D – apply the fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.
Meaning and Importance
If a quiet library is a dead library, then a thriving library has constant and vocal advocacy from multiple communities. People can easily forget that something exists if they don’t see or use it themselves—think of all the times a library’s budget has been cut, and half of the dialogue surrounding the decision is “Well, who needs libraries anyway, when we’ve got Netflix/Amazon/computers/etc.” Being dismissed and forgotten is a dangerous situation for a library to be in, as it means loss of income, loss of budget, loss of patrons and loss of staff.
This is where advocacy comes in. Highlighting the library and its many benefits to ALL members of the community, in a consistent and engaging way, means that even the detractors have less to argue about as it’ll be obvious who needs and uses libraries. Anyone who has ever had any benefit from a library is part of the library community and can serve as an advocate. That said, there are often more “official” advocates that can be tasked with supporting the library on multiple levels. These advocates are usually Friends of the Library, the library board, a library foundation, librarians, regular library patrons, and government officials.
Marketing the Library
Advocacy needs to be done alongside a thorough library marketing plan. One of the marks of good library management is coordinating marketing and advocacy efforts, as it will increase the effectiveness of both. Library staff need to plan what they are going to market, and then they need the library advocates to back up that marketing with their own efforts.
A good example of this would be a library promoting their programs in the local community newspaper, and then community members talking about how they enjoyed those programs in the next city hall meeting. Or perhaps a library staff member secures a grant to fund a new after-school homework help resource, and the advocates spread the news in PTA meetings at their schools. There are many ways for libraries and advocates to work together to promote and market the library’s services, if a little planning and communication goes alongside both.
In Fall 2016, I took INFO-282 Seminar in Library Management — Grant Writing, where the final project was focused on creating a grant application for a library. Part of that grant application process, however, was conducting a (thing) and putting a marketing plan together.
Prior to this class, I had never been involved in any way with working on a grant application. I thought I knew the basics of applying for a grant, e.g. filling out a form and hoping for the best. However, this assignment proved that assumption wrong. Applying for a grant involves more than just filling out a form, and in fact involves a good deal of planning, team coordination, and marketing.
First, applicants have to analyze their local community and any nearby businesses that may be willing to provide grant money. I analyzed the local businesses of Orange and Orange County, California, putting my findings into a table which outlined their already available resources (grants, scholarships, etc). Having this table will make planning for future advocacy networks and grant opportunities go much more smoothly.
Second, applicants must analyze their library and its needs. Why does the library need the grant? If it’s for a project, how much money is needed to be successful? I envisioned a new homework center for one of the library branches in Orange and planned for stocking it with technology and staff. This meant that I had to plan not only what I would do specifically with the grant money, but how long it would last, how the program would work, how I would find staff for the program, where it would go, what supplies I needed, etc. Having never been in a management position before, this much specific planning was a completely new experience. I learned a lot about how to actually run a project on this scale–how much it depends on budget, finding the right staff, and creating a reasonable timeline for success.
Third, applicants must make sure that their needs and the grantor’s offerings actually match up, and that they can fulfill the requirements of the grant. This was the most difficult part of the assignment for me, as I had to search for a lot of different grantors and find one or two that matched the closest. It also meant I had to adjust some of my plans, as I couldn’t find one specific grantor that would work for my project.
Fourth, applicants must check to see if their grantors require anything after the completion of the grant project. For instance, do they need to present a report of the results of the program/project? Do they need to promote it in a certain way? Write an essay, take photos, etc.? This got me thinking about marketing the homework center project. How could I best promote this, so as to let the community members know about it and get the most use of it? I had to come up with a marketing plan for my homework center project, something else that was new to me.
This grant writing project was a great learning experience, as it involved many new aspects of library management and planning that I hadn’t had to deal with before. Writing a grant can be an act of great advocacy for a library. Not only are grant applicants asking for money in order to better serve their community, they’re advocating that the library is a necessary place for that betterment to happen. By taking this class and completing this assignment, I learned about marketing, planning, management, and advocacy.
Library professionals have an obligation to work with their community advocates in order to promote the library and its services so the library community does not suffer from potentially dangerous budget cuts, staffing cuts, and low program turnout. By working on a marketing plan, talking with advocates, and actively looking for grant opportunities which combine both those things, I will be able to address the needs of the library community. Through my coursework at SJSU, I’ve learned the best practices of library marketing, management, advocacy and planning. Through my experiences at work and at SJSU, I feel confident that I can be a vocal advocate for the library community.