Your biggest resource is your library users. This means that you or another staff member must spend a significant amount of time talking to library users and identifying those who are best positioned to reach out to the community. Children can be effective media spokespeople; parents know the value of the library to them and to their children. Seniors often rely on the library for reading materials or Internet access and use it as a community center. While developing your human resources may take time, cultivating these supporters will be worth the effort, and the network you build can be used for years to come.
The tips below may help you to maximize your resources:
- Try to get to know your library users. Noticing all of the different reasons that people come to the library will broaden your base of support and reinforce the necessity of your library for your community members. For example, if there is an unemployed person who comes to use the Internet at the library to find a job, take note of that, as he or she may be able to provide a moving testimonial in the future. Such a person might highlight important, concrete stories you can tell to the media, funders, elected officials, and opinion leaders. Keeping a file of these individuals can prove invaluable.
- Take special of local community members and opinion leaders who use your library. Perhaps the president of a local PTA or the husband and son of a city council person are frequent users. These persons will likely have access to a large network of contacts that he or she can influence to support the library, either through giving time, money, or simply writing a letter to an elected official. Making use of these supporters and potential supporters is inexpensive, and it is the most effective way to reach your other target audiences.
- Don't forget your library trustees and Friends group. Library trustees and Friends of the library generally have political and community connections that can benefit the library, and are valuable not only as voices, but also as eyes and ears for library staff. Or maybe one of your Trustees is also on the Board of Directors at the local YMCA. Take time in your trustee meetings to discuss these connections in relationship to specific events or advocacy activities—and encourage your trustees to act on them. Discussing their commitments in front of peers can be an effective way to hold them to their promises.
- Consider “image.” It is important that any materials you create are specific to your library and consistent with the character of both your library and your community. For example, if your library has a limited budget, don’t try to impress your patrons with a glossy, four-color brochure. Or, if a significant portion of your library’s users speaks another language, try to provide a translated version of your materials.
- Ask volunteers how best ot get in touch with them. Everyone has their preferred method of contact, for example, via email or telephone. Remember to keep your volunteers informed about important events, issues they should know about, and/or how they can help. It’s important that these people be as “in the know” as possible to enable them to maintain their connection to the library and spread accurate information.