services to upper social classes would position libraries as more relevant and necessary institutions to those in power. It is, without a doubt, more important for libraries to learn how to better engage upper class and more powerful cross sections of communities than it is to know that the Koch Brothers are attacking libraries, yet there is no engagement there.

angry-man-yellingWe also conducted A/B testing to determine messages that engage the highest amounts of people and return the highest level of actions take for libraries. We wrote emails that explained what positive things that libraries were doing and how they help communities and got very little return. Yet when we wrote something controversial or something that was more highly emotional and less deeply informational, we were able to see more donations, sign-ups, shares, etc… I have also seen this to hold true when we are attempting to activate people to sign a petition to fight legislation. Our calls to action that were informational went largely unheard and our calls to action that were highly emotional generated thousands more signatures.

While many people who work in the library industry have brought up the fact that they don’t enjoy our extremist posts, I would like to point out that those kinds of posts are generally not for them. People who work in libraries tend to be well educated. They tend to have a broader understanding of the complexities of the issues that surround library work. Librarians tend to be less motivated by reactionary posts about the Koch Brothers attacking libraries because they understand the full complexity of the issue at hand. For example, librarians are the people who know the difference between things like para-professional staff and MLIS credentialed librarians while the broader audience that we are writing for and the general population of people that we are trying to engage think that anyone who works in a library, from a page to a director, is a librarian. So, while I absolutely understand their concerns (I have them too), we aren’t writing for the people who are already engaged and have a strong understanding of all the issues, are already willing to take action for libraries, and are well educated on librarianship. We are writing to engage the public at large.

We can also see examples of the high level of success of this kind of extremist messaging beyond librarianship. We see it in the political discourse around minimum wage or abortion or the second amendment. You have probably participated in the discussions yourself or, if you haven’t, you have almost definitely noticed how the discourse between other people often slides into a highly emotional argument of sound bites and meaningless rhetoric and continues to decline into a barrage of name-calling rather quickly on all sides. What is interesting here is that, just like the issues in librarianship, the highly emotional and rhetoric filled views of these issues are not fully representative. Each of the issues are highly complex and require a deep level of understanding of the full scope of social concerns that surround them if we are seriously looking for a cure. If we think about each of these with a full understanding of them, we’d quickly see that soundbites like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” are wildly dismissive of the deep-rooted social ills that are actually behind high murder rates and, likewise, simply banning guns won’t cure the underlying social ills that cause murder either. For there to be a real solution, there needs to be a fully immersive strategy that undertakes the task of explaining all the possible solutions at each level and the people need to be educated about the entirety of the situation with holistic solutions at every level. So, these soundbites and simplified emotional rhetoric are clearly not the solution.

So why are such simplified and meaningless rhetoric to discuss highly complex issues so prolific? There is a sound reason for this. As we pointed out earlier, extremist propaganda returns the most extreme return on investment. Another example from outside of librarianship of a large ROI on an extremist action comes from US Representative Joe Wilson who yelled “You Lie!” during the State of the Union Address from President Obama. His campaign for re-election raised millions of dollars from his supporters in the next week. Joe Wilson was then able to use those resources to go on to defeat his general election opponent, Rob Miller. Joe Wilson was able to use his extremist outburst to drive up donations to use as resources to win his bid for re-election. Of course, this isn’t just limited to candidate campaigns, we see a similar set of actions and outcomes play out repeatedly in almost every cause. That’s because these extremist actions are the necessary first step in allowing causes to have the money and identify the supporters and help them build the resources they need to take action for the actual solution.

<> on September 9, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Representative Joe Wilson yells Liar during the State of the Union Address

Of course, Joe Wilson’s donations didn’t come from moderates. His donations didn’t come from people who could see both sides of the issue. His donations came from people with deep seated and extreme anger and resentment towards President Obama. People who kind of like Obama as president weren’t the ones who donated to Representative Wilson. It was the ones who hate and oppose Obama the most. What this proves is that extremists are the ones who take action. Not moderates. It’s very important to understand that extremists with extreme views who are using extreme rhetoric are the ones who give money, volunteer, and otherwise provide resources to causes. You won’t find someone who has only moderate views on an issue or is careless about an issue spending their hard earned money to fight for or against it.

What is also interesting is the very low percentage of individuals that give to campaigns. Bernie Sanders, for example, who has raised more money from individual donations for his campaign than any other candidate in history has received donations from 1.3 million Americans. While 1.3 million people sounds like a large number, when compared to the size of the general population, it is almost a meaningless statistic. There are over 330 million people in the United States and that means that Sanders has only raised money from less than one third of one percent of the population. The most successful individual donor candidate in the world has only been able to actively engage 0.33% of the public and convince to take action. This is also interesting considering that he polls at an approval rating of about 40% of Democrats and about 30% of Americans identify as Democrats or about one hundred million people. Since you do not have to be a registered voter to donate to a campaign, there are around 50 million people who potentially support Bernie Sanders (far less are willing or able to vote) and could be tapped into giving donations to the Sanders Campaign. Why then, do only 1/3 of one percent of Americans give? Because those are the individuals with the most extreme faith and belief in a country governed by President Sanders. The truth is that it take a very small percentage of extremist Americans to drastically influence politics.

All of this is to say that if a cause wants to exist, it needs resources to fight, and therefore it is in the best interest of causes and political parties to generate more extremism in order to get more access to more of the resources that they need to be maintain a sustainable fight.

So, if libraries are to continue to have the resources that they need to continue to fight for their existence then libraries need to find ways to identify and engage a small percentage of Americans who are extremist and ravenous supporters of libraries and who will take action and give those resources to library causes. Whereas, Bernie Sanders is supported by 50 million people, libraries have far more supporters than all of the presidential candidates combined. Libraries have an approval rating of over 80% across the country and across a wide range of political beliefs but we’re failing to engage the most extremist believers in libraries. Librarians need to understand where and how these extremist beliefs are generated and how they can be used and who they can be used on. Libraries also need to really take some time and look at the messages that are being used against them and take the time to understand the root of those messages in order to develop effective and emotionally charged counter messages.

One of our biggest weaknesses is that we know very little about the kinds of people who support libraries, why they support them, and we know even less about the people who are against libraries and why. For those other well resourced causes that we mentioned earlier as well as political party platforms, literally millions of dollars are spent every single year to research voter perceptions and motivations for voting or taking action on behalf of the cause as well as identifying messaging that works effectively and the kinds of people that it works on. Every single year, these causes of the most current and up-to-date data to help them fight. Whereas, for libraries,the only real study that has been done to look at the propensity of registered voters to support libraries at the ballot box was done in 2008 with 2007 data. This means that the data comes from a time that was pre-recession, pre-Tea Party, pre-any tax is a bad tax organized groups. Since then, we have had a major culture shift built entirely around the circumstances set up in the recession. But even with that study and disregarding the recession, we learned very little. For example, we know that people’s support or opposition to libraries is not dependent on their use of the library and we know that people are just as likely to vote for or against the library regardless of their political ideology unless they are extremist in their views on either side of the political spectrum. What should scare librarians and library supporters is that we do not have data to create a model of voters for libraries and we don’t have data to create a model of voters in opposition to libraries.

We can, however, look at some interesting trends in the comments on our Facebook Page. Because there is currently no funding for this research, this is where we are starting to look to build this data although it is a very poor source for data. One of the biggest things we’ve noticed is that the people that comment positively for libraries are not extremist, but the people who comment in opposition to libraries are extremist. They are generally deeply neo-liberal or deeply neo-conservative.

For example, if you click on the comments below, it will take you to the walls of the commenters where you can see that the majority of their FB posts are almost entirely around extremist political rhetoric even though they are typically individuals who do not work in a political sphere. These are individual that have no reason to post politically because they are not major influencers in politics, they are not authors or personalities in politics, they have low “friend” numbers and are not engaged by comments from their “friends” or followers, and they are essentially impotent in the political world and have no real incentive to post any kind of political rhetoric.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.09.45 PM

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 10.11.45 PM

I want to point out that there is nothing wrong with the beliefs of these two example cases. With their experiences and their understanding of the world around them, they are right to believe what they believe. However, it our responsibility to understand them and their ideologies and be able to respond to them in a way that’s meaningful to them.

What this does show is how strongly the kinds of individuals who oppose libraries are influenced by the political extremism of neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism. It’s interesting that, these individuals, without any personal influence on American politics, without any responsibility in American politics, and without any real role in American politics at all, feel so strongly that they only post American political rhetoric on their personal walls. This is especially alarming considering the wide range innovation in the world, the immense amount of venues for entertainment across hundreds of venues and mediums, the vast discoveries and inventions of the 21st century, and the potential for exploration of an entire world at their finger tips in the digital age that they would choose to almost exclusively post about American political rhetoric. Essentially they are focused on posting about a small sliver of the world in which they live and a very small sliver of the world in which they have almost zero influence. The obvious complete control of each of these individual’s mind is a testament to the power and influence of political think tanks, the vast resources and far reaching power of diverse issues, and the kind of extremism that is being tapped into in order to fund the fight for these various oppostional beliefs.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if libraries could tap into this kind of extremism? In fact, I would argue that it has become even more of a necessity for librarians to be able to speak in ways that tap into these kinds of extremist belief systems. We need to take the time to study and look into the reasons that people believe the kinds of things that they believe at such guttural levels. After all, these kinds of extremist views and these kinds of systems of support that are based in extremist ideologies where specifically developed for these outcomes. Why couldn’t similar ideologies be built around a belief system that is supportive of libraries?

One of the reasons this hasn’t happened in libraries is that we have never had the need for it before. Previous to the Great Recession, libraries have had the benefit of being so well supported by the general public that they have not even had to campaign to win elections. Libraries could simply place ballot measures before the people and about 85-90% of them would pass without the need for well-funded or well-trained and structured campaigns. That level of passing referendum is almost unheard of in almost any other cause and we can’t expect to ever surpass these levels again without highly structured and well-funded modern campaigns. But because libraries have never had the need to learn to be better politically positioned in communities, libraries have not had a strong culture of politics or political action in our day-to-day work. This is can no longer be the case.

Currently fewer library campaigns are winning and those that do are winning smaller at margins and are being even further eroded by legislation that require super majorities to win tax increases. We also seen more movement to fight against libraries like the recent movement by the Koch Brothers funded Super PAC to come out against libraries. Comparatively, causes that have had the benefit of years of research and careful construction like 2nd amendment rights, abortion, and minimum wage, have a level of extremist influence built through years of experience and deep pockets of resources that libraries have just begun to understand and don’t yet have access to. Organizations like our own EveryLibrary are only just beginning to build the data and research that we need to ensure that libraries continue to win at high margins. We are only just beginning to understand these extremist viewpoints and build extremism into our own rhetoric…. Like it or not…

But now its time for a solution. Libraries need to spend time and resources on data building, on focus groups, supporter ID, and message development to build our database of extremist supporters with key messages that we know will activate them to take action on behalf of libraries. This is one of the reasons that we created this Knight News Foundation Grant Submission and are looking for funding to continue our research into this area. For other causes this was done through well-funded think tanks with financial backing and big data resources. The need for identifying supporters is also why we created our Political Action Platform for libraries. It’s time for libraries to duplicate the efforts of national causes and political parties and cadidates and truly understand what makes Americans ravenously believe in causes to such an extreme that they will support those causes with money, time, and other resources. We need this level of extremism on the side of libraries in order to ensure that libraries continue to exist at all to continue to serve the good of the American people.