Community Outreach and Advocacy
Like public relations, community outreach and advocacy are closely connected to marketing.
In her article Outreach is (un)Dead, Emily Ford (2009) notes that the definitions for outreach and marketing are every similar. She states that "our product is our service. To many librarians marketing can be a dirty word and outreach almost saintly." She goes on to say that "we should embrace marketing for what it is, and let outreach diffuse into our daily routine."
Watch my narrated slide show at Vimeo (on the right).
If our marketing plan has effectively analyzed the community and potentials audiences, then what would normally be called "outreach" is already part of our marketing strategy. Providing quality services and making our audience aware of these services is one of the most effective ways to nurture library advocates.
Read Outreach is (un)Dead, Emily Ford (2009).
Think about the connection between outreach, advocacy, and marketing.
In this section, we'll explore the connections among outreach, advocacy, and marketing.
Each of the following questions will be addressed on this page. For quick access, click on the question of interest.
- What is community outreach?
- How can digital badges be used in outreach?
- What is advocacy?
- How does advocacy build support?
- How is community building related to advocacy?
- What role do friends groups, liaisons, and committees play in advocacy?
Community Outreach involves reaching out to non-users, under served, and people with special needs in the community. Groups such as immigrant populations, older adults, institutionalized persons, home bound populations, and those with disabilities would also be potential target audiences for programs.
The photo on the right shows a cooking class for Spanish speaking participants at the San Mateo Public Library.
These program provide opportunities to work with community leaders and organizations to enhance all library services. An early literacy program may be useful to children but may also meet the needs of their parents.
Get started by developing a plan.
- Identify target populations
- Develop services to meet specific needs
- Train staff in working with community groups
- Connect with community leaders related to the target population
- Reach beyond the walls of the library providing services at remote locations like homeless shelters and prisons
- Plan for the long-term. These relationships may take years to develop.
Outreach involves going where the current and potential users are. If you want to reach parents, make a connection through the school. If you want to encourage senior citizens to participate in a new project, go to the senior center monthly lunch meeting.
Example: Dowd, Evangeliste and Silberman (2010, 61) suggest recruiting teens through their parents. The soccer field next the library provided a great forum to promote teen programs. The library talked with parents watching the games and distributed fliers. Once teens were in the library, they were asked about their interests. Programs were designed to meet these needs. Teens were encouraged to provide their email addresses so they could be easily contacted about future events. This simple outreach blossomed into an active teen advisory board.
Watch the Library Engagement Framework video by Brian Mathews.
Keep in mind that social media can play an important role in today's library outreach.
Read Mason, Marissa (2014). Outreach 2.0: Promoting archives and special collections through social media. Public Services Quarterly, 10, 157-168.
Looking for ideas? The Outreach Librarian is a great blog with lots of ideas.
From summer reading sticker walls to scout merit badges, everyone is familiar with the use of badges for motivation and demonstration of achievement.
A badge is a special symbol or recognition icon that signifies an accomplishment or skill. Badges are a way to recognize and reward library users.
Digital Badges in Outreach
Often used as part of a larger marketing plan, digital badges may be applied in a wide range of situations from rewarding young readers to recognizing volunteer work. They’re an effective way to actively engage library users, motivate readers, and share successes.
Individuals collect and display icons known as digital badges. These are awards based on specific criteria such as the number of books read or the number of hours of volunteer work. They can also be connected with fun activities such as scavenger hunts, web explorations, geolocation games, or other types of active participation. A badge might be awarded for solving a mystery or collecting a bag of cans for recycling. Many MOOCs and library workshops reward participants with badges rather than grades.
Open Badges involve verifying skills, activities, or achievements prior to awarding a digital badge. These badges can be shared on websites or in personal profiles. Software such as OpenBadges, Badg.us, and Canvabadges are used to track progress and award badges.
EDUCAUSE has created a page focusing on examples of Badges in teaching and learning.
Use digital badges to connect with particular audiences. Draw in seniors with a digital badge program focusing on geneaology and family history. Participants who aren't mobile can work from their homes using online databases. Connect with language learning adults with a project that rewards acquiring and applying language skills in particular situations. Persuade teens to join a program that rewards reading books based on movies.
Read 7 Things You Should Know About Badges from EDUCAUSE. Available: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7085.pdf
Read Ferrari, Ahniwa (February 21, 2014). Badging the Library: Part 1. OCLC WebJunction. Available:
https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/badging-the-library-part-01.html and Ferrari, Ahniwa (April 11, 2013). Badging the Library: Part 2. OCLC WebJunction. Available: http://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/badging-the-library-part-02.html
School Library Interest: Read Hallett, Karin Schreiber (October 12, 2013). Motivating Literacy: Digital Badges in the School Library. Liquid Literacy. Available: http://liquidliteracy.com/2013/10/12/motivating-literacy-digital-badges-in-the-school-library/ and Hallett, Karin Schreier (September 8, 2014). Creating a Community of Readers. Liquid Literacy. Available: http://liquidliteracy.com/2014/09/08/creating-a-community-of-readers/.
Academic Library Interest: Read Pagowsky, Nicole. Keeping Up With… Digital Badges for Instruction. ACRL Available: http://www.ala.org/acrl/publications/keeping_up_with/digital_badges
Badges in Libraries and Learning
Example: The Bellingham Public Library Summer Reading for Adults program gives badges in categories such as Demo Daze, Genre Drifter, and Master the Elements.
Example: The DC Public Library offers 16 badges as part of their summer program in categories including Artistic Endeavors, Community Crusader, Cover to Cover, and Tech Mastery.
Example: The Marcellus Library teen summer programming includes “Make Your Summer” badges.
Example: The University of Central Florida pilot project awards digital badges for Information Literacy Module completion.
Example: Delaware County Community College uses badges to reward people for participation in campus workshops.
Example: New Milford High School Library offers digital badges for professional learning.
Example: YALSA is using badges as an approach to micro-credentials to help library staff gain skills related to YALSA’s Competencies for Serving Youth in Libraries. They earn badges for activities like learning to use Twitter, building youth collections, or writing an elevator speech.
Example: The Chicago City of Learning project is a collaboration among schools, libraries, and other organizations. The badges focus on learning across the city.
The Digital Media & Learning Research Hub posts articles about badges, digital media, and learning.
Read Digital Badging.
Think about the connection between digital badges and outreach.
Mozilla’s OpenBadges at https://wiki.mozilla.org/Badges is probably the best known open source tool for creating badges.
Badg.us is another option for creating badges. To learn more about it, go to https://github.com/lmorchard/badg.us/wiki/FAQ
Many websites are available to help librarians create badges.
Begin by exploring existing badge designs that you can repurpose for your project. Do a Google Search for “library badges” for ideas.
Consider using a tool specifically designed to create digital badges such as Open Badge Designer at https://www.openbadges.me/.
Graphic tools like Inkscape and Pixlr can be used to design badges from scratch.
The following websites are useful for identifying interesting icons.
Advocacy generates support for specific proposals or issues associated with libraries such as funding and privacy rights through getting people who have good opinions about the library to speak on its behalf about the value of the organization and its services.
According to Dinesh Gupta (2006, 16), advocacy "is a planned, deliberate and sustained effort to address an issue... it is a continuous process during which support and understanding of the issue are gradually increased over an extended period of time".
The Libraries Transform campaign from the American Library Association is an example.
Like other types of marketing, it's important to know your audience.
Read the American Public Libraries & Community Internet Access infographic.
What other data would be useful in planning for advocacy?
Skim the Millennial Impact report. It focuses on how best to engage the Millennial generation to volunteer, donate, and get involved. They found that 71% of millennials have raised money for a non-profit, 70% would prefer to make donations online, and 72% would like to learn about volunteer opportunities through email.
According to Dowd, Evangeliste, and Silberman (2010), an advocacy campaign doesn't need to be expensive. Consider an online approach:
- Set up online presence (i.e., website, wiki, blog). Use a free tool like Wordpress.
- Determine your call to action. Connect to political leaders (i.e., ask people to call leader offices), legislators (i.e., link to their website and provide a message they can use), or get a petition going (i.e., use a tool like GoPetition).
- Provide supporting materials for taking action. Post related document at your special page, wiki, or blogsite. These materials include PDFs of fliers, bookmarks, impact statements, agenda items, contacts, and thank yous. Scibd can be used to upload documents for free if space isn't available on your website.
- Make your case. Be sure to provide documentation to support your stand. Include a one-page overview that includes the key talking point. It should also include links to materials.
- Let other people tell their story about your library. Incorporate quotes, video clips, and personal stories whenever possible. Photos can also be persuasive.
- Provide opportunity for supporters to join your cause. Use an online poll or survey tool to collect supporter information. Or, place a form on your web page. Google Forms is an easy to collect data. The information becomes part of a database.
- Set up a social network page. Facebook page, LinkedIN connection, Flickr group, YouTube channel, and links to your website are all important.
- Set up a media page. Post all news releases and contact information on the library media or news page.
Examine the Advocacy Planning Worksheet from OCLC.
Be sure that users are aware of their legislators. Use links to their websites as well as maps.
Example: SELS libraries designed a Google Map to feature library district and legislative districts.
Example: The Save Ohio Libraries campaign contains many of these elements. Explore their blog, materials, and social network links. Explore other Save Libraries websites: Save JeffCo Library, SaveTheLibraries.
The SaveLibraries.org compiles and disseminates information for libraries facing budget cuts.
Library advocacy is a global concern. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the United Kingdom launched Save Our Libraries Day to raise awareness. They also have a Campaigning Toolkit.
Facebook has become a popular tool for advocacy. Explore the following examples:
The ilovelibraries campaign is an American Library Association advocacy campaign.
What resources and approaches do you think are most effective? Why?
Read one of the following articles:
Speaking Up for Library Services to Teens: A Guide to Advocacy
Inviting Legislators into School Libraries
Infographics are an important tool in advocacy. AASL has created some templates to help with building infographics.
- regular library users
- irregular library users
- library volunteers
- staff members
- community partners
- corporate partners
- government agencies
- friends of the library
- national and international advocacy groups
- people who have been messengers in the past
Some of the most effective advocacy materials are simple.
The poster on the right was created by Sarah McIntyre for use in a school library lobby!
Customer retention involves marketing aimed at developing and nurturing long-term relationships between the librarian and users.
The library website is also an important tool for advocacy.
Skim the Public Library Advocacy page from Wikipedia.
Watch four videos from ALA that connect libraries with early literacy. Think about these videos can be used as tools for advocacy.
An important part of community building is establishing good will.
Friedenwald-Fishman and Dellinger (2009) state that
"Public will building is a communication approach that builds public support for social change by integrating grassroots outreach methods with traditional mass media tools in a process that connects an issue to the existing, closely held vales of individuals and groups. This approach leads to deeper public understanding and ownership of social change. It creates new and lasting community expectations that shape the way people act, think, and behave."
In their chapter Building Public Will For Libraries, Friedenwald-Fishman and Dellinger (2009) identified four principles of public will building.
- Connecting through closely held values.
- Respecting cultural context.
- Including target audiences in development and testing.
- Integrating grassroots and traditional communication methods.
Example: The Swing into Stories program at the San Francisco Public Library connects reading with active movement. By partnering with the San Francisco Recreation & Parks, the library and parks both benefit.
Example: In Grand Rapids Michigan, the Bookfest runs concurrently with the Festival of the Arts.
The Thomas M. Cooley Law Libraries developed the Food for Fines campaign that involved community outreach.
"The Food for Fines method of payment was made available to three categories of library patrons: students, attorneys, and alumni. Each campus location created a list of acceptable food items tailored to the needs of the local community. Fines were reduced for those who preferred to pay cash, which was also contributed to the food banks.
Window displays, a brochure, and posters helped to publicize the campaign. The participating food banks were very grateful for the efforts of the library. In addition, the positive response of the students, faculty, and staff has convinced the library to conduct a Food for Fines initiative every fall. This campaign, which was designed to serve others while addressing the issue of unpaid fines, resulted in promoting the library, the school, and the profession." - Brunner (2010)
A sense of community is particularly important in rural areas.
"Small rural libraries face an increasing range of challenges with often fixed or even reducing resources. Being sustainable might mean just surviving — let alone adopting new technologies, attracting more resources, forging community partnerships, garnering political support, and promoting children's and youth activities... cultural sustainability is also important to small rural libraries and their communities, and the need for them to focus on their communities, marketing and partnerships." – Amberg, 2010
Groups such as the Friends of the Library are a great way to market library resources and services. They are also an important part of the overall public relations and advocacy efforts of the library.
According to Deborah Schander (2012, 8), it's important to involve students in library decisions and policies that impact them directly. She suggests the formation of Student Advisory Councils contains 10 to 15 members. Schander states that
"the cost and time considerations are often small, especially in comparison with the return. By inviting a small group of students to offer their insights about library outreach efforts, your whole student body will benefit."
Go to Ways to Advocate as a Friend for ideas.
Go to Ways to Advocate as a Trustee for ideas.
Looking for more ideas?
SKIM Chapter 9 of Lucas-Alfieri, Debra (2015). Marketing the 21st Century Library: The Time is Now. Chandos Publishing.
Alman, Susan W. (2007). Crash Course in Marketing for Libraries. Libraries Unlimited.
Amberg, Penny (2010). Where angels fear to tread: a non-librarian’s view of sustainability of rural libraries. APLIS, 23(1), 28-32. Available: http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy2....
Antin, Judd, & Churchill, Elizabeth F. (2011). Badges in social media: A social psychological perspective. Human Factors, 1–4.
Barber, Peggy & Wallace, Linda (2010). Building a Buzz: Libraries & Word-of-Mouth Marketing. ALA Editions.
Barker, Bradley. (2013). Digital badges in informal learning environments. ICIW 2013, Eighth International Conference on Internet and Web Applications and Services. Available: http://www.thinkmind.org/download.php?artic leid=iciw_2013_11_10_20013
Braun, Linda. (2013). Going back to school with badges. YALSA Blog. Available: http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2013/08/27/going-back-to-school-with-badges/
Brunner, Karen (2010). Promoting Excellence.
Dellinger, Laura K. Lee (2009). A values-based approach to successful library advocacy. In M. Gould (ed), The Library PR Handbook, 81-93.
Dempsey, Kathy (2009). The Accidental Library Marketer. Information Today.
Diaz, Veronica. (2013). Digital badges for professional development. EDUCAUSE Review. Available: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/digital-badgesprofessional-development
Dowd, Nancy, Evangeliste, Mary, & Silberman, Jonathan (2010). Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Over-worked Librarian. ALA Editions.
Friedenwald-Fishman, Eric & Dellinger, Laura (2009). Building public will for libraries. In Mark Gould (ed), The Library PR Handbook, ALA Editions, 23-37.
Gupta, Dinesh, Koontz, Christie, Massisimo, Angels & Savard, Rejean (eds.) (2006). Marketing Library and Information Services: International Perspectives. Die Deutsche Bibliothek. Available: http://site.ebrary.com.proxy2.ulib.iupui.edu/lib/iupui/docDetail.action?docID=10256411
Lovelock, Christopher & Wirtz, Jochen (2010). Service Marketing. 7th edition. Prentice Hall.
Mathews, Brian (2009). Building Relationships. Marketing Today's Academic Library. ALA Editions, 68-85.
Matthews, Joseph (2002). Communicating the value of a special library. The Bottom Line: Determining and Communicating the Value of the Special Library. Libraries Unlimited, 143-147.
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Schander, Deborah (June 2012). Student advistory councils. AALL Spectrum, 7-8.sac
Siess, Judith (2003). The Visible Librarian. ALA Editions.
Smallwood, Carol (ed) (2010). Librarians as Community Partners: An Outreach Handbook. ALA Editions.
Waibel, Günter & Erway, Ricky (2009). Think global, act local – library, archive and museum collaboration. Museum Management and Curatorship, 24,4. Pre-print available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/...
Waibel, Günter & Massie, Dennis (2009). Catalyzing collaboration: seven New York City libraries. OCLC Research. Available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2009/2009-08.pdf
Walters, Suzanne (2004). Library Marketing that Works! Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Woodward, Jeannette (2009). Creating the Customer-Driven Academic Library. ALA Editions, 152-171.